This Is Us: Sterling K. Brown & Susan Kelechi Watson preview conflict between Randall & Beth over adoption
While Jack and Rebecca are positioned as the great love story of This Is Us, there’s another couple that is quite aspirational for viewers. And based on what we’ve seen so far on the NBC family dramedy, Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) may prove to be even more enduring than Randall’s adoptive parents, whose relationship fractured, at least temporarily, at the end of last season.
In season 2, though, Randall and Beth will have their own share of friction over Randall’s hope to adopt a child, as he revealed to her in the season 1 finale. Look for the spouses to experience a new dynamic in their healthy relationship.
“It was kind of crazy to have that kind of tension with Randall,” Watson tells EW. “It’s a way that they are with each other that we haven’t seen before. Beth gets to express how she feels that she’s taken on a lot this year because of what he’s been going through, so she wants there to be a consideration of her feelings. To see the two of them be on very opposite sides and not polite about it, it’s a real issue. And it doesn’t get wrapped up quickly. It’s something that they’re really trying to work through and trying to find a way through, and it’s going to be interesting and surprising.” She sums up: “It’s going to take them to a new place in their relationship. It’s really going to stretch them, and I think that’s the best way I can put it.”
Brown put it in a similar way, savoring the challenging new layer that has been added to their relationship. “We’ve already said is a very, very solid couple, and they’re going to be together forever, but just because they’re together forever doesn’t mean they’re always seeing things exactly eye to eye,” he says. “I love the way in which they talk to each other, I love the way in which they fight with each other, and I love the way in which they make up with one another. And we get a chance to witness a little bit of that throughout the course of the first episode, with regards to the adoption storyline.”
When things in his pay-it-forward plan don’t proceed as smoothly with Beth as he was hoping, he seeks the counsel of Rebecca (Mandy Moore), asking her how she and Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) arrived at this massive decision to take him home. As he discovers, his adopted parents weren’t on the same page about bringing him home. (You can see the scene here.)
“She was in grief, and she didn’t know if she had space in her heart to bring home another baby, but it was Jack’s insistence, him painting the picture and pushing her in the direction that she needed to be moved in order to say ultimately yes,” says Brown. “So he takes this information back to Beth that he met with his mom and that she told him this story, and then he uses that to lay out what his position is with his wife and what he wants for the two of them to accomplish together. It’s nice because you think he’s going to say one thing, and he says something different because his marriage is his marriage. He’s not trying to replicate what Jack and Rebecca had. He values Randall and Beth, and doesn’t want to try to put anything else on that other than what they naturally bring to it together.”
Whatever decision they reach about the adoption, we do know that they will meet a social worker (played by Debra Jo Rupp), who will guide them the process. In addition, Randall — having quit his job in a moment of clarity — will be at home, for the time being, being a more hands-on dad. “He’s overjoyed to be able to spend quality time with his children,” says Brown. “For the past nine years since Tess [Eris Baker] was born, he’s been at his job and very successful, but also partially not as involved as he would have liked to have been. So with this new lease on life that he has — and they’ve got a nice little nest egg —he relishes the opportunity to be Mr. Mom, and he’s in no hurry to get back into a corporate environment.” (“It’s fun because he’s actually good at it, and why wouldn’t Randall be?” says Watson. “He strives for that sort of perfection in things.”)
The roles will fully reverse as Beth heads back to work as an urban planner. In addition, this season we will begin to flesh out her background, which was more modest than the life she leads with Randall. “For those who were commenting, ‘What’s that family’s like?,’ we’re going to get a lot of those answers and see a lot more of her, which is really fun and exciting,” says Watson, noting that she has three sisters. “It gives me an opportunity to learn more about her too, because now she’s going to be in situations that I’ve never been in with her before, and I’m learning all new sides of Beth as well.”
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All will start to be unveiled in the season 2 premiere, which airs Sept. 26 at 9 p.m. Watson was impressed with the way that TIU kicks off season 2 — “the show is stronger, harder, deeper,” she declares — and Brown was already in tears just making his way through the first script. “After reading it, I called Dan [Fogelman, the show’s creator] in tears,” he says, “and just lavished my praise on him once again for helming this ship with such expertise, because everybody has such full stories to explore.”
While the past story will take place on the day after Jack and Rebecca’s split, the present-day story is set on the Big Three’s 37th birthday, but Kate (Chrissy Metz), Kevin (Justin Hartley), and Randall are not all together. Randall is on the East Coast, while the twins are out west. “I like them starting apart so that they can work their way together,” says Brown. “I know that there’s been some real thoughtfulness in terms of how they work their way back together.”
Watson issues a succinct tease for the premiere: “New beginnings.” And looking a little deeper into the season, she offers up this hint: “I’m looking forward to a scene with Beth where most of it happens on the floor.” And now we are, too.
This Is Us returns on Tuesday
NBC’s beloved era-hopping drama tells the story of the Pearson family through the years.