Much like Kevin Pearson on This Is Us, actor Logan Shroyer has two siblings, but that’s where the similarities between the 18-year-old and his broody character end. Shroyer, who was born in Torrance, California, spent some of his childhood in Oklahoma before his family relocated back to the South Bay, where he spends much of his time surfing in Redondo and Hermosa beaches — a far cry from the Pittsburgh football fields where Kevin played in high school.
On the telephone, Shroyer is sunny and enthusiastic, even when the conversation turns to the Pearson family tragedy of Jack’s death and why Kevin has moved through life feeling like the fifth wheel. Shroyer spoke with Vulture about how he got into acting, his experience working on a hit network drama, and his conversations with Justin Hartley about their shared character.
Tell me how you ended up on This Is Us. Did you go through the regular audition process?
Yeah. For This Is Us, it was just an audition, and it was super last minute. I had a dentist appointment that I was freaking out about; totally canceled on that to do this audition. The next day, I got word that I booked it, and then it was this whole transformation process into being Kevin in the ’90s, getting brown contacts to match [Justin Hartley], and then I was on set the next day. I got the full script that morning, met Dan [Fogelman], Mandy [Moore]. It was just this crazy whirlwind. It was really crazy. We were so nervous when we first got on set. It was so funny. Me and Niles [Fitch, who plays Teen Randall] were like, “Okay, here we go.”
What was your audition scene?
The audition was the very first scene we did, which is with me, Niles, and Mandy in the bedroom. We’re arguing because I’ve got a football game the next day and Randall’s up doing his homework, so I’m like, “Go to bed.” We start arguing, Mom comes in. It was a great scene.
That was an easy job for you to land! People will be jealous.
It was really quick. Right before I booked that, actually, I had six callbacks for a film that I was so close to getting. And then This Is Us is one audition. I didn’t get the film. I was a runner-up. But everything happens for a reason.
The show was a big hit right out of the gate. How has your life changed?
It’s just been so amazing. To come onto a show as a young actor, I just wanna get better. To be surrounded by so many supportive and talented people, that’s what’s so great. Milo [Ventimiglia], Mandy, first of all, are so supportive, and then going to [director] Ken Olin and Dan Fogelman and everybody. Being on a set like that, everybody wants you to do good and is giving you that one more take because you asked for it. It’s really been a place for me to grow and start to take risks with my work. I’m still in acting class working really hard, but it’s really amazing that people can see all the stuff that I’m doing.
Are people like, “This Is Us! This Is Us!” everywhere you go?Yeah, that does happen a little bit. Not too crazy. Milo gets swarmed, I think, but no. I get it sometimes. If I’m in public — which, I’m not really in public that much, I’m kind of a homebody — there’s a good chance someone will come up to me or my friends will notice. I don’t really notice, but my friends will be like, “That table’s totally looking at da-da-da.” It’s funny.
You’re playing Kevin at a difficult age. He’s struggling with adolescence, and what happens with football is really crushing. What do you tap into to play him?
Kevin’s got some difficult situations, even just in the family. With siblings, there’s always push and pull with the parents. He feels a little bit left out of the family, and that’s something that everybody can relate to at some point. When he starts to have that success because he’s the high-school quarterback, it goes to his head, and when he breaks his leg, he freaks out on everyone because they accept it so quickly. He’s good in his heart and he’s a really good guy; he just is a little bit misled. He’s a little angsty. [Laughs.] A lot of people are like that as teenagers and then learn when they’re older, and Kevin’s one of those guys.
He’s not mature enough to see what support he actually has, so he pushes back.
Yeah, that’s why the writers are so great. There was a scene where Milo puts a tie on me, where I’m trying on a suit. That scene is where Kevin starts to realize the thing with the Big Three Homes and his dad making that sacrifice. That’s why I thought that scene was so special, because Kevin says thank you definitively. He doesn’t really say thank you a lot. He’s not aware that his parents have done more than everybody else.
What about Justin Hartley? Have you spent any time with him, talking about the character?
A little bit, yeah. Justin and I will talk. Many people might think I’m coached by him or something like that, or there are these rigid guidelines. But in actuality, the first time I talked to him, he was like, “This is your character too. You really just run with it. This is Kevin.” Early on, I did study him a little bit to see some of mannerisms and things like that. It has to become a part of what you do. But they really give you the respect as an actor to take it and do your own thing. So, I’m really thankful for that, that they trust me so much.
