Even if you aren't someone who starts to tear up at a romantic comedy or didn't have any emotions surface at the end of Titanic, it doesn't mean that there isn't a way to trigger your emotional sensor.
For those who have tuned into the hit series, This Is Us, you may have found yourself reaching for the tissue box on more than one occasion. Whether it was an emotional moment about becoming a mom, a relateable struggle with weight loss, or a death that hit home, the show deals with many real life issues that can get us all worked up. So how are they able to tug on your emotions better than any movie or television show has?
Well there is no doubt that the writing is fantastic and the acting is award-winning, but how does the show manage to draw us in emotionally week after week?
Susan Kelechi Watson, who plays Beth, Randall's wife, on the show, remembers cornering music composer Siddhartha Khosla, while at creator Dan Fogelman's house, to get some answers.
"We literally cornered him," Watson jokes, "and asked him: 'How you making us cry?! Like, what are you doing?' There's something in the scoring, but Sidd just knows how to capture the emotion in the scene without beating somebody over the head with it. He grabs on to the subtext and writes a melody to it."
While it may sound simple in theory, scoring a piece of music, let alone an entire composition for a show is like capturing lightning inside a bottle.
From the very first moment the show opens, the music sets us up for what is about to unfold.
"It stays in your head. There there are scenes where I can remember [exactly what went on] and the music will actually flood my head is it happens," Watson points out.
Khosla perfected his talents while writing and performing original songs for The O.C., while music supervisor Jennifer Pyken started her career overseeing the music for Felicity and One Tree Hill.
"This Is Us has emotional, modern day, authentic characters like Felicity had, even though it was a totally different type of show," Pyken says. "It's indie singer-songwriter with a bit of modern folk. The kind of music that brings out emotions."
With Pyken sifting through hundreds of pieces of music a week and Khosla creating the memorable main score and adding several newer songs, the duo really knows how to get our waterworks flowing.
"I picked up my acoustic guitar after reading the pilot script, and I wrote the theme piece of music and then sent it in to Dan Fogelman," Khosla remembers. "It was me finger-picking this acoustic guitar with some other interesting sounds around it. It was emotional without it being overwrought with emotion. The trick was something that was simple enough to tug at the heartstrings."
He does claim his intent is never to make us cry though.
"It never is!" Khosla says adamantly. "The intention is never to cry but just to put emotionally honest work out there."
One of those memorably emotional scenes was when Kate went to weight-loss immersion camp and had a breakthrough thinking about her father's funeral.
"It's this piece of music that you hear that speaks to her own emotional heartbreak over her situation," Khosla says. "I remember just losing it writing. It was a combination of Chrissy Metz's performance, and Dan's writing and concept. That became the sound. It came from instinct."
While the Khosla and Pyken are key to bringing out emotions to the surface for us, there is one element that is paramount in making their work a success: nostalgia.
"That's what it is," Khosla says. "There's a nostalgia in that acoustic guitar instrumentation that's timeless; it brings you back to another time in your life. That's one of the reasons why this palette works, because it feels connected."
Pyken adds: "We remember songs from our childhood, and they affect us later when we hear them. It'll bring up an experience. So we think, 'What would Randall be listening to?'" One of those songs is Paul Simon's "You Can Call Me, Al," which plays when Randall remembers his childhood. "It's such a long process to get these songs approved and cleared," Pyken says of the material. "Once they do, they really make an episode."
You can catch the first season of This Is Us on Netflix, and new episodes on Tuesday nights.