This Is Us star Sterling K. Brown sheds light on those new flash-forward mysteries
Randall and Beth may have patched things up in Tuesday’s season 3 finale of This Is Us and righted their relationship ship, but deep into the future, they were not so… wait, sorry, false alarm, they’re totally fine there later in life, carry on with your relief.
Yes, a nation of This Is Us fans collectively exhaled after 2030s-era Randall (Sterling K. Brown) walked into the room, saw wife Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson), and — hold please for a tentative approach — uttered the words “Hey, baby,” and kissed her, which culminated in a comforting embrace and a very deliberate shot of Beth’s wedding-ring-wearing hand. It turned out that the moment of hesitation that preceded their reunion was rooted only in Beth’s concern for Randall over the reason for this family gathering, which was shrouded in sadness for the Pearsons. Randall entered the bedroom of Kevin’s (Justin Hartley) house, where their mother, Rebecca (Mandy Moore), was resting in poor health, on her (near?) deathbed. He announced his arrival by reminding her of his name — twice — and he matter-of-factly greeted the visitor sitting next to her: Nicky (Griffin Dunne), the troubled brother of Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) who was… now looking rather put together? Oh, did we mention that in this time period, Kevin has a son? And that Toby (Chris Sullivan) has shown up uncomfortably without Kate (Chrissy Metz)? And that Miguel (Jon Huertas) is also suspiciously MIA? Question marks are timeless on This Is Us.
What to make of this tragical mystery tour? Let’s ask the guy who knows his away around a tantalizing tease, not to mention the man who plays the man who is connected to each of the flash-forward mysteries, the Emmy-winning Sterling K. Brown.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s enter the flash-forward mystery zone. Did you have any fun filming that part of the scene when Randall and Beth embrace after that brief hesitation, knowing that America would be hanging on that moment? Are there any good outtakes where, say, Randall introduces Beth to his new girlfriend?
STERLING K. BROWN: Nothing quite that extreme. But I will say [director/executive producer] Ken Olin was like, “All right, so give us a little bit of a hesitation before you guys come together.” And for me, I was playing with a little bit of sadness of knowing that I was coming to visit my mom — or see her for possibly for one of the last times. So Ken said, “I want it to be that you’re just happy that she’s here for you at this time.” I think they sort of found something that splits the difference between Randall’s sadness and Randall’s relief that his wife was able to be here at this particular moment in life. So no, I didn’t want to torture folks any more than they already tortured.
I think folks have a lot invested in the relationship of Randall and Beth, and I’m really actually happy to give them a sense of relief. And it’s funny, because at the very beginning of the season — and at the very beginning of the series — we told folks, “This is a couple that is never going to break up.” And then for some reason or another, everybody forgot that we told them, time and time again, that this couple is never going to break up. So you know, we told you so. But you chose not to listen, so there you go. [Laughs]
Randall breaks the news that Kevin has a son. Let’s call this “Who is ‘her’?” 2.0. How intriguing is this mystery of the mother of his son?
Intriguing. Folks astutely pointed out — I was looking on Twitter — and they’re like “Kevin and Zoe [Melanie Liburd] made that baby?” and they are correct in assuming that that probably is not the case.
Sophie [Alexandra Breckenridge], though, has blonde hair.
Sophie has blonde hair, so that is more of an option than Zoe would be. I think it’s really wonderful that we know that he got to experience fatherhood, so now we’re waiting to see who exactly he experienced fatherhood with.
The way that Toby, without his wedding ring, arrived at the house and looked out of place, and then his vague reference — “I talked to Jack and they’re on their way” — did not seem to bode well for the couple’s prospects. Should people be worried? Are they the new “Randall and Beth in jeopardy” story?
[Devilish laughter] There’s a lot I could say about that, and I can actually say that that scene was shot with a few different alternatives in terms of what the lines would be…. I won’t go too much into detail, but I will say that they do go through some things. I too am curious to see how they are functioning in the future.
The darkest theory is that Kate’s not even alive, and that the “they’re” refers to someone else.
That is a dark theory, and that is a theory that I think that our producers anticipated, and will obliquely allow people to believe that that possibility is a real possibility.
When Randall goes into the room to see Rebecca, he says his name twice, which is interesting that he has to remind her of that. In an earlier storyline, there was concern that she had a brain tumor, but the scan turned to be negative.… Were those the seeds to set up whatever is going on with her, be it dementia or Alzheimer’s or whatever ails her? Is that connection worth exploring?
Without being too specific, that is a connection worth exploring.
It seems pretty grave when Randall goes into the room to see Rebecca. Is this the final goodbye, or something close to it?
Yeah. We’re towards the end. And as we’ve said all along, like this particular day in the future that we’ve kept coming back to, is more than likely the last day of our series. So, we’re building toward the end of the show.
We’re going to spend a lot of time in this sequence over the next few seasons, correct?
That is correct. There’s the chalk, and there’s the Pin the Tail on the Donkey, there’s all these things that don’t seemingly make sense, but there’s a method to the madness.
One wonders about that Pin the Tail game, which is important to the history of the show, and the sidewalk chalk too — are we trying to jog a memory here for Rebecca? Or is there something bigger at play?
You got a lot of good stuff going on inside of your brain, and I don’t want to take any of that away from you.
Randall walks in and casually says, “Hey, Nicky.” Was Nicky looking a little better than you expected? He looks like he might have put his life together.
It does look that way. Given the way that we see Rebecca, and given how we see Nicky, it seems as if he may have turned some things around and has made a life for himself that we did not anticipate when we first met him. I think that that’s something that folks could gather from that last shot of Nicky.
We have to talk about the man that wasn’t there, Miguel. After everything he’s been through, fighting for his place at the table, now he’s… dead, question mark? How could you do that to him?
Let me say first of all that Sterling K. Brown has always been Team Miguel. [Laughs] Any time people try to come down on him, my best friend as a matter of fact, he goes, “Look, Miguel’s cool. I don’t know why he has to sleep with his best friend’s wife, but, you know, he’s cool.” No, he was not there. But neither — well, we didn’t see Kevin, but we know that his son’s there. We didn’t see Kate, and there’s possibilities there. But it is one of those things that does happen. Women tend to outlive their husbands, and the possibility exists that Rebecca may have outlived both of hers.
What level of intrigue can we expect with the Miguel mystery? It sounds like it may not be explored for a while, though.
I would say that it’d be something that will be more explored in seasons 5 and 6, but not something that you’ll hear about too much next year.
It’s notable that Randall is involved in some capacity in every single big moment in that sequence. First with puncturing the theory that Randall and Beth are not together, then by telling an uncomfortable and possibly divorced Toby that he’s glad he came, then by revealing that the boy running around is Kevin’s son, and then saying a casual hey to Nicky, and then repeating his name to Rebecca. So, here’s a theory: All future roads run through Randall.
There’s a lot of roads that tend to go through Randall in the future. Randall throughout history, throughout the present and the future, is that sort of galvanizing force for the family. Even though we’re at Kevin’s house, he tends to be the dude that that brings people together. Thanksgiving’s there. If there’s a Christmas on the East Coast, it’s usually at his house. He just tends to be that guy.
To read what Mandy Moore revealed about Rebecca’s “heartbreaking” fate in the flash-forward, click here.
NBC’s beloved era-hopping drama tells the story of the Pearson family through the years.