I do see some similar mannerisms — not an impersonation or anything like that, but little things that remind us of the older Kevin. That’s a credit to you. I think the casting is unbelievable, really.
[Laughs.] The casting is pretty good, yeah. You don’t want to force it and make a caricature, of course, but there are some Kevin things [we both do]. And a lot of that comes through in the writing. Honestly, I don’t have to do a lot of that. There’s a lot of parallels that I can’t take credit for.
Tell me about Hannah Zeile and Niles Fitch. You guys work together a lot. What has that been like?
We’ve become really close. Especially with writing this good, it’s so easy to get so attached to the script and these characters. Very quickly, we felt we were all siblings. When there’s a scene where me and Niles are supposed to be butting heads, we don’t butt heads in real life, but we’re in that mode, like, “I’m not talking to you as much today.” The episode that came out Tuesday night, we all bonded so much from that. That was a lot of long days. It was hard, but it was so rewarding.
What did you find challenging about it?
Having such a heavy subject as your dad dying, especially suddenly or as a kid, is very exhausting. To do it day after day after day can get really tiring. But that plays into it, so it ends up totally helping you. You’re sitting outside and you’re tired of thinking about your dad being gone and you want him back, and it just rolls and rolls and rolls on itself. You really feel it.
Were you bummed that you weren’t in the big fire scene?
No, no, not at all. I went and watched. I wanted to go and support everybody. I was there when they were shooting a lot of that stuff. The stuff with me in the woods and Sophie was — I think that’s one of the moments that shows why he’s so messed up. First of all, what he said to his dad was horrible, and he wasn’t even there. Even that last bit was taken away from him, and he’s a black sheep in the family because of that. He was the only person not there. Dad was his guy. He never really connected with his mom as much, so now he only has mom. It’s just very, very rough and so complex.
What was it like to watch them doing the fire?
It was really crazy. The whole crew had these bright yellow firefighter suits. Like, everybody had it for safety and they built this whole set and it was so secretive. It was really, really cool. The actors were just reacting to their surroundings because there were eight-foot flames blasting through the stairway.
You had a really strong episode earlier in the season when Kevin breaks his leg and you have that scene with Milo in the hospital. Tell me about filming that.
It was a crazy day, actually. We filmed that two days after the season premiered, so I didn’t have a lot of time. I feel like when there are big scenes like that, stuff kind of goes wrong a little bit. In the middle of the scene a couple of times, a leaf blower went off outside and we had to stop. We were behind schedule, so [Ken Olin] was stressed out and it was this whole thing. And in a situation like that, you have to bring that into the scene. You have to bring in the frustration.
In the episode before Jack dies, you have that scene where Kevin is so mean to his parents. It really hurts Jack’s feelings. How do you like playing that side of Kevin?
It’s more interesting because it’s like, you hate him, you love him. Something that I don’t think is super fun is just being the good guy. It can get old, so as an actor, to have a character that’s really complex like this, who’s got an internal struggle of trying to be good, but then [sometimes isn’t], it’s so heartbreaking. It comes back to bite him because he takes everything for granted and then his dad is gone.
The details really make the show, I think. In “The Car,” Kevin is upset that Randall has his father’s watch and they fight, but later Kevin reaches for his hand in the car.
Yeah, he’s learning and it’s a process. Kevin’s reacting in so many different ways there. Everybody wants to blow up and cry and leave and go back. There’s just so many things going through your head. It’s very conflicting. Randall dealt with this a certain way, Kate dealt with this a certain way, Kevin did, and so did Rebecca.
Is there anything you can tease about the remainder of the season without getting fired?
Probably not! I would like to, but [laughs] Dan keeps his lockdown tight. For the Super Bowl episode, I didn’t even get an emailed copy because they didn’t want electronic copies. So they hand-delivered copies on blood-red paper so you couldn’t scan it. I think I signed an extra NDA contract for that. But there’s some great stuff coming, that’s all I can say. It’s just so good. I mean, I’m so biased, but I don’t care. There’s so much good stuff coming. Everyone’s going to love it.
This interview has been edited and condensed.