For all the This Is Us fans, at first glance what Miguel Rivas (Jon Huertas) did to his best friend Jack Pearson (Milo Ventimiglia) when he passed away was an utter betrayal. Getting romantically involved with Jack’s widow Rebecca (Mandy Moore) created a heavy and negative perception of Miguel during the show.
Now, the veteran actor Huertas thinks it’s time to flip Miguel’s narrative and make him likable. “I think it’s up to the writers to make sure that they’re creating those moments,” Huertas told BELatina. “And I think it’s also up to me to make sure that the writers are doing that so that we can continue to turn the tables with the audience on how people feel about Miguel.”
He stressed how important he thinks it is for Miguel to be a likable character because of his being Latino; Huertas himself is of Puerto Rican descent. “I don’t want to be the only Latino on the show, and then be the only unlikeable character,” he said. “I think at some point we’re going to really have to ramp up these moments with Miguel — and also, we have to get to the part of the story where Miguel and Rebecca end up together so that people can understand why they may have ended up together. Once we do that, once we actually get to that part of the story, it’ll be like that kind of ‘aha’ moment where the audience will realize Miguel has never meant any ill will towards Jack or Rebecca — and that [the two] truly fell in love after Jack had passed away. They share something together, which is just love for Jack.”
Huertas continued, “[Rebecca] loved Jack immensely as his life partner and Miguel loved Jack as his friend and partner. When two people share that kind of love and feeling for someone, it’s something that they can bond over, and I think that once we start telling that story, the audience that still doesn’t really get why Miguel and Rebecca end up together will change up their minds.”
Far from being an easy process or transition, Huertas thinks that making Miguel a likable character will be a challenge but not mission impossible. “Of course, it’s going to be a challenge. We’ve already kind of shocked the audience with Miguel and Rebecca’s relationship,” he pointed out. “People are in love with the Jack and Rebecca love story, so when you shock them with that interruption, not everyone’s going to recover at the same speed.” As an actor fully invested in his show and his craft, he expressed feeling personally compelled to make this change happen. “I will try to do everything I can with the material that I get to make Miguel likable, but, it definitely falls on the shoulders of the writers and the directors of our show, to always hopefully take that into account when they are involving Miguel in the Pearson family story. As an actor, as a Latino, I have to take on a little bit of responsibility to encourage them, to go and have sit-downs with them and meetings and say, ‘Hey, what are we doing to really change people’s minds about Miguel?’”
Huertas shared that it’s been difficult to play a character that isn’t universally liked. “I guess the hardest thing is finding my place in the cast or in the show when people don’t like the character,” he admitted. “It can be tough because sometimes people don’t respond to the character as positively as I can hope all the time.” He added that having these insecurities is normal when you are playing a character like Miguel.
However, depicting Miguel Rivas also has a sweet and rewarding side. When the cameras are off Huertas is known for being funny and full of life — but he doesn’t like to take all the credit and told us that even though we would laugh a lot when he is around, there are “some really funny people on the show.” He described Justin Hartley as one of the funniest people he’s ever met. “Chrissy [Metz] is also one of the funniest people I ever met, Chris Sullivan and Mandy Moore, are awesome and sweet. We like to tell jokes and talk about popular culture. It’s really a great place to work. These are just great people to be around.”
Huertas added that the most gratifying part about portraying Miguel on a major network television series is the fact that he’s professionally successful. “A lot of the characters that are portrayed on television with regards to Latinos are firemen, police officers on the procedural type shows… and usually, it’s the third or fourth kind of character,” he said to BELatina. “Then, we also play a lot of either characters with menial jobs like the gardeners or cooks, or narcos, traffickers, gangsters — but Miguel is a very successful businessman, he is wealthy.” Relieved to be portraying someone with this background, he explained, “It is very gratifying because hopefully, I’m giving an example to young Latinos that might watch the show. Also, hopefully, I might be turning hearts and minds with regards to people that aren’t Latino and how they feel about Latinos.” Instead of playing stereotypical roles where Latinos are portrayed as low-wage workers or people who are at the bottom rungs of the society, he hopes that Miguel’s character has been emphasizing to his audience that Latinos are successful businessmen, as well.
Huertas also believes in the importance of cultural representation and is looking forward to seeing the change not only on camera but behind it too. “I think we are seeing more characters on television that are representing us in very positive roles, like Nicholas Gonzalez playing a doctor on television,” he said, “but I think behind the camera I’m not seeing much of a change.” This dearth of Latinx talent and power behind the camera is something he has encountered in his career. He revealed that he’s shot nearly 300 episodes of television in his 25 years working as an actor, but only once has he been directed by a Latino, and this is something that has affected him personally. “[I didn’t have] someone that I could see myself, someone, I think that might have the same life experiences that I’ve had,” he said. “I think we need more directors, more writers, more producers, executives in television and so on, so I think that’s where I’d like to see more change. As far as in front of the camera, I have seen a change, but I’d like to see more. I’d like to see it going, moving in faster.”