This Is Us star Sterling K. Brown: 'Jack died the way that he lived'
Brown discusses the season finale as well as Jack's death and Kate's confession
“What Now?,” the Mar. 7 installment of This Is Us, proved a pivotal episode for Randall (Sterling K. Brown). After attending the unconventional memorial service for his biological father, William (Ron Cephas Jones), the husband and father of two had a healing conversation with his mother, Rebecca (Mandy Moore), over her hiding of William from him for 36 years and then later marched into the office late at night and quit his job, walking out in triumph.
Of course, those were far from the only noteworthy moments of the episode. In fact, it ended with two huge developments: Kate (Chrissy Metz) confessed to Toby (Chris Sullivan) that Jack’s death was her fault, and Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) — bearing in mind Kate’s words to fix the marriage — hopped in a car and seemed to drive off to her gig two hours away, having had a few drinks.
Brown spoke at length with EW about Randall’s big night, as well as his goodbye to William in “Memphis,” and here, he offers his thoughts on those fraught scenes with Kate and Jack, starting with the one for which Randall is indirectly responsible. After all, it was Randall who advised Kate to share her feelings and grief with Toby (Chris Sullivan), which prompts her to tell her fiancé that she’s the reason that Jack is dead. So, how much of it really is Kate’s fault versus her just feeling guilty?
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“When somebody passes away, everyone asks themselves questions like, ‘Man, if I had probably talked to them more…’ or ‘If I had maybe not asked for so much….’” Brown tells EW. “Everybody has a way of internalizing their grief sometimes to make it seem as if they could’ve done something to change things. I would say this is a mind of a 16-year-old who’s now 36, but you can’t help but relate to it from age 16, so however mature you are, there’s certain ways in which your development has been arrested. There is a reason that she believes that, and it’s understandable from my perspective, but I also have a level of grace with her as her brother to recognize that nothing is ever anybody’s fault.”
The episode transitions from Kate telling Toby that she’s to blame into a buzzed Jack calling teenage Kate (Hannah Zeile) from the pay phone outside the bar and telling her that she was right and that he’s going to work on the marriage. He then drives off, leaving viewers to wonder/worry how connected those scenes are — and if tragedy is about to ensue, given our knowledge that Jack dies sometime this era. “The scenes are laid out exactly the way in which [creator] Dan [Fogelman] intended them to be laid out,” Brown says cryptically. “I watched the episode, and I said to myself, ‘When folks see Milo get into that car, they’re going to take a collective gasp.’ That’s the intention of our showrunner.”
What about Jack’s death, you ask? Is tonight the night? (Series creator Dan Fogelman indicated earlier this season that by season’s end, viewers will know more details about Jack’s death, but not everything.) As you saw in the previews for the finale (9 p.m. ET/PT, NBC) at the end of last week’s episode, we will follow Jack on his perilous, inebriated journey. Are there any hints Brown can drop about how powerful that moment will be whenever we do wind up finding out — and about how it might happen? “I think Jack died the way that he lived, by always trying to do the right thing,” says Brown carefully. “I think folks are going to be moved, and surprised, and it’s very, very sad. But I think that his death is in fitting with the type of father and the husband that he always tried to be, even when he fell short of the mark.”
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Brown believes that the finale — which is predominantly a Jack-Rebecca affair — will hit the mark. “You track Jack and Rebecca before they met one another, and how they came to be a part of one another’s lives, with where they are when the kids are at age 15 and 16, so it’s two very different places, obviously,” he says. “This couple has come to mean so much to so many people and folks root for them. We will take them with our finale through the highs and lows of what this marriage has to offer. Some things will be incredibly joyous, and some of it will be very, very painful. In classic This Is Us fashion, we give you a nice little roller coaster to send you off to the end of the season.”
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This Is Us
NBC’s beloved era-hopping drama tells the story of the Pearson family through the years.