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BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. • Sterling K. Brown was front and center Thursday when NBC celebrated super-hit "This Is Us" with a panel for TV critics meeting in Los Angeles.

The St. Louis native sat next to creator Dan Fogelman and just down from Mandy Moore, who plays his on-screen mom, and  Milo Ventimiglia, his TV dad in the family drama, set in several time periods.

Brown, who took home the Emmy last year as supporting actor in a limited series for FX's "The People v. O.J. Simpson," is nominated this year as lead actor in a drama series for "This Is Us."

Ventimiglia is nominated in the same category, but Brown, a graduate of Country Day School (now MICDS), has a lot of buzz to win on Sept. 17.

For now, though, he and his castmates are focused on shooting the new season of a show NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt calls "our big breakout of the season" and "the kind of game changer" that doesn't come along often.

When delayed viewership and streaming is factored in, "This Is Us" "now currently ranks as the No. 5 entertainment show in total viewers on all of television, broadcasting or cable," Greenblatt boasted.

But Brown says his life "hasn't changed that much." He still goes home to play superheroes with his sons, and he still makes grocery runs.

"I feel like I live pretty much the same life I did before," he said. "Every once in a while, when I pop into Vons (market) to pick up some bananas, I’ll get into prolonged conversations about the show, but I just say 'thank you' and then get my bananas to my kids."

Creator Dan Fogelman and the actors were careful not to give much away about the new season, beginning at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 26. Even a clip that had most of the hardened journalists in the room sniffling  included no spoilers.

The contemporary story in Season 2 is set "a month or two" after we last saw the three siblings, Fogelman said. "We're picking up on their 37th birthday, after the pilot was on their 36th."

That means "you’re catching up with Randall and Beth as they proceed on this adoption quest, and Kate as she progresses on a singing career, and Kevin as he’s doing his film and kind of working his romantic relationship with his ex-wife." (Sylvester Stallone will guest as the star of Kevin's movie.)

The story set in the past "picks up the day after the finale, so it’s basically the morning after the big fight that has led to an early separation between Jack and Rebecca," Fogelman said.

Viewers have known since the beginning that Jack, played by Ventimiglia, died when the siblings were teenagers. Some fans are increasingly anxious to learn how it happened.

"If that is a question that is haunting people, in the course of the second season, they will get all the answers about that that they need and more," Fogelman promised. "The first episode has a big giant piece of the puzzle that will potentially set the internet just abuzz, but also hopefully give some momentum towards that storyline."

Beyond that, no spoilers.

Gail Pennington is attending the TV Critics Association summer press tour. Follow her on Twitter (@gailpennington), Facebook (@tubetalkPD) and here at stltoday.com/tubetalk.