In a particularly balmy afternoon in L.A., inside a sprawling bungalow at the Chateau Marmont, Mandy Moore is taking a load off. She’s been hard at work the last several weeks, shooting the third season of This Is Us, and has thus far spent the morning working out with a trainer (well before the sun came up, mind you) before heading straight to set to shoot DuJour’s fall cover. It’s her first “day off” in weeks. Yet, perched on a crisp white bed in a fluffy robe, she glows as if she’s just spent the day at the spa, a theory that couldn’t be farther from reality. As I discovered after spending the day with her, it’s her incredibly positive outlook on life that is largely responsible for that radiance. “This is what I am supposed to do; fate and circumstance just happened to place me in the right place at the right time to be a part of all of this,” she says of the good fortune that has come her way in her 34 years on the planet, and which has landed her into the coveted role of Rebecca Pearson on NBC’s Emmy Award-nominated television show This Is Us. She couldn’t be more brilliant in the role, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t have to work her ass off to get it. “I wish it were as simple as I auditioned and immediately got the part, but it wasn’t as easy as that; I had to fight for it,” she says, while elegantly snacking on crudités. “But that makes it all the better. You always want that.”
Moore ending up on the show is especially ironic considering that she had just told her agent a week before receiving the script to stop throwing her hat into the ring for all traditional network TV pilots going forward, after four failed pilot attempts and years spent trying to make it in television left her hopeless and ready for a new chapter. But then she gave the show’s script a read. “I thought, ‘I will do anything to be a part of this,’” she says, her doe eyes widening as she relives the moment in front of me.
The drama series tells the story of a married couple (Moore’s on-screen husband Jack Pearson is played by Milo Ventimiglia) and their three children (played by Sterling K. Brown, Chrissy Metz and Justin Hartley), weaving in and out of the ups and downs of life. It’s the ultimate tear-jerker (I’ve barely made it through a single episode without crying, and I rarely shed a tear IRL), so much so that Moore herself admits she too loses control when she watches the episodes back. “Is it weird to say I cry watching our show?” she asks me sincerely, as if she’s talking to her best friend in the world. “I feel like I can say that because I’m just a tiny fraction of the show. It’s not like I just watch myself and I’m crying; there’s so many other story lines and characters to follow and fall in love with and root for, so I feel like I’m able to be a viewer just like anybody else,” she says. “I definitely find myself tearing up a lot, and I know what to expect, which is kind of silly, but it’s a testament to the writing and to the performances that my friends are giving; it’s pretty powerful.”
The preparation that comes with playing her character is far from merely emotional, though; there’s a significant physical transformation Moore has to go through to get into character as well. Moore bounces back and forth from playing a younger version of Rebecca to playing present-day Rebecca, who is 68 years old. This requires nearly three and a half hours in the makeup chair each time to adhere the prosthetics required to artificially age her, and an additional hour to an hour and a half to take them off after shooting the scene. “It depends on how much you’re laughing, too!” she says of the removal time. “It’s funny, because as soon as I’m done with work I’m always walking around making these crazy faces to break up the prosthetics so it comes off a little bit easier.” As for her reaction when she first looked in the mirror as grandma Rebecca? “It’s funny, because I never look in a mirror and think to myself, ‘This is what I’m going to look like when I get older.’ It still feels like a character to me. It doesn’t feel like my mother or grandmother. I feel like if it looked like a relative of mine, that might be cooler to recognize, but it doesn’t, so I just look in the mirror and feel like, ‘Cool, I’m this woman at 68.’”
When it comes to her beauty and fashion in everyday life, it’s unsurprisingly less fussy. Off-duty, she’s a jeans, tee and bold lip kind of gal (“You instantly feel put together when you throw a bold lip on!”), yet it’s hard not to notice that she has become somewhat of a style maven as of late. Together with her stylist Cristina Ehrlich, she’s been taking some risks, and it’s paying off. “I always have a bit of a feminine edge [when it comes to my style]; I definitely lean into that a little bit more. I’m a woman now—not a girl—and I’ve felt myself own that and embrace that in the last few years.” She’s also embracing the idea of experimenting with things she probably would have shied away from in the past. “We all have things about our bodies or about the way we stand or carry ourselves that we just don’t want to accentuate or that we keep hidden, and I think it’s important to work with people who see you in a way you don’t see yourself.” When it comes to the red carpet, the traditional Mandy you’ve seen is in the past. “With awards season, I want to do some stuff I haven’t done before; wear colors and styles and maybe take a note from Sienna Miller’s book, and look a little less done and polished.”
Speaking of being undone, I ask Moore what she does to unwind, relax and enjoy life in the (little) spare time she does have. She pauses, takes a deep yoga-esque inhale, furrows her brow and gives it a nice little moment of reflection. “I just moved, and I’m a pretty big fan of being at home right now,” she says of the house she shares with fiancé Taylor Goldsmith, frontman of indie rock band Dawes. “I just haven’t had a home base in a couple of years now, so the fact that I have somewhere to hang my head and feel settled feels incredible. Being home is a vacation for me right now.” As is hitting the gym to keep everything else in balance. Moore works out with a personal trainer several times a week (a combination of cardio and weights) as well as swimming in the pool of her aforementioned new house and taking long hikes around the Hollywood hills. “I like to be active; it just staves off getting down if you’re feeling a little blue,” she says. She doesn’t put herself under a whole lot of pressure on that front, however. “I play a mom of triplets; I don’t have to be in the best shape of my life,” she says, laughing. “I don’t know if I’ve ever been in the best shape of my life, actually, but I just want to feel good and active. I need to feel like I’m moving my bones.”
Her aggressive travel schedule is undoubtedly taxing, but she knows exactly what she needs to get right back on track. “I love Shape House; it’s an infrared sauna. I just sweat; I just feel like that eliminates all of the stuff you don’t want floating around.” And although she loves to indulge when the opportunity presents itself, she has no problem pulling back on the reins to balance everything out. “I’m just a fan of elimination in general. Sometimes it’s as simple as saying, ‘Ok, no more coffee for a while; I’m going to sub out coffee for green tea’. I’m not a big drinker anyway, but sometimes it’s saying to myself, ‘You know, I think I’m just going to abstain from alcohol for a little bit.’ It’s the little things you can do to check in with yourself. You know best when its time to say, ‘Ok, I need to reassess for a second.’ I’m the kind of girl who wants to live my life and enjoy my life, so I’d rather indulge and then come home and say, ‘Ok, cool, so I’m done with wine, cheese, dairy and gluten for a little while’ and that’s it!”
All of it—from the detoxing, to the indulgences, to the quest to channel her inner homebody—have clearly left her in a great place in her life, and she couldn’t agree more. “I think with opportunity comes a sense of empowerment, for me to realize that this is the job that I feel like I was waiting for,” she says, her big brown eyes lighting up once again as she thinks about the long and winding path that landed her here today. “I was struggling to find my footing and to find some sort of traction in the business, and it’s odd to be in an industry where you have to wait for someone to give you permission to do your job so in that sense even the opportunity to just go to work everyday feels empowering. I feel like this fully-realized version of myself, like this is what I’m meant to do, and fate and circumstance just happened to place me in the right place at the right time to be a part of this. So that’s never lost on me. I’m very grateful.”