‘This Is Us’ Season 3: Sterling K Brown Interview on Randall and Beth’s Relationship

This Is Us Sterling K Brown
Sterling K. Brown as Randall Pearson in ‘This Is Us’ Season 3 (Photo by Ron Batzdorff / NBC)

Randall (Sterling K. Brown) was a big winner on election night in season three of NBC’s This Is Us. The city council election might come at a cost to his marriage though. In flash forwards, Randall is alone, and we’ve seen friction between Randall and Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson). For now, Randall is joining Kevin (Justin Hartley) and Kate (Chrissy Metz) in meeting their long lost uncle Nick (Griffin Dunne).

Brown was on the set of This Is Us last week when the Television Critics Association visited to see next week’s episode (episode 13 airing February 19th), featuring Beth’s backstory. Brown answered questions about what’s coming up for Randall. This Is Us airs Tuesday nights at 9pm ET/PT on NBC.

When you do the flash forwards, do you know everything it entails?

Sterling K Brown: “No, I know everything. We know how the show ends. We know what’s happening in the future. It’s kind of hard to play things in the dark. If you’re doing a play or a movie, you get to know the beginning, middle and the end. So if you have the opportunity to do the same thing on a television show, fill me in so we can collectively help craft the arc of the character.”

Nothing has been what it seems, like Jack’s death and Uncle Nicky. Is it safe to say there are some surprises about what that flash forward means?

Sterling K Brown: “Yes. Otherwise, we’d be wasting time.”

Will we go back to them this season?

Sterling K Brown: “Yeah, you will see another flash forward before the season is over.”

Some actors don’t want to know how it ends.

Sterling K Brown: “Yeah, I don’t understand that. No, honestly. To each person their own process. I don’t begrudge but coming from the theater, that’s my background. You read the whole play. It’s not like I’m just going to work on the first 10 pages and then I’m going to see what happens the next 10 pages. I work on the whole thing and that way I see. Collectively we can build that prosperity and presumption and the ruin of it all.”

Does it influence how you perform every week, knowing how it ends?

Sterling K Brown: “No, no, because there’s two different things going on. There’s an overall arc and there’s a specific objective that you’re pursuing in the moment. Sometimes one feeds into the other and sometimes they’re separate and distinct. You can do what you need to do in the moment and still recognize that that feeds into the overall thing.”

How does it feel seeing Beth get her own episode?

Sterling K Brown: “I love that woman. I’m so excited. I’ve seen this episode. She crushes it. Let me make this official without embarrassing her so she can’t hear me or anything like that. I feel like this is officially, or unofficially, I just want to state Susan Kelechi Watson needs to be nominated for Supporting Actress in a Drama Series. She needs it. Not that she needs it. Like, I need it. I need her to be recognized for the tremendous work that she’s putting in.

She’s so dope. To be her husband on screen has been such a joy. It’s so easy. We speak the same language. We went to the same grad school. We have fun with each other and we both recognize it even when it’s difficult. If you’re not having fun, people like to watch people having fun. When you see the actors enjoying themselves, for me as an audience member, I’m like, ‘Oh, these people are having fun. I want to stick around and watch them.’ And I feel like we have that with each other.

She shines in this episode. Phylicia Rashad, I don’t know if you’ve heard of her. There’s a young lady we’re introducing, a young Beth and her name is Rachel Hilson. You guys are going to be like, ‘Casting, they did it again.’ So yeah, I’m really excited for Sue, and Sue can be a tough critic on herself. So I don’t know if she’s actually watched the episode all the way through. I keep saying, ‘Sue, you need to watch the episode.’ She’s like, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m gonna watch it, I’m gonna watch it.’ I think you’ll be tickled pink.”

Did this season feel different given the troubles Beth and Randall have had?

Sterling K Brown: “Well, they’ve had troubles. There have been little bitty tidbits. I think the biggest fight probably was at the bachelorette/bachelor party over how to deal with Deja. She’s out there dancing with old dudes swinging from the sky. I’m trying to take care of our daughter. It’s a problem. But it gets a little bit deeper this season.”

Does that continue the rest of this season?

Sterling K Brown: “Oh yeah. Yeah, yeah.”

People worry with the flash forwards.

Sterling K Brown: “They probably should, with reason. We’ve given them reason to have concern.”

Randall does the right thing even if it’s at the expense of his family. Where does that come from?

Sterling K Brown: “I think Randall’s eagerness to fit in, in particular in this storyline, his alienation from the black community and being able to seize an opportunity like here’s a place where I can be of help, and specifically to a large group of people of color. I think his excitement to be able to be of service to his people is a driving force in his life because there are times in which he sees himself as being a part of, and there are times in which he sees himself as being separate. I think he’s eager to always feel as if he belongs. I think being a councilman, he sees that as a perfect opportunity of belonging.”

Randall was so out of his element running for city council. How out of his element will he be doing the job?

Sterling K Brown: “Good question. It’s a good question. There’s going to be a learning curve and I’m sure he’s going to stumble, but Randall is smarter than me and is able to adapt fairly quickly. He’s not the kind of person who I foresee failing at anything that he pursues of this nature. He’ll take his lumps but Randall, all he does is win, baby. I believe he’s probably going to come out on top.”

Can he fix the community center? Can he achieve his campaign goals?

Sterling K Brown: “I’m going to say yes. I’m going to say yes. I don’t think he’s the kind of person that pays lip service without actually trying to give 110%. The question is what kind of ramifications will that have on his domestic life as well.”

What does Randall think of bringing Nick in?

Sterling K Brown: “So I think in this particular instance, it’s about supporting his brother. He sees in his brother’s heart that he kind of yearns for this connection to the past, to knowing his father. To know your father’s brother is to know your father in a way in which you didn’t know him before. So I think he supports Kev in that journey.

I think for Randall it’s like this man didn’t reach out to us and he’s sort of dealt also with his father. I think that was the big thing for him with his biological father, with William. There’s so much else going on in his life with regards to making sure Deja is well, making sure Tess who is newly out of the closet is being heard and appreciated for who she is as an individual. I think his wife is at a crossroads as well, in terms of what she wants to do with her life. So for Randall, it’s like you do what you’ve gotta do. You take care of him but I gotta go deal with some other things as well.”

Were you a jock like Kevin or a geek like Randall as a kid?

Sterling K Brown: “Yes. No, I went to a school, a college prep school in St. Louis, Missouri similar to what Randall’s school is and was one of the few raisins in the sun, if you will. Not the only but one of a few. But it was a school where the five black dudes in my class, two of us went to Stanford, one MIT, one Yale, one Harvard. It’s not like we ever said, ‘Yeah, we’re going to crush this,’ but we knew that people would be watching us. I think we just decided amongst ourselves that we’re not going to allow any sort of talks of the reason why you’re here is because of blah blah blah blah blah. No, we’re here because we deserve to be here and we can do the work.

So it was a school full of nerds, therefore no one was a nerd and everyone had to do three sports a year so it was a school full of jocks, but no one was a jock. Like, I had half of my football team trying out for West Side Story and my coach was looking at me like, ‘Brown, whatcha’ doing on my team?’ I said, ‘Yo, I just went to go to the play and they asked me to come so I let them come with me.’ So there was no stigma attached to pursuing whatever your interests were. So I was on the Scholar Quiz team and we won state. I was on student government. I was student council president so I was a dork and I was a three year varsity letterman and all that stuff. So yeah, I was all of that.”