Justin Hartley: ‘This Is Us was almost called Happy Birthday’

Justin Hartley

Hit TV drama This Is Us was almost called Happy Birthday, but the cast refused to pose in party hats for an early promo.

Star Justin Hartley signed on when the working title was The Untitled Dan Fogelman Project, and he wonders whether the show would have become the hit it is if it was called Happy Birthday.

“It was (briefly) called 36, and then went back to The Untitled Dan Fogelman Project,” he recalls.

“Then there was this sort of ridiculous thing that got kicked around to call it Happy Birthday.

“We showed up for the photo shoot after the pilot to sell the show and they had birthday hats and birthday cake and confetti and noisemakers. I looked at Milo (Ventimiglia) and Milo looked at me and he’s like, ‘I’m not putting those on’. Sterling (K. Brown) was like, ‘Nope, not gonna put that on’. Politely we were saying maybe we don’t put on the hats. Good thing we didn’t because nobody would’ve understood what the heck we were doing in birthday hats!”

And Hartley reveals he initially thought he’d be perfect for Milo’s role as Jack Pearson: “I’m flipping through the script and I’m reading the scene where Rebecca (Pearson) has the cupcake for her birthday and she’s so pregnant… and I’m like, ‘Oh my God, I am Jack! This is me!’

“He was written a little bit portly and I’m like, ‘I can gain the weight for this and it will be amazing…!’

But I’m reading on and discover, ‘Oh my God, I’m Kevin!’ I just fell in love with this character and this script. There was nothing in my mind that told me I wasn’t gonna get it. I auditioned for it and got the part. It’s easily the greatest and most fulfilling thing in my career.”