‘This Is Us’ Was Almost Called ‘Happy Birthday’ but Milo Ventimiglia Refused

This Is Us is now an iconic television show known worldwide. But the show’s name wasn’t always so clearly recognized. The name went through several different iterations before finally landing on the name we all know and love today. It’s common knowledge that This Is Us was originally titled 36. But there’s one more version of the name that fans never saw (luckily), thanks to Jack Pearson actor Milo Ventimiglia.

Milo Ventimiglia and Mandy Moore pose with the actors who play young Randall, Kevin and Kate on This Is Us.
This Is Us actors Milo Ventimiglia and Mandy Moore | Ron Batzdorff/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

‘This Is Us’ Season 1 Episode 1 Featured Several Birthdays

The pilot episode of the show highlighted several birthdays. First, fans celebrated Jack Pearson’s birthday. While nine months pregnant with triplets, Rebecca Pearson (Mandy Moore) lit a birthday cupcake candle and danced sexily for Jack to celebrate his big day.

Later in the episode, fans watched as Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Kevin Pearson (Justin Hartley) accepted the fact that they were “deep” in their 30s while celebrating their 36th birthday. Randall Pearson (Sterling K. Brown) also celebrated his 36th birthday. With all of those birthdays, it was only natural for producers to think it was a good idea to include the celebrations in the show’s title. But not everyone from the This Is Us cast was on board with the name.

‘This Is Us’ actor Milo Ventimiglia refused to participate in a project called ‘Happy Birthday’

During an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, This Is Us actor Milo Ventimiglia joined the rest of the cast and the show’s creator Dan Fogelman to talk about the show’s evolution. Fogelman admitted that the show went through “a lot” of titles before ultimately settling on This Is Us.

There were a lot of titles. I named it 36 because I didn’t want it to be untitled, and then I hated it,” said Fogelman. “It had been the source of huge frustration for me over early parts of my career, where I would not be able to choose a title, and so we would make these films with ‘Untitled Fogelman Project’ signs all over town.”

However, according to Fogelman, a project can only be successful if it has a good name.

“Once you don’t have a title for something, you’re screwed. Because no one is ever going to agree after the fact,” said Fogelman.

Fogelman then admitted that the show was almost titled Happy Birthday.

“There was a huge movement at one point to name the show Happy Birthday, which we all banded against,” said Fogelman.

Ventimiglia was adamantly against Happy Birthday as a title.

“We had a photoshoot at Universal, and I remember there was a birthday cake, and Dan said to me, ‘They’re going to try to take a [promotional] photograph of you with this cake,'” said Ventimiglia. “When we were all together and they had the cake, I was just like, ‘No, absolutely not.’ All of us we’re like: ‘We’re not doing that.'”

Milo Ventimiglia holds a camera and films while Mandy Moore plays with Randall, Kate and Kevin young actors on This Is Us.
This Is Us: Milo Ventimiglia as Jack Pearson, Mandy Moore as Rebecca Pearson | Ron Batzdorff/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Does the cast like the final name?

After several different tries, Fogelman finally landed on This Is Us.

“I started really fighting for This Is Us once we started making it,” said Fogelman. “…I liked This Is Us lyrically. And I knew the show would, hopefully, be a reflection of a lot of different people and a lot of different lives.”

Fogelman even found a way to write the title into the opening lines of the pilot episode.

“The pilot opens with a paragraph about how many people share a birthday, and I made sure the words ‘This,’ ‘Is’ and ‘Us’ were in that text so it would shrink down into what became our logo,” said Fogelman. “I figured if people liked the pilot, they would start getting their heads around the title, which is pretty much what happened.”

After six successful seasons, neither the fans nor the cast is complaining about the name.

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