This Is Us stars Sterling K. Brown and Susan Kelechi Watson on what awaits Randall and Beth
When This Is Us returns to the air after a seven-month hiatus with its season 6 premiere, it will be time for the Big Three to celebrate Birthday No. 41. On his special day, though, Randall (Sterling K. Brown) receives some disconcerting news: the man who burgled their home has been arrested. With Randall suddenly tempted to head down to the courthouse to confront the perp, wife Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson), swoops in with a sexy celebratory offer to distract him. How can Randall refuse? (Check out this clip from the premiere to see exactly how.)
The day poses challenges for the other members of Big Three blowing out candles. "We go into discussing Rebecca's health again," Watson tells EW, referring to the struggle with Alzheimer's that Rebecca (Mandy Moore) is facing. "That's part of it, but also the birthday episodes are always about each member of the Big Three working through some of their own issues and where they're at in their life right now."
Randall will see that his daughters — Deja (Lyric Ross), Tess (Eris Baker), and Annie (Faithe Herman) — are growing up faster than he'd imagined. "What's really interesting to me is his oldest daughter is becoming a young woman, and, like most parents, you want to keep them in this box of precociousness," says Brown. "Randall is going to have to learn how to adjust to that, and it's not easy, but necessary. I really enjoy that arc very much."
And as mentioned, Rebecca's care will be front of mind for the Pearsons. "There is a decision as to who's going to be responsible for mom, and everybody reacts to her decision differently," says Brown. How heartbreaking will it be to watch the Pearson matriarch decline before more light is shed on her deathbed scene in Kevin's house deep into the future? "I think it'll also be sort of lyrical," offers Brown. "You'll see what I mean. The train tracks will be laid in the premier. And there will be a payoff."
Speaking of payoffs, it sounds like Beth's new dance studio will start to take off. "We get to see Beth become empowered and own herself and her purpose in what she wants to do in life, and it's really beautiful," says Watson.
An upcoming Beth-centric episode — a sequel of sorts to season 3's "Our Little Island Girl" — holds extra resonance for Watson, as she co-wrote the installment. "As I was writing it, I started to tear up because I realized that this was her final opus," she shares. "This was my way of also starting to say goodbye to this character. To be able to write her words in that moment was really beautiful."
That episode will delve deeper into the hurt that the dancer with dashed dreams has processed — and has yet to process. "She has been scarred by what has happened in the past, especially within the dance world," she says. "How she was treated and the loss of her father and all those things have really left scars that she hadn't dealt with. She gets an opportunity to reckon with those things."
We reckon that you have a bunch of questions about the flash-forward scene that revealed that Randall had become a "rising star" a few years from now, according to The New Yorker. Brown was surprised — pleasantly so — when creator Dan Fogelman shared by the details of that revelation with him. "My first reaction was like, 'Really?'" says Brown. "And he goes, 'Yeah.' And I was like, 'Huh! Okay!' I'm always like, 'Where does he come up with this?' And then he does it and you're like, 'Yeah! It works!'"
Does he find this success in the field of politics, in which he has started off as a City Councilman? Or is it something more surprising? Even... acting? "He's totally stealing Kevin's thunder," deadpans Brown. "That would put us back in a bad place. What if he became the new Manny, replacing Morris Chestnut?" No, Hollywood is not his destination, but could it be Washington, D.C.? "I can tell you it is in the realm of politics," he shares. "I can say it'll start to unfold once you get to episode 10. So it's a slow burn. You'll hear things about it as it progresses, and around [episode] 10 you'll be like, 'Okay, this is what's happening.' It's kind of surprising."
The surprises begin on Jan. 4 with the season 6 premiere, which airs at 9 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.
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NBC’s beloved era-hopping drama tells the story of the Pearson family through the years.