This Is Us: Behind the Scenes with Sterling K. Brown

Ingela Ratledge
This Is Us

Ron Batzdorff/NBC

It’s not a challenge getting Sterling K. Brown to say “Cheese!” The actor has plenty to smile about, thanks to a recent Emmy win for his portrayal of ADA Christopher Darden in The People v. O.J. Simpson and a starring role in NBC’s new breakout hit This Is Us.

“This is a show that opens up your heart,” says Brown, who plays successful, straight-laced family man Randall Pearson. The series bounces between past and present as it follows the Pearson clan: Russell’s adoptive parents, Rebecca (Mandy Moore) and Jack (Milo Ventimiglia), and his twin siblings, Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Kevin (Justin Hartley). And while some of those relations are strained—the November 15 episode will shed light on the chilly rapport that exists between Randall and Kevin—off screen, the group has jelled. “It just feels so easy,” Brown says. “It’s like it was meant to be!”

This Is Us, Tuesdays, 9/8c, NBC

Sterling K Brown

“The Black Pearsons, as I love to call us, are incredibly tight,” Brown says of his TV brood, which includes daughters Annie (Faithe Herman) and Tess (Eris Baker), wife Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) and biological father William (Ron Cephas Jones).

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The Big Three! “Chrissy is so talented—before we hit the air, I told her, ‘Get ready to be a star,’” Brown says. “My nickname for Justin is the Jolly White Giant, because he’s this huge, superfunny guy. I’m 6 feet tall, and when I stand next to him, I’m like a little shrimp!” (Note: Hartley is 6 feet 2 1/2 inches.)

Sterling K Brown

Randall’s crib measures up! “My house on the show is dope—it’s infinitely doper than my house in real life,” jokes Brown. His wife of nine years, Ryan Michelle Bathe (the couple has two kids), is a recurring guest star. She appears in flashbacks as an acquaintance of Rebecca’s.

Sterling K Brown

“I’m not a piano player, but I think I might be better than Randall,” says Brown. (In the November 1 episode, Randall attempted to tickle the ivories in hopes that he had inherited some of William’s artistic genes.)

Sterling K Brown

“The only dirt on Milo is that he has a very adult vernacular,” says Brown. “He uses it to express enthusiasm, like, ‘F---, dude, that’s what I’m f---ing talking about!’” As for Moore, “Any scene I do with her is fantastic, because she really makes me feel like I’m looking into my mother’s face.”

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