Who loves love more: Justin Hartley, or his This Is Us character, Kevin Pearson?
According to the star himself, it’s a toss-up. "Earlier on, I would have said I'm definitely more of a romantic guy than Kevin, but I think he’s really evolved recently,” Hartley tells InStyle. "The character of Kevin has evolved, and I also think Kevin’s character — his person — has evolved. He's all about the grand gesture; he's got a lot of that in him from his dad. I would have [felt] differently at the beginning or middle of season two, but right now, I really do think he's as romantic as they come.”
In this week’s episode, This Is Us fans saw Kevin take a major step in his relationship with his new girlfriend, Zoe (played by Melanie Liburd). He invited her to join him on a trip to Vietnam, where he hopes to learn more about his dad Jack’s time in the war. While this will be the couple’s first time crossing an ocean together, it won’t be their first joint adventure. A few weeks back, Kevin and Zoe embarked on yet another mission to learn about Jack’s time in Vietnam, road-tripping to visit a veteran who served with him. The getaway proved to be a turning point in their relationship when, upon realizing that Zoe was upset that she had forgotten her silk pillowcase at home, Kevin surprised her by having one delivered to their hotel room.
Kevin just wanted her to be happy and thought she liked sleeping on one — he didn’t know that it actually keeps her hair from drying out. But according to Hartley, the fact that Kevin went ahead and ordered one anyway is a sign of his growth not only as a person, but as a partner. "I think he’s discovering that he's way better at taking care of other people than he thought, and maybe even better at taking care of other people than he is at taking care of himself,” says Hartley, who, as a dad to Isabella, his 14-year-old daughter with ex-wife Lindsay Hartley, also shares this caring side with his onscreen alter ego. "He's just good at it. The fact that he's listening to her and hearing her. He doesn’t understand why she wants the pillowcase, but that doesn't concern him as much as that it’s something that seems important to her. When she explained it to him, then he had that ’Aha!’ moment, but before that, he was just like, ’Well, it seemed like it was important to you and it could take a little pressure off your life and make your life a little better.’”
Hartley knows what it’s like to go on vacation, only to discover that you’ve accidentally left a cherished item behind. "If you're like me, you're always forgetting something that you left at home and nothing ever goes 100 percent as planned,” says the actor, who just celebrated his first wedding anniversary with wife Chrishell earlier this week. "Sometimes Chrishell will forget to pack something, too, and you just have to figure out where it is and go get it. When you’re out of your element, even if it’s in a big city, you don’t have your friends or family there and you’re not at your house. If you forgot something, you forgot it. It’s not like, ’Let me just go down to Barneys.’ There’s no Barneys. You're kind of screwed until you're back home, so it becomes more about taking care of the other person and making sure the other person's comfortable and having a good time, but also showing that you can roll with it a little bit, because traveling is amazing.”
Of course, choosing the right travel companion is key. "If you find someone that you're compatible with in life, you're probably gonna be compatible traveling with them, too,” he says. "Chrishell and I travel really well together, and it's nice to experience different things together and have different stories and these different vignettes throughout your life that you've experienced together. Then when you're old and you can't travel anymore because your body's broken, you can say, ’Hey, remember all these times?’ And you can go through the photo book. It's a nice life story to tell.’”
Hartley and his wife recently embarked on a story-worthy travel experience of their own. This past summer, they headed to Alaska with Columbia Sportswear for their first-ever camping trip at Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. "When you're up there, you're totally off the grid,” says Hartley. "It was cool that I got to bring my wife and have at least one other person to talk to, because it could get a little lonely. Once you get up there, you realize how remote everything is, and you see things that you just never see in the city, especially with our lives. We're so busy running around, and I’ve got a teenager and there are bills to pay. It's just constant whirlwind. When you’re off the grid, you literally have no choice — your cell phone, there's no reception. It's pretty peaceful and just the sound of stillness and the sound of complete nothing. It recharges your batteries a little bit.”
Surrounded by glaciers and sans wifi, Hartley embraced a digital-free existence — and alone time with his wife. "When I was presented with this opportunity, the first thing that crossed my mind was, ’Wow, this is going to be great — I’ll be unreachable for five or six days,” he says. "Then you get out there and start to realize just how addicted you are to your device. The first four or five hours, you're like, ’This is fantastic.’ Then around the fifth or sixth hour, I found myself curious about who had emailed me, what I was missing, who I needed to talk to. By the time you reach day two, you kind of let it go and it really is freeing." This feeling of disconnection made Hartley a little nostalgic for a bygone era. "It’s a reminder of what it used to be to like: People actually used to miss other people without a way to communicate, and think, ’I miss them. I'll write them a letter.’ Now, you can communicate with everyone at the drop of a hat. You can talk to anyone you want in the world at any given time.”
Whether venturing to a remote destination or one of their go-to spots like Maui, Hartley appreciates the closeness that travel brings to his relationship. "You're sharing a bathroom, a hotel room, a flight, and you have the same itinerary, so you're spending a lot of time together,” he says. "You really are living together for however many days that trip is, and you learn a lot about someone when they're traveling. They don't have all of their stuff handy and you find out if they’re a roll-with-the-punches kind of person or if they're kind of an uptight, ’I need to have every thing my way’ person. Both are fine, but I know what I like, and it's the roll-with-the-punches kind of person.”
It seems like he's found that with Chrishell, and the two roll with the punches when they get the chance to go on dates, too. "It could be a movie night where we go to the movies, or it could be renting movies and getting sushi delivered to the house. Sometimes we'll go away for the weekend just to up the coast to Los Olivos and do a wine tasting. We do all kinds of different stuff; it just depends on our schedule, what we feel like, and how much energy we have." Thinking about it, though, he realizes their quality time isn't remotely limited to dates and vacations, they're more of an all-in kind of pair. "We still do the gym together. We do a lot together — we’re probably pretty annoying in that regard," he says. "We really do enjoy each other's company. It's annoying, I'm just gonna come out and say, it's pretty annoying! We're the annoying couple that does everything together.”
Meanwhile, on This Is Us, it's beginning to look like Kevin Pearson has found his annoying-couple person, too. What a coincidence.