When the trailer for NBC’s new drama This Is Us was released back in May, viewers immediately took to the multi-storyline two-and-a-half minute preview. Within just two days of being released, the video broke records after it was viewed more than 15 million times on the show’s Facebook page. To date, it has amassed more than 64 million views on the social media platform alone. The series—which follows a group of characters connected by a shared birthday—finally premieres this Tuesday, Sept. 20, at 10 p.m. ET, and after getting an early sneak peek at the pilot, we can promise you this: It’s worth the hype.
The show stars Mandy Moore, Milo Ventimiglia, Sterling K. Brown, and Justin Hartley among its ensemble cast—a group that never predicted just how much buzz the series would garner after its trailer came out. According to Hartley, who plays TV actor Kevin on the show, everyone involved was surprised by the overwhelming fan response. “It was sort of a whirlwind,” the star recently told InStyle. “We all knew that we were working on something really special, but just the sheer number of people that watched the trailer is mind-blowing—and I don’t think anybody expected it.”
Of course, it’s what comes after the trailer that Hartley is more focused on. “People who have actually watched the pilot already seem to love it and that’s what’s really exciting for me,” he said. “A lot of times you watch a trailer for something, and then by the time you get to see the actual movie or show, you realize that the best parts were in the trailer. So to know that’s not the case here and people are actually taking to the show itself is pretty thrilling.”
The fact that This Is Us resonated with an audience before viewers even saw a full episode makes sense when you think about the diverse web of characters featured in the trailer. “We have so many different stories going on on the show, and they all sort of intertwine,” said Hartley. “But the characters are all grounded and likable so I think people can really relate to their storylines. There’s something there if you have children or want to have children, if you’ve lost a loved one, if you’re frustrated at work or in your relationship, if you’re addicted to something or something’s got a hold on you, or if you’re sad. Basically, if you’ve got a heart beating in your chest, I think you can relate to the show.”
While This Is Us will definitely give you the feels—seriously, keep a box of tissues on hand during Tuesday night’s episode—it’s not meant to totally bum you out. In fact, the series maintains a feel-good vibe even as its characters struggle through their personal issues and they manage to maintain their senses of humor while doing so. “It’s just funny—and everybody likes to laugh,” Hartley said. “You don’t see it in the trailer much but the pilot is freakin’ hilarious. So that’s what I’ve been telling people: You will laugh through these tragedies.”
VIDEO: Everything to Know About This Is Us, Straight from the Show’s Stars
And that rare sentiment is what truly makes the show tick. “Every time you turn on the TV, you see some kind of heartbreaking story,” Hartley said. “This is something people can really lean on and find a bit of respite in, so I think it’s something that people need right now, on a bigger scale.”