‘This Is Us’ – An Unexpected Gift for Jon Huertas

This Is Us Jon Huertas
Jon Huertas as Miguel in ‘This Is Us’ season 6 (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

Despite serving in the United States Air Force for nearly a decade, actor/director Jon Huertas initially couldn’t get military roles.

“Realistically, a lot of those roles didn’t happen for me until later in my career,” said Huertas, 52, a New York City native. “When I first got out of the military, I still looked pretty young, so I played a lot of teenagers and young college kids. I did get to do a couple of small roles on JAG earlier in my career, but – for the most part – I wasn’t even playing an adult until I was in my 30s. I think the first significant, largest military role was (2008’s) Generation Kill and I’d already been acting for more than 12 years. It might seem that it was an easy transition, but (it wasn’t). With (2005’s) Over There – which was about the military in Afghanistan – they wouldn’t even audition me; they thought I was a kid.”

The Right Job for Jon Huertas

These days, Huertas – after playing Det. Javier Esposito on ABC’s Castle for seven years – stars on NBC’s critically-acclaimed, award-winning drama This Is Us, which recently began its sixth and final season. Created by Dan Fogelman (Galavant), This Is Us is an ensemble that chronicles the lives and struggles of the Pearson family across the past, present, and future.

Jon Huertas portrays Miguel Rivas, the second husband of Rebecca Pearson (Mandy Moore, 47 Meters Down). Rebecca married Miguel after Jack (Milo Ventimiglia, Heroes), her first husband and father of their three children, died. Jack and Miguel were best friends.

“For a while, the audience has wondered how Miguel and Rebecca ended up together,” said Huertas. “We’re definitely gonna get into that and show everyone why and how they’re together, which is gonna be romantic at times, surprising at times. Part of the story is sad… We’ll learn a little bit more about his past and how it shaped him as a person.”

Huertas – who is directing the Jan. 18 episode “Four Fathers” – spoke about what attracted him to the role of Miguel.

Castle just got canceled,” he recalled. “I was starting to go on auditions. This show came up when I was trying to get another job, actually… I was pinning my hopes on working on the show Mayans M.C., to be honest, but it hadn’t gone into production. I thought, ‘This will be a good, little recurring part until Mayans comes around.’”

At first, Huertas’ role was recurring during the first season of This Is Us, which debuted in 2016, before becoming a regular role in subsequent seasons. According to Huertas, everyone on Us – from the actors to the crew – was very warm and welcoming.

“I was like, ‘This is a special show. This is a special group. Wouldn’t it be nice to be a part of this?’” he said. “They locked me down and offered me a contract in Season 1 and I wholeheartedly accepted. Once it started airing and we saw how the audience was responding to this show, there was no doubt in my mind this was the right job for me in the moment. Ever since in the last six years, I have not regretted one bit becoming a part of this show. I’ve only grown from it, I’ve gotten so much out of it to include directing now, beginning last season. This show has been the gift that was unexpected.”

Jon Huertas This Is Us
Jon Huertas stars as Miguel in ‘This Is Us’ (Photo by: Joe Pugliese/NBC)

Directing is a Responsibility and a Calling

Huertas made his directorial debut on This Is Us with the 2021 episode, “The Ride.” He spoke about directing “Four Fathers.”

“It’s a really, really cool story about how four of the fathers on the show – Toby (Chris Sullivan, The Knick), Kevin (Justin Hartley, Smallville), Randall (Sterling K. Brown, Black Panther), and Jack (Ventimiglia) – are dealing with all of their kids in different ways and different age ranges… and how that shapes them as fathers and how they have different approaches when dealing with fatherhood. And, also, the relationships they’re in at the present moment, how that can really affect fatherhood and parenting your kids. It’s a really interesting episode in that way. It’s also fertilizing the seed that was planted about Toby and Kate’s eventual demise as a couple. We’re exploring that, which is amazing. Working with a cast like this that allows me to even step behind the camera – the fact that they trust me enough is really humbling and exciting,” said Huertas.

Directing is a natural progression of Huertas’ career. Not only does he want to get behind the camera, he feels a great responsibility to get behind the camera.

