How ‘This Is Us’ Creator Dan Fogelman Knew Blake Stadnik Was the Perfect Casting Choice
Season 4 of This is Us is right on schedule with all of the show’s trademark twists and turns. One of the biggest surprises so far this season came at the end of the very first episode. The episode introduced us to up-and-coming blind musician “Jay,” played by Blake Stadnik. We find out at the end of the episode that Jay is actually Jack Damon, Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Toby’s (Chris Sullivan) son in the future.
Finding the right person to cast in such a dramatic and important role should have been challenging, but showrunners claim otherwise. Not only did they find the perfect fit in Stadnik, but they also had plenty of talented actors show up to audition for the role, all of which were well qualified.
But when Stadnik showed up, it was clear he was the right man for the job. He checked off all of the boxes they needed the actor playing Jack to fill.
What requirements did they have to cast the role?
While many of the show’s other new cast members this season were announced ahead of time, Stadnik’s part in the show was kept quiet. Likely done so to keep his reveal as Kate and Toby’s son a surprise, Stadnik took to social media after the episode aired to share his gratitude for being brought in as a member of the Pearson family.
This is Us creator Dan Fogelman told Entertainment Tonight that it was extremely important to the showrunners to cast a blind actor in the role.
Stadnik is even one of the first legally blind actors to have a major role on a network TV show. Other characteristics he says they were looking for in the person they cast included someone who was “funny, charming, accessible, and sweet.” All the boxes of which Stadnik clearly checked.
This is Stadnik’s first on-screen credit
Prior to booking the role of Jack Damon, Stadnik was a theater actor. He graduated from Penn State’s musical theater program, then went on to star in a number of productions across the country, including Newsies, Guys and Dolls, and Sweeney Todd.
Despite being legally blind, Stadnik is able to see shapes and can distinguish light vs. dark. He was able to navigate his way around the stage and during dance numbers by making out where other actors are in relation to him, using their body movements as his own stage cues, and by memorizing stage directions.
What made him right for the role
Fogelman has said that he knew from the beginning that baby Jack was going to be born prematurely, as well as being blind. It was important for them to find the right person for the role of Jack in the future — someone who could handle everything that the character demands like being able to belt out a song on stage and being physically fit, as well as being blind.
There were a ton of people interested in auditioning for the role. But ultimately, Stadnik was the right man for the job.
What comes next for this pop star future-Jack? While the rest of the current season has so far been more focused on the Pearsons of present-day, we can expect to revisit Stadnik’s portrayal of Jack Damon again soon.
His storyline is the furthest into the future we’ve seen so far on the show, even past the point of the family visiting a bedridden and elderly Rebecca. Here, Jack appears to be in his late 20s, married, with a child of his own on the way.