This Is Us returns tomorrow, now armed with double Emmys. Gerald McRaney won for Outstanding Guest Actor and Sterling K. Brown won his second Emmy after The People Vs. O.J. Simpsons. When NBC presented a This Is Us season two panel at TCA, Brown was between Emmys.
Season two will deal in part with Randall Pearson (Brown) trying to adopt. His wife Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) may have some objections, and Randall may find out adopting him was not as easy for Rebecca (Mandy Moore) as he thought. I was there after the TCA panel to speak with Brown. This Is Us returns Tuesday, September 26 at 9PM on NBC.
WLE: What are the parallels between Randall being an adopted child and now trying to become an adoptive parent?
Sterling K. Brown: I think he’s very much conscious of wanting to pay homage to his mother and father and to William’s legacy and try to do something for a young person that was done for him. The thing is, he has a different wife and she has different ideas about how that’s supposed to self-actualize. I can’t do it exactly the way Jack and Rebecca did because Randall and Beth are they’re own couple. So I have to pay respect to that couplehood and see how we decide to move forward as a unit.
WLE: Does Beth have more in common than Rebecca’s reluctance than he thought?
Sterling K. Brown: Possibly.
Q: In the panel you mentioned absent black fathers. What is this role doing to recreate the image and what is the power Hollywood has to do that?
Sterling K. Brown: Man, I hope that’s the truth. If indeed that is the case that would be a source of tremendous pride. We change as we become exposed to humanity. Whether that’s through travel or through our own personal engagement or through media, through entertainment. To be a character, African-American who is a good father and a good husband and just good brother, sister, son, everything, for people to see this man come into their homes week in and week out, if they haven’t had exposure to that, be like wow, this guy’s a really good guy. Maybe the next time in which they come in contact with an African-American they’re able to recognize an individual’s humanity. That’s what we all are. We’re human beings. There are a couple charities I’ve worked with but one that I’ve worked with before is The Youth Mentoring Connection which is in the inner city of Los Angeles, working with Latino and African-American youths and just trying to give them mentorship. Again, life changes through exposure. You don’t know what your life can be unless you have an opportunity to see a different reality. YMC, Youth Mentoring Connection is one that’s close to my heart.
Q: We don’t often see men dealing with their emotions. What has that meant to you with Randall?
Sterling K. Brown: He runs the gamut. I tell you, whew. He puts a brother through it sometimes because he has such incredible highs because he has a lovely joi de vivre. And because his heart is so wide open, it also means that he can have it broken. It’s been a joy to play him. I hope to be able to do it for several years to come because you don’t see people wear their hearts on their sleeve the way in which this character does.
Q: Do you get tired of all the emotion on set and just want something funny?
Sterling K. Brown: Yeah, it’s exhausting. So when I go home and my six-year-old and two-year-old could care less about anything that I’m doing at work and they just want a hug or want to jump on my back or have a battle fight on the bed where we pretend to be different Marvel characters, that immediately snaps me back to the lovely, wonderful nuance that is the totality of my reality.
Q: What superhero are you?
Sterling K. Brown: We’re all kinds of different. He usually turns into Ant-Man because he can shrink when I try to hit him with the pillow and then I can’t see him, but that’s just me.
WLE: Having The People Vs. O.J. Simpsons and This Is Us come right after, has this been a whirlwind year for you?
Sterling K. Brown: Yeah, it’s bordered on two years now but you wonder if lightning can strike twice. It looks like it’s kind of happened for me. My agent is quick to tell me, he’ll say to me, “You know, Sterling. This doesn’t happen all the time.” I say, “Believe me, brother. I know because it hasn’t happened to me until just now.” But it’s a good moment to be having.
Q: What was last year’s Emmy Awards like?
Sterling K. Brown: I think it’s bizarre any and every time your name gets called first to be nominated. If I’m fortuitous to be the recipient then I’m sure it will be an out of body experience. I tell myself the same thing that I told myself last year. Celebrate anybody’s success. If it’s your success then celebrate that but celebrate we’re all worthy. Milo and I are nominated with frigging Hannibal Lecter and Verbal Kent/Keyser Soze. The fact that we get a chance to go to the party and hear our name just mentioned as a nominee, that’s pretty cool. In particular, the fact that there hasn’t been African-American recognized in this particular category since 2001 and a winner since 1998, both being the incredible Andre Braugher, it’s just nice to be able to follow in somebody’s footsteps like that. He’s a Stanford man. I’m a Stanford man. He’s married to a beautiful woman from NYU. I’m married to a beautiful woman from NYU so I’m just trying to follow his footprint and see what happens next.
Q: How do you top last year’s speech?
Sterling K. Brown: You don’t try to. The speech was extemporaneous. I had bullet points in my head. I didn’t know exactly what I was going to say but it came out all right. I try not to overthink it. I have bullet points of things I will want to mention if that time comes, but you don’t try to outdo it. You just try to be present to the moment. That’s it.