“I’ve only been directed by one adult male Latino (Félix Enríquez Alcalá) during my entire career in television,” he said. “He directed one episode of Castle, unfortunately; I wish he would’ve directed more. He’s someone I took a lot of inspiration from, but he’s also the one person who was on the other side of the camera that I thought might have had similar life experiences to me and understand why I might be making certain choices as an actor because of my ethnic background.”

Huertas continued: “I feel it’s a responsibility and a calling to step behind the camera with the 27 years of experience I have in television… We need a lot more of that kind of representation in the industry, so that other actors like me don’t say, ‘I’ve only been directed by one adult male Latino.’ I’m excited to do it.”

This season, Mandy Moore will direct an episode.

“Mandy always showed an interest in directing, especially after myself and Milo directed,” said Huertas. “She was inspired because she saw that we were really excited about directing. She’s really phenomenal at it. I’m excited to see her episode come to life.”

This Is Us Season 5 Episode 16
Mandy Moore as Rebecca, Faithe Herman as Annie, and Jon Huertas as Miguel in the ‘This Is Us’ season 5 finale (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

Great Chemistry with Co-Stars, Past and Present

Speaking of Mandy Moore…

“She’s a great TV wife, I can tell you that,” said Huertas. “She is so giving as a scene-partner, there’s a lot of chemistry between us. A lot of people think she’s a pop star who fell into acting… but when she was a kid, she was onstage performing as an actress, so the experience shows, the passion for the craft shows. She’s so dedicated to the character of Rebecca and Rebecca’s journey. Whenever I know that we’re working together, I’m just so excited every time.”

Huertas praised Milo Ventimiglia.

“Milo’s great; it’s like working with a brother,” he said. “We definitely have a brotherly type of relationship – he’s a great friend, he’s also a great scene-partner. He’s really concerned about how you feel about your performance; what he’s giving you while you’re doing your bit; and if you need something from him, he’s very adamant to let you know that he’s willing to give it to you, whatever you need.”

He also praised Dan Fogelman.

“He’s great. He’s smart as a whip. It’s undeniable. He’s very adamant about not giving out any secrets of the show; he loves to surprise the audience. Even more so, he loves to surprise the actors,” said Huertas. “You see the grin on his face like this kid who’s crafted something really cool; he not only wants to share it with us, the actors, but share it with the world. He gets a positive response – there’s immense gratification everywhere.”

After This Is Us ends later this year, Huertas isn’t sure about his next project, whether it’ll be in front of the camera or behind it. He addressed the oft-rumored Esposito/Ryan Castle spinoff starring him and Seamus Dever’s Det. Kevin Ryan.

“I’m not gonna say never, but I don’t know,” he said, laughing. “I would love that. I love Seamus. We loved working together. We had a great chemistry, so we’ll see. I’m not gonna say never, but it is, of course, a possibility. Anything is, right?”

While on the subject of Castle, Huertas did guest-star on ABC’s The Rookie, Nathan Fillion’s current series, in 2019, reuniting with his former co-star.

“Nathan’s a good guy to work with,” he said. “We both come from an improvisational background. He’ll look at a script, look at a scene and say, ‘Hey, how can we make it better?’ He comes up with really good ideas, so we complement each other and also share with each other – that’s one of the joys of working with Nathan.”

People See Themselves in This Is Us

For now, Huertas is focused on Us, which will wrap in April. Fogelman’s vision for the series was six seasons.

“We love the idea to end the show exactly the way we want to and we’re all really excited that this is the end of the show,” said Huertas. “Of course, what we’re not excited about is not being able to work with each other every day.”

He spoke about what makes Us stand out from other dramas airing today, whether it’s on the networks, cable, or streaming.

“People can relate to each and every character in some way. Not just every character – people can relate to every episode in some way,” explained Huertas. “They’re finding a piece of themselves in the story, they’re finding a piece of someone in their family in a story – their extended family, their group of friends. In some way, they can find something in the episodes to attach themselves to. That’s why people love it and want to tune in – ‘What can I relate to this week?’”