Annie Leibovitz is an American institution; her instantly recognizable style of photography, often of larger-than-life figures like Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen and Queen Elizabeth II, made her a star at Vanity Fair and her work has been in the best museums in the world. Naturally, this made her a sensible choice to shoot the cast of a popular broadcast television drama, right?
Okay, "popular TV drama" might be a slight undersell; This Is Us is one of the biggest shows in years. You can't hate on a winner (This Is Us, I mean) flexing their power while they're on top, and if Miley Cyrus could get an Annie portrait, then certainly America's favorite dead dad deserves a few glamour shots too, I suppose. So here we are.
NBC recently shared behind-the-scenes images from a July photo shoot at Paramount Studios, where Leibovitz snapped photos of the Pearsons in front of what looks like that old cabin in the woods where Randall (Sterling K. Brown) accidentally got high on Kevin's (Justin Hartley) awful girlfriend's shrooms and started seeing his dead dad Jack (Milo Ventimiglia). The photos — group shots and what fancy TV people call "key art"-- will be used for promotional purposes throughout the season, so go ahead and get cozy with these since you'll be looking at them through your teary eyes for several months. It's unlikely that Leibovitz took these shots, since she's in them and that would make her a witch, but they are certainly in her singular style, so maybe she has some world-class selfie stick technology us mortals won't see until 2080. She's that good.
Anyway, the shots are gorgeous, as to be expected: the delicate lighting, tender composition and sense of reverence they convey are pure Annie Leibovitz; honestly, she could shoot a crumpled up tissue and make it look phenomenal. There's a strong Americana vibe here — fitting for the working class family from Pittsburgh. Justin Hartley, Mandy Moore, Susan Kelechi Watson and the rest of the gang really do look like family: relaxed and regal, comfortable but, you know, wanting to get on with it and go back to the game or whatever, like any family would. They also look a little bit like a family band — perhaps the grown-up version of an outfit that once sang downhome blues while traveling in a van.
Can't you see it? Kevin, in front (naturally) does something low intensity like play hand cymbals, with Randall and Beth on percussion (drums and tambourine, respectively), Jack on keys (can you play keys if you're dead?) and Rebecca and Kate on vocals. Toby, of course, shreds the guitar because that is just so Toby.
What do you think of the photos?
This Is Us returns Tuesday, Sept. 25 at 9/8c on NBC.