Miguel is a polarizing character on This Is Us at the moment. Fans aren’t sure what to make of this guy quite yet. In the past, he is Jack’s best friend, but in the present he is Rebecca’s husband. HollywoodLife.com talked EXCLUSIVELY with Jon Huertas about where Miguel’s story is going to go over the course of This Is Us season 2 and beyond. From how Miguel deals with Jack’s death to the evolution of Miguel and Rebecca’s relationship, Jon gives us a glimpse at Miguel’s story.
Jon is also involved with a new initiative with United Way of Greater Los Angeles to help fight homelessness. Jon has dealt with homelessness first-hand. He lived out of his pickup truck with his two dogs for a while during tough times. He wants to encourage our homeless neighbors to “ask for help, seek help” and “don’t let your pride get the best of you.” Jon, who will be attending United Way’s 11th annual HomeWalk 5K run/walk fundraiser on November 18 in Downtown LA, talks out his experience and his goals to fight homelessness in our Q&A below.
One of the many focuses of This Is Us is how we handle and accept death. Will we get to see more of Miguel’s reaction to Jack’s death?
We get to see a little bit of that later in the season and more so in season three. This season, they wanted to focus on how the family was dealing with it, and we had a meeting about Miguel and how he would react to Jack’s death. So Miguel has to deal with Jack’s death, and we also have to deal with how he and Rebecca end up together. For me, it was very important to have Miguel deal with Jack’s death in a way that kind of separated him a little bit from the family, because there was already wariness about the Rebecca and Miguel relationship. So if Miguel is there in the time of grief, some people in the audience might see it as, “Oh, Miguel’s using Rebecca’s grief to try and work his way into the family.” I wanted to avoid that. We had this talk, and we think having me not be there directly after Jack’s death is a way that we’re going to tell the audience and let the audience accept Miguel a little easier into the Pearson family in a different way than just being a friend. Just the way it’s designed, we’re not going to see a ton of that in the middle part of the season. We see a little bit more of it towards the end of the season, and then the third season is when we’re really going to get into it a little bit more.
In one of the previous episodes, we saw how Miguel and Rebecca initially reconnected after Jack’s death. Will we see more of the evolution of their relationship this season?
Jon Huertas: Yes, we do. We saw how they reconnected and how much time went by. We will see them as an older couple, and we’re going to start to see a little bit more of how Miguel feels about Rebecca and how Rebecca really feels about Miguel. I think those are unanswered questions for a lot of people. We’re going to delve into that a little bit towards the end of this season. Miguel and Rebecca as older people, how do they really feel about each other now and in their lives? We’re also going to get into what’s going on with Miguel and Kevin, because Kevin seems to be the one who’s the most resistant of Miguel. He kind of represents those fans, the people that watch the show that aren’t Team Miguel. He’s their eyes within the show. He’s their voice within the show. If they hear his voice change, maybe their voice will change.
Will we see more of Miguel in the past or present this season?
Jon Huertas: We’ll see more of Miguel right now in the present than we do in the past. There’s a little bit of stuff in the past that we delve into, but we see more in the present. And then next season, we’re definitely going to see a lot of that time period, like 2008 period, where Randall is just starting his family, Kevin is just starting his TV career, and when Rebecca and Miguel are just getting together.
Miguel’s previous scenes in the present have been mostly with Kevin, so will we see him have more scenes with Randall and Kate?
Jon Huertas: We actually get to see him in a couple of scenes with Beth and Toby. I’m not sure what’s going on towards the back half of the season. They keep us in the dark as well. I don’t know if there are any scenes with Randall and Kate as of yet. I do know that we have some good stuff between Kevin and Miguel.
Tell me about your experience with homeless and how you got involved with United Way of Greater Los Angeles.
Jon Huertas: I moved to Los Angeles in 1995, and I’ve actually watched in horror the homeless problem just get bigger and bigger and worse and worse. To me, it’s always been a sad thing. There’s something about someone not having a home, not having a family, not having a place to lay their head where they feel safe. That’s always personally affected me. I just don’t understand how we as a society can allow people to live like this. If you live tribally, you’d never let someone in your tribe suffer like that, so I’ve always had that kind of notion. Cut to 10 years after I’ve been living here, and I was very lucky in my career and always done well, but there was a point about halfway through where I wasn’t doing as well as I wanted to be. I had some things that happened where I had to spend a lot of money out of my savings, like 10,000 dollars on something that kind of came out of nowhere. It started to deplete my savings account, and then I had a relationship that ended roughly. I didn’t have a place to live. I had so much pride that I couldn’t reach out to the people I should have reached out to for help. So I lived in my truck with my two dogs. I had a pickup truck, a classic pickup truck from the 60s. I had a bunch of stuff in the bed of it tied down under a tarp, and I had my two dogs and myself living out of the truck. It wasn’t that long. When we think of a homeless neighbor, we think about them living on the street and on the sidewalk and being dirty… it wasn’t that long. I still had my gym membership. I could go to the gym and shower there. But there was uncertainty. How long would I have to live in my truck? How long am I going to be able to have my gym membership? People don’t realize that people who become homeless, they sometimes start out with a home, and there’s a cycle that you go through. There are people who look just like you and I, who are homeless and are going to end up in a worse place until someone helps them or until they reach out for help. I actually decided that I was going to reach out, and I had a group of friends who were very supportive and allowed me to come and stay and offered me opportunities, because I didn’t have enough money to buy another place. I had been owning property and didn’t want to go back to renting, but my sense of pride kept me from asking for help. That’s one thing that we as a society should do is try to get rid of the stigma that is associated with asking for help. That’s the thing that we want to encourage with our homeless neighbors to do is ask for help, seek help, don’t let your pride get the best of you and make your circumstances become worse by not asking for help. That’s the great thing about United Way. They have the resources to give people help and just encouraging the homeless community to ask for that help and to also ask us to say yes to housing. We as a society have to figure out how we help these neighbors of ours who don’t have roofs over their heads. That’s what United Way is doing. They have a campaign right now called Say Yes To Housing, so that’s what we’re doing now. We’re growing our campaign and trying to get people involved in the HomeWalk that also raises awareness.
What are some of the short terms goals that you have to help fight homelessness?
Jon Huertas: One of the most important short terms goals for me is there’s a veteran population within our homeless neighbors. What can I do to end homelessness among veterans? To me, that’s important because those are my brothers and sisters. I understand what they’ve gone through because we all volunteered to serve. That’s of course targeting a specific population. I think for me, and it’s not necessarily tied to United Way, I think there needs to be a better and bigger strategy towards ending homelessness and that’s targeting groups. You can target veterans, you can target mental health, you can target families. How many people on the street are suffering from mental health issues,and how do we get them the help that they need? That doesn’t mean giving them medication and hoping they stay on them. How do we treat mental health without, again, having the stigma attached to it? I think that’s a much bigger issue, but from what I’ve experienced in the Venice area and downtown LA area is that mental health is a big, big, big issue when it comes to homelessness. I would say, in my experience, 60 to 70 percent of the people I’ve met suffer from some sort of mental health issue. One of my goals is to hopefully encourage people and families to take mental health as serious as you take physical health. That’s maybe how we can prevent people’s mental health issues from developing further and getting worse into adulthood. To me, that could help curb the homelessness issue, but, again, it’s more of a social issue. It’s a bigger issue. We have a lot of homeless neighbors in Los Angeles. You can’t just build a house for each one of these people. You can’t just built a giant apartment building for 60,000 people. Ending homelessness is not a light switch.
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