5 Questions With ‘This Is Us’ Star Susan Kelechi Watson
In Season 2’s third episode, “Highs and Lows,” Randall and Beth open their hearts and home to a foster child. But this new step doesn’t come without its challenges.
When TV Insider spoke with Watson, the actress took us inside Beth’s world when she answered “5 Questions.”
1. In the episode, “A Manny-Splendored Thing,” Beth coined the phrase “Randalling.” How would Beth describe herself if “Bething” was a verb?
Getting the job done, I think. I think “Bething” would be facing things and facing them in a timely manner as they happen and being honest about it. I think that’s what “Bething” is. She’s taught me that as who she is as a character and how she approaches life.
“Randalling” is funny because he [Randall] would think it would mean perfection and being super-Type A, but it actually means being really in your head about something. She is a bit the opposite that way, I think, when things are on her or she has a question or things like that. She wants to talk about it. She wants to face it. And there’s a bit of—more of an urgency to that.
2. Susan, are you more likely to be “Randalling” or “Bething” in personal life?
Oh, I Randall. I think I’m a Randall. But when I’m ready to Beth, I mean, I’m ready. You know what I mean? But beforehand, I definitely think things out.
3. We’ve only gotten a taste of Beth’s background, including learning that when Beth and Randall first met, she was a dreadlocks-wearing ass-kicker. What else were you excited to discover about Beth’s backstory?
It’s the fact that she is Jamaican — I love that, because my family’s heritage is from Jamaica — that she comes from a big family, three sisters, her mom. We’ve learned in the story that her dad passed away from lung cancer. And so there’s some family clues that are starting to happen that are really great and really specific and things that I identify with.
So that’s also very important to me, you know, in terms of building her as a character, that she did grow up very different from Randall and that she knows her background. She knows she can be more specific about her culture than he can, and that has influenced her life.
And she’s always been strong-willed. It’s a great thing to know, too, that she’s always had a backbone and always spoke up for herself and has been that kind of very forward-motion type of woman, you know, even from a very young age. That’s some of the stuff that I think is going to be really fun and exciting to explore about Beth, because we didn’t know so much about her.
Last season, we were getting an idea about her personality, but to get more from her background is really exciting.
4. Your main scene partners from Season 1, Sterling K. Brown and Ron Cephas Jones, both received Emmy nominations. Does this put pressure on you as an actor?
I wouldn’t say a pressure, but I do feel called, like the rest of the cast, to do my job in representing who she is, you know, my piece of the story. To go home and do my homework, to come back and do and bring a fullness to it. That’s what I feel with any character that I play. And my training is in the theater, and there is no excuse for showing up unprepared. There just isn’t. You don’t get that. I wasn’t trained with any excuses, you know? It’s always the show must go on. It’s always no matter what, you show up. No matter what.
So it’s not a pressure. It is training, and I, and the two scene partners you just named, have trained in the exact same way. They’re both theater people. They are both studiers of the art. We all show up the same way. And when you do that, it’s not only for you, but it’s the respect for the other actor because we now have to enter into a world with each other, and if somebody is half-there, then how can it possibly bring the story to fruition, you know? Because, in the end, it’s about the story. It’s not about I’m making you shine and we shine and I’m shining. It’s about the story of these people, and the story has to resonate, and it’s a story that needs to be told and it’s necessary that it’s told.
There’s a reason why I’m playing Beth at this time, and I may not know it right now, but I understand that there’s a reason for that. And the same thing with Sterling playing Randall, and same thing with Ron playing William.
5. Can you share your reaction to these two actors getting recognition for their work?
I have so much pride for the both of them being nominated. I cannot tell you. I cannot tell you. I mean, I felt it just as deeply and I was just invested in them being nominated, which is such a huge honor. And the joy of the win for Sterling—yes, they’re my teammates. I’m for them, you know. I’m for them. So it’s an honor. It’s an honor to be playing with them.
This Is Us, Tuesdays at 9/8c, NBC