This Is Us star Sterling K. Brown on Randall and Beth: 'I knew we were never in jeopardy'
And so Randall and Beth called marriage in the nick of time.
In Tuesday’s season 3 finale of This Is Us, titled “Her,” the beloved-but-beleaguered-as-of-recent couple figured out a way to push through the pain — also through alienation, neglect, and fatigue — to open the door to something better. After ultimately realizing that they were exponentially better people together than apart — a bottom-line speech from Deja (Lyric Ross) to Randall (Sterling K. Brown) didn’t hurt either — they both offered olive branches to the other: He looked into resigning from City Council, while Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) plotted a move to Philadelphia, where he would not have a hellacious commute, and where she could open that dance studio and pursue her dream. It was both happy ending and new beginning, wrapping up the second half of the season’s biggest question. (Of course, a whole bunch of new questions cropped up in the final minutes of the episode, which returned viewers to the distant future.)
Did Sterling K. Brown have complete faith that R&B would find their way out of marital distress? How did he feel about taking a slingshot to Randall’s rather spotless image? What drama awaits the Pearsons in their new Philadelphia home? Yesterday, Brown offered insight about those new flash-forward mysteries, and today, the man who plays the lottery winning weather trader-turned-City Councilman returns to the present day and opens up about Randall’s relationship resolution.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Randall and Beth found the door and walked through it. The producers have talked in the past about how this couple was built to last and would stay that way, but was there ever even a fleeting moment where you thought the writers might actually enrage America and invite a boycott by splitting them up? Or did you have pure unwavering belief in R&B from the get-go ?
STERLING K. BROWN: I knew we were never in jeopardy. Susan, myself, Dan [Fogelman, the show’s creator], Isaac [Aptaker, executive producer], Elizabeth [Berger, executive producer] — we’re all interested in exploring like what it takes for a marriage to be successful. And we wanted to make sure that the goals that people were resting upon Randall and Beth, while we really truly appreciated and admired those goals, we wanted to make sure that they were earned. And I think the only way that you can truly earn it is by showing the couple that goes through something and makes it through to the other side. For the whole season, artistically, for Sue and I, I can say we’ve had a wonderful time. Our audience has not been so pleased with us. [Laughs.] And so, again, I’m really happy to give them some sense of relief and knowing that this couple is together forever.
I had asked Dan [Fogelman, the show’s creator] if he felt that the question for the season for Randall and Beth wasn’t so much, “Are they splitting up or not,” but, “What does it look like to split open a marriage between two loving people and see what’s inside, the good and the ugly?” He said it was the latter. What was the biggest challenge in that process for you and Susan this season?
I do go online and I do check out what people are saying in the Twitter-sphere and on Instagram and whatnot. And it was really interesting that people automatically, default, tend to choose a side. They’re like: who’s right, who’s wrong? And I found that really interesting. It’s human nature. I’d probably do the exact same thing. But from inside of it, I was always of the mind of, “Okay, how do these two people collectively keep missing each other? And how do we get them to stop doing that?”
I think that was just the biggest surprise is that you need someone to be at fault. And so having been married for 13 years, I recognize that it’s not so much about who’s right or who’s wrong, but how do we as a couple find our way together? And that usually means somebody has to apologize — whether they did something right or wrong, people apologize for all sorts of things. You humble yourself in order for the greater good to continue. Actually, I’ll say this. After “Our Little Island Girl” — which was just a gorgeous episode and Susan was absolutely wonderful — I knew when Randall’s was like, “Maybe we can put a pin in your being a dance teacher, I was like, “Oh, bruh. Come on now. You know that’s not going to go well.” [Laughs.]
It’s funny, because one of my questions was: It takes two to tango here, but can we at least agree that Randall was leading the dance this season?
It’s interesting. I got to talk to a lot of people about it. And a lot of people would say Randall’s being selfish. Some people would say Beth’s being selfish. Given the circumstances that they found themselves in, meaning that he is now a city councilman, he is committed to doing this job. Is his mind, he’s like, how do we make our family work given our present circumstances? And some people can say that’s him being selfish. I think it’s him just trying to figure out: How do we progress from our present situation? But I get it.
I’ll tell you what I love. What I love is that Beth has a voice and Beth has found a passion. And I think there’s been a number of women — all women, and black women in particular — who’ve been waiting for their Beth and waiting for that individual to stand up on screen and say, “It’s my time. I’ve been keeping the beat, holding it down” — to use the Chris Rock reference — “playing the tambourine this whole time while you’ve been upfront soloing.” She’s like, “It’s my turn.” And I think a lot of women were like, “Yes! It’s my turn.” I’m not mad at that. I am a feminist and I champion that. And I’m glad that they had this sort of gift of the magi moment where both of them are willing to say, “All right, I’m willing to give this up.” And Beth’s like, “I’m willing to give that up in order to get something even better.” It was a satisfying conclusion for two people who were able to find the door.
Beth and Randall arrive at resolution through a solution: a move to Philadelphia. But after all that worry about stability for Deja, doesn’t this move create problems by uprooting her again? Not to mention, Tess [Eris Baker] and Annie [Faithe Herman] looked a little apprehensive.
[Devilish laughter.] You hit the nail on the head. So there are plans coming into season 4, which I cannot unveil, but they will definitely have repercussions on Deja and Tess specifically. And then on Annie unwillingly as well. But Deja will probably be the person who’s affected by it most. The stability that she found in the Pearson home will now be disrupted, and they have to collectively find their new normal. But that will be something that you will see in [in the season 4 premiere].
Looking across the Big Three, Randall has the most spotless reputation, something approaching the level of Jack. What was it like to poke a hole in that image this season, from his asking Beth to shelve her dream to leaving that brutal voicemail?
It was incredibly fun. I’ve never had any desire to play a perfect human being, because I don’t think perfect human beings exist. We’re all fallible. We all have moments of weakness, things that we regret having said, having done, et cetera. But what I love and truly believe in is in the power of forgiveness, and I think folks want to embrace an individual’s goodness, even when they make mistakes. Listen, for men in particular who have been like, “Yo man, ain’t nobody as good as Randall, ain’t nobody as good as Jack.” I think hopefully for the fellas, they’ll be like, “Thank you for showing the fact that you mess up and you’re still a good man.” You can mess up and still be a good human being. As a matter of fact, most good human beings mess up a lot.
NBC’s beloved era-hopping drama tells the story of the Pearson family through the years.