In 1994, Sterling K. Brown started attending Stanford University as a economics major with an eye on some kind of future in business. Fortunately for his legion of fans today, a drama professor named Harry Elam Jr. came to his dormitories in search of black men to take on roles in a production of August Wilson’s play Joe Turner’s Come and Gone. Brown caught the acting bug, switched majors, and never looked back.
Many people thought Brown was an overnight sensation when he played Christopher Darden on American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson, but the truth is he has always been a successful actor. Almost immediately upon graduating from Stanford and NYU, he got time on stage and screen. That steady work led him to American Crime Story and then his current gig as Randall Pearson on the hit NBC drama This Is Us.
As the voting season for the 2018 Emmy Awards winds down, we asked Brown to look back on a pivotal episode of This Is Us, Season 2: “Super Bowl Sunday.” The episode had two major reveals: the exact manner in which Jack Pearson (Milo Ventimiglia) dies and a glimpse at what the future holds for Randall and his daughter, Tess.
“The Super Bowl episode was one that we had to keep our lips pretty shut about for over a year,” Brown tells us. “Because people knew Jack died in the pilot, but they didn’t know how. But we as a cast knew and everybody would keep asking us. It was like, look, you don’t really want to know. You think you want to know, but you don’t.”
It’s possible that the biggest fan of This Is Us is Brown. As he continued to talk about the series, he got more and more excited. He especially loved the reaction of his TV mom, Mandy Moore, to hearing that her husband has died. Of course, learning how Jack Pearson died wasn’t the only surprising moment of the episode.
Given that Randall and his wife, Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson), had already fostered Déjà, the audience watching had assumed that the scene featuring a young boy in Déjà’s position was going to be the next member of the Pearson family. But not so.
“We flipped it on them,” said Brown. [Series creator Dan Fogelman] is a master of the flip. … It was a beautiful episode directed by [John Requa and Glenn Ficarra]. I hope it is celebrated the way we celebrated doing it, because it was a joy.”
Watch Sterling K. Brown express his love for his Hotel Artemis co-star Jeff Goldblum:
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