Last night was a first for This Is Us. Hard to believe that it took three seasons, but we finally got to see a flashback of Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) and her family. She studied ballet as a child, but when her father (Carl Lumbly) died, her mother (Phylicia Rashad) decided it was time to focus on college.
That explains something, but it doesn’t explain why it looks like Beth and Randall (Sterling K. Brown) seem to have divorced in the future. Watson spoke with the Television Critics Association about her episode, and now that you’ve seen it we bring you the interview with Watson.
Season three of NBC’s This is Us airs on Tuesdays at 9pm ET/PT.
The big question is Beth and Randall. Has it been interesting to see the viewer reaction as the pressure points have been poked?
Susan Kelechi Watson: “People are just not having it. They’re like, ‘What?’ That was surprising for me. You don’t know until you hear the response and get the feedback from people. What I’m excited about that we have stuck to as a show, I think, as a team is that marriage is real. It’s going to have trials. It’s going to have ups and downs. I don’t know if people would believe us as much if we never went through anything.
I think every fine gemstone needs to be polished so if you’re seeing a relationship that you think is great, they have to come through something. They have to get through something. I feel like this is part of it. This is part of the telling of what marriage is, and sometimes you don’t know what’s going to happen. You just don’t know. You go into it with the best intentions but you don’t know what the ending is going to be. You can only set forth your intention, so we’re in that space.”
How do you think she views the Pearsons now that we know more about her family?
Susan Kelechi Watson: “She has characteristics of her mom in terms of being like, ‘Okay, come on, let’s get through this. Let’s move forward.’ But I feel like there’s a vulnerability Beth has also that her mom didn’t have. There’s a patience that Beth has with Randall and his family as they go through certain trials and tribulations, because I do believe there’s sort of an admiration for that kind of vulnerability.
I think she wanted that. You could see with her and her father that that was there and that it would be sort of stifled. So again, you’re attracted to sometimes the things that you’re not or couldn’t be. I never feel like Beth is super annoyed, except by Kevin maybe sometimes, but I think again, she is able to take on this role of being the stronger person when it’s not all her stuff being brought up. You know what I mean? I think it’s easy to be there for somebody as they’re going through trials and tribulations and appear to be the one who has it all together, until they start digging in her closet. So we’ll see what happens.”
Did you spend time with Phylicia offstage?
Susan Kelechi Watson: “Oh yeah. Phylicia is very special to me and I’m going to say this boldly, but I’ll take the chance. I’m special to her. She can correct it if she wants but I think she’ll be fine. We’re special to one another so it was a great chance to reconnect, to catch up, but I’m always learning from her. She was really quite generous in our scenes together and said some really truly wonderful, loving things to me off set that will be between us. It’s really an amazing opportunity to act with her in this way with this material and for us to be in this relationship, mother and daughter. It’s just so perfect.”
Did she watch This Is Us before?
Susan Kelechi Watson: “I know that she said that she had seen it and she knew what was going on and of course she’s working on other shows and things like that, so I’m sure she familiarized herself with it. She said nothing but great things in terms of being here and what she had seen of the show. She really liked what she saw.”
Was this worth the wait for Beth’s backstory?
Susan Kelechi Watson: “It is a gift. I think any time that a character really gets to – you get to really explore a character’s background, it’s such a gift. Three years of playing her, this was a great opportunity to learn so much more about her. I think Dan was specifically invested in creating a Beth episode as he was a Toby episode, as he was with The Big Three. I was happy to get this opportunity. I hope that people see it the way we do and now they feel more satisfied that they know a bit about where Beth is coming from.”
Could Beth and her daughter dance together?
Susan Kelechi Watson: “The full circle of it, that would be beautiful.”
What came back right away and what was a challenge to get back in dancing?
Susan Kelechi Watson: “My point came back right away. The point in the arch of my foot. That was like bam! I was like, ‘Oh, I remember this.’ A lot of the pliés and the relevés and the batmas and chasmas and all these things. All these things came back and it was like wow! It’s so funny what your body remembers and just doesn’t let it go.”
Can you take us back to the scene in the studio?
Susan Kelechi Watson: “I felt amazing. I danced and danced and danced this dance. We must have done it maybe 15 times in a row and I never got tired. I was just every time we did it it was different. I felt her spirit sort of move through me, the joy that she would feel being able to do this again. And I also felt my own experience of being back in my body, in my dance body again. There’s this control you gain over your body again that we don’t do every day. Every day is sort of like walking and sitting and maybe you run or maybe you sprint somewhere but there’s something when your body flutters to the music or when you fly across the room or when you move in a certain way that you don’t normally do every day and you can feel the freeness of it and yet this feeling of control is there as well. That’s dance. When you can do that to rhythm, that’s dance. It’s nice.”
What do you want fans to know watching someone achieve their dreams no matter the age?
Susan Kelechi Watson: “That never let it be cliché that it’s never too late. Never let that be a cliché thing. It honestly isn’t. If that is really what it’s on your heart to do, it is just not too late. Find some way to do it, some way to express it because you actually need it. You really need it. If something keeps calling you like that, there’s a necessity for it and somebody is standing on the other side of that obedience. Because you’ve done it, somebody else is going to be affected in ways that you don’t even know and we owe that to one another, right? Life is just communal in that way. So actually, we owe it to each other to fulfill dreams. There’s an inspiration that is going to happen in somebody else that’s gonna change the world or change something, some vibration. So, it’s necessary.”
- Dan Fogelman on season 3, flash-forwards, and managing storylines
- Sterling K Brown talks about Beth and Randall’s relationship