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As their shared 37th birthday approaches, the state of the Pearson Big Three is better than it was a year ago.  

The siblings — biological twins Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Kevin (Justin Hartley) and adopted brother Randall (Emmy winner Sterling K. Brown) — who are at the core of NBC’s This Is Us (returning Tuesday, 9 ET/PT) will try to build on improved relationships with each other as they take on new challenges in Season 2 of the wildly popular drama.  

After years of frosty relations, “Kevin and Randall have cleared the air. There’s mutual respect and less resentment,” Hartley says. “Kevin and Kate are as close as ever, but understand they can live independently and still be successful, happy and healthy.”

Deeper understanding of each other — and themselves — may help the trio tackle new goals as life picks up a few months after events in the Season 1 finale: 

• Kate, now living with fiancé Toby (Chris Sullivan) in Los Angeles, is pursuing a singing career, following in her mother’s footsteps.

• Kevin is in Los Angeles, too, acting with Sylvester Stallone in a Ron Howard film, while trying to maintain a rekindled relationship with his ex-wife, who lives in New York.

• Randall, who quit his high-powered, time-consuming job, remains on the East Coast, spending more time with family and trying to persuade his wife, Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson), to adopt a child.

“The first episode is their birthday, coming full circle” from the pilot, Metz says. “They’re having their own individual issues and it all comes to light on their birthday. They’re supportive of one another, but it’s not the birthday they expect.”

The Big Three — as their father, Jack (Milo Ventimiglia), dubbed them — offer a great opportunity to explore the bond of shared family experiences, and how they lead to different outcomes, executive producer Dan Fogelman says.