Published Date – 2022-01-28 04:52:53

Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

As This Is Us ushers out its emotional storyline in the final chapter of the series, fans grab their most enormous tissue boxes and hold on tightly to their favorite characters like Tess Pearson, portrayed by Eris Baker.

We got to chat with Baker about how literally growing up on the show shaped her, embracing vulnerability, Tess finding her voice, and how it feels filming the final chapter of This Is Us.

In the final chapter of This Is Us, the Pearsons are coping as Tess’ grandmother Rebecca (Mandy Moore) suffers from Alzheimer’s, but we have yet to see how it affects Tess, which Baker says she’s waiting to find out about with the rest of us.

Tess continues to have friction with her mom, Beth Pearson, played by Susan Kelechi Watson. The characters love each other so fiercely but butt heads, as moms and teenage daughters do, “I love their relationship because it’s honest and real,” says Baker.

In particular, they clash over the way Tess is treated differently than her sisters after she came out at the end of season three, which came to a head after Tess started dating Alex, who is non-binary. Baker says she takes the responsibility of playing a queer character seriously, “I only say it was a challenge because I wanted Tess to be a good role model for others going through the same thing at a young age. Just that pressure I put on myself.”

In addition to This Is Us, Baker appears in the sweet Netflix series Alexa and Katie and shorts Cherry Lemonade and Dispel. Baker is on a journey through entertainment as an actress, but she also hopes to do work behind the scenes, from scriptwriting to producing. To say she has big dreams seems an understatement for the talented young actress. 

What is your favorite thing about bringing Tess to life?
Baker: That’s a hard question. However, I think just learning how to be vulnerable and communicate. That is something I struggle with as a person, so seeing Tess continue to open up to her family, especially Beth, has been a lot of fun. Definitely a teachable moment for me.

Do you think the actors and actresses you worked with on the show impacted the choices you’ve made even in your personal life?
Baker: Not only have their characters impacted me, but the actors have even more. They’ve impacted me as an actor and the different choices I want to make in a scene, but even more as a person. How to be kind and patient. How to make people feel welcome in big environments and how to live in the moment.

Tess, Deja, and Annie are sort of a “big three” of their own. What is your favorite part of the bond they share? 
Baker: It’s funny because I told them we should start calling ourselves the Big P’s (P for Pearson) because the Big 3 is already a thing, but our bond is just as strong. I love the connection they each have, especially in season six. We see them share more with each other and just further that bond on-screen. I love that they can all be going through individual troubles but still be there for each other.

Tess’ storyline has been honest, and we’ve seen really vulnerable moments from you; what has been the most rewarding part of Tess growing up? What has been the most challenging part of her life to film?
Baker: The most rewarding part of Tess growing up is her finding her confidence in who she is and finding answers to all the questions she must have for herself. The most challenging is still the most fun for me. I had to do research on the beautiful community she’s a part of. I only say it was a challenge because I wanted Tess to be a good role model for others going through the same thing at a young age. Just that pressure I put on myself. But it’s been so much fun reading stories, finding out how Tess’ storyline can be similar yet her own, and overall learning with her.

Tess’ relationship with her mother has been an eye-opening experience for viewers at home. How do you prepare to tell that story for fans who may be experiencing coming out and “changed expectations” with their own parents?
Baker: Working with Susan has been one of the best experiences I’ve had on the show. I love their relationship because it’s honest and real. A conversation on this topic can go one way or the other with parents. But Tess was so comfortable yet in a way terrified to tell her mom how she was feeling. I think what helped me prepare was honestly reading stories of people who went through the same things. That fear of acceptance within a household is terrifying because home is the one place where people should feel the most comfortable. I believe that’s what Tess wanted most- not to hide who she is.

As season six progresses, we’re all reminded that this is the final chapter. We’ve experienced a lot as a world in the last five years; sitting down to watch This Is Us feels almost like a therapeutic experience for us at home — is the experience similar for the cast and crew behind the scenes? 
Baker: I love that it’s therapy for some people! Everyone needs a good comfort show. The cast and crew, of course, are aware that it’s the final chapter, but I believe that just makes us want to hold onto these memories more. The amazing thing about television is that we can easily re-watch this anytime and be reminded of those memories that we never wanted to end. Making this show, I believe, feels like therapy for the cast and crew. Everyone just loves what they’re doing and comes to work with a smile on their face. For me especially- hard days would come but knowing that I have work tomorrow just makes it 100% better.

What do you hope to see Tess achieve in season six? I know we can’t ask for spoilers, but if you could choose a specific part of her storyline to experience — what would that look like?
Baker: Already knowing what Tess is going to achieve, I’m excited for the viewers to see the more positive sides of her relationship with Beth and her sisters. Her and Randall (Sterling K. Brown)have always been cool. The one thing I hear people saying is like ‘Beth and Tess don’t have a good relationship.’ But they do, they just got into a few arguments and hit some bumps along the road, but that’s with every relationship. Those rocky moments shouldn’t define them, and I’m excited for everyone to see the good side with them.

Rebecca’s journey with Alzheimer’s is something many viewers of the series can relate to. My grandmother lost her life because of the disease, and those last years with her mirror a lot of what we’re beginning to see with Rebecca. Will we see Tess struggle with Rebecca’s change in personality as the season continues to progress?
Baker: I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m so thankful for grandmothers, especially mine, so seeing Rebecca’s storyline I know will affect many, especially people who share the same story as you. Honestly, I have no idea how she reacts to her disease this season. However, they did share moments, and I know for a fact she will be deeply affected. Annie and Deja included. So I do hope we get to see Tess’ reaction and how she copes with that.

Tess is a character we adore; what are you taking away from this experience in playing her? Are there aspects of the character that have shaped your personality?
Baker: I do hope to take away allowing myself to be vulnerable. My father has always told me that if you keep bundling up your emotions, one day you’ll explode. So playing Tess and watching her open up about her deepest topics has taught me so much and has helped me be more open with communication. So I won’t explode one day, lol.

You can watch the final chapter of This Is Us on NBC Tuesday nights at 9 pm EST.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.



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