Laura Niemi has had a 20-year acting career, but 2018 may be her best yet.
After a one-year hiatus, Niemi returned to This Is Us Season 3 and will play a much larger role with the further exploration of Jack's childhood and time in Vietnam.
This Is Us is just the cherry on top of a delicious cake for this seasoned actress. She also landed a role in a Netflix film featuring Hollywood A-listers Anne Hathway and Ben Affleck.
I had the opportunity to talk with Laura Niemi about her role on This Is Us this season and what we can expect from her character moving forward. She also provides a small tease about her upcoming Netflix film.
Enjoy the full interview below, which has been slightly modified for content.
So I'm curious to know, what attracted you to This Is Us and specifically the role of Marilyn Pearson?
Well, Dan Fogelman. Hello, Dan Fogelman, Dan Fogelman, Dan Fogelman! I mean I'm a fan of his, and it was a character for which I felt I could bring something to the table. It was very exciting to me because the show had just gotten started and just gotten the spotlight on it.
And that's so exciting to be a part of something that you know viewers are watching, and it's becoming such a hit. When I auditioned, I wanted in. It was such a wonderful part, and I definitely gravitated toward that character. I love Marilyn.
When you first started on the show on This Is Us Season 1 Episode 11, This Is Us was already getting a lot of critical buzz which eventually led to a number of awards and nominations. Were you nervous when you got the role or were you just excited to get started?
I was just so excited to work with Dan Fogelman because he's such an incredible writer. I knew I was going to be in good hands with an amazing script each and every time because, as you know, the writing on this show is just incredible.
To find out more. In Season 1, the character wasn't really fleshed out too much. So to be able to have the chance to flesh out the character and know a little bit more about Jack's journey and his upbringing. I mean, as a viewer I was interested, but also as an actor, I wanted to know more as well.
And "Vietnam" (This Is Us Season 3 Episode 4) was not just a huge episode for the character Jack Pearson but his entire family. It also felt like it just touched the surface when it comes to exploring Jack's past. So I imagine that wasn't the last we saw of Marilyn Pearson?
All I can say is it's definitely going to be interesting to see what comes up because so far it has been very powerful. And I think it's been the best season yet. The writing is just beyond what anyone could imagine. For that particular episode of "Vietnam," they brought in a few new writers including Tim O'Brien.
He wrote an incredible book about his experience in Vietnam, and I'm really that the show is focusing on that time period and that they're bringing it to light.
Is there anything, in particular, you'd like to learn about Marilyn that hasn't yet been explored?
I'd like to explore more of Jack's childhood and the dynamic of Jack and his mom's relationship. Now I also have a new son played by Michael Angarano, and I'm looking forward to developing that storyline as well as learning about the kind of mother Marilyn was.
The last we saw of her, she left her home and moved in with her friend. And as of right now that's open-ended, we don't know what happened next. We don't know what's going to happen with her journey. It's interesting because there are so many directions the character can go in.
I'm also hoping for some bittersweet moments that can bring some joy back into the Pearson's life.
And as far as I can remember, we don't know much about what happened to Marilyn's life post-Jack and Rebecca's wedding.
What do you think happened to her? Do you think she played a role in Randall, Kate and Kevin's life when they were small kids? And would that be something you'd be interested in exploring about Marilyn?
I mean that would be the dream to be able to explore a relationship with my grandkids and with Jack as an adult. That would be a dream come true if they decide to go in that direction. You never know with this show as we're always going back and forth. I would love that so much!
Is there a particular scene or moment from your time on This Is Us so far that really stands out to you as one of your favorites?
There was a scene that when Joe the mailman comes to deliver mail which I'm excited about because I'm waiting and waiting for a letter from Nikky. And then he sees the bruise on my face and just that moment of him recognizing that there's domestic violence in that home. I just thought that was a really powerful moment.
Then there's been moments with Jack, for example when we're in the kitchen and I'm reading the letter from Nikky to Jack. We did that scene a few times, and I was just in tears by the time we were done. It was a very connected moment with myself and my son.
It was just one of those moments as an actor where you just connect with another actor, and it was a really powerful moment for me.
A majority of your scenes have been alongside Milo Ventimiglia. What is like working and acting alongside him?
Absolutely lovely. He's a lovely actor. He's very truthful and honest and very generous. He's just a really good guy, you know? He takes care of everybody on set, and he's just a wonderful actor to act with. There's not a dishonest bone in his body.
Even with Michael, although I've only worked with Michael briefly. The two of them are just my lovely boys.
Due to the storylines so far, you haven't had the chance to act alongside the rest of the This Is Us cast besides Milo. Who would you like to work with on This Is Us, whether plausible in the storyline or not?
I'd love to work with Michael Ironside (he plays Jack's grandfather). I think it would be interesting to explore our dysfunctional family dynamics, and I love his work.
While you were working This Is Us, it was announced that you would play a part in the Netflix film The Last Thing We Wanted.
Yes! Yes! Dee Rees is directing, and it includes Anne Hathway. It's frigging fantastic! It's going to be coming out in the spring of next year which I'm really excited about.
Based on the Joan Didion novel, a lot of actors don't get to have the full script in advance, so I read the book, and I was really scratching my head on how this was going to be adapted.
However, Dee did such an amazing job in the adaptation of the screenplay. I think she's one of the most important directors of our time right now. So to be able to get a chance to work with her and be on set with her this summer was just an absolute dream.
Can you tell us a little about the film and what role you play in it?
I play a reporter from The Washington Post working alongside Anne Hathway's character. It's set on 1980 morning during the Iran Contra affair.
You mentioned Anne Hathway stars in the film, and so does Ben Affleck. What has it been like working with such Hollywood heavyweights?
Throughout the trajectory of my career it's been the higher the level of talent, the easier they are to work with. You get veteran actors or actors who are at the height of their career, and there's just a sense of ease.
You would think maybe it would be a little difficult, but it's the exact opposite. They're both very professional and very generous.
So let's segway back to This Is Us. We wouldn't be called TV Fanatic if I didn't try to get some sort of tease out of you. Is there anything you can share with me about what's coming up on This Is Us the rest of this season?
Well, I can tell you that there's going to be more Vietnam. They're going to explore that storyline a little bit more. And what happens in the future with the Pearson family regarding Stanley and Marilyn and Nikki.
That's all I can give away.
Oh all right, well thanks so much for doing this interview.
No problem, and thank you and everyone out there for watching.
This Is Us Season 3 airs Tuesday 9/8 C on NBC.
Brandon Viera was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. He retired in May 2019..