Is Susan Kelechi Watson a Dancer? Who Plays Young Beth? 'This Is Us' Qs Answered
While we were learning about Beth's past and getting a preview for where her future is heading, there were a few questions that arose among fans, particularly about the young actresses — Rachel Hilson and Akira Akbar — who played Beth as a child and a teen.
Below, we're breaking down the casting, any small details that connect the actresses, and whether or not Watson is an actual dancer after that final scene.
Is Susan Kelechi Watson a dancer?
In the final moments of "Our Little Island Girl," Beth tears it up on the dance floor, showcasing her abilities as a ballerina The sequence was both empowering and surprising since many have never seen Beth's skills in action, which begs the question, were those moves via a body double or can Watson actually dance?
The answer? Yes, that really was Watson. The actress spoke with People about her character's special passion and how it mirrors her own dancing past. "Dance is so important to me because it's a way of expression without speaking," the actress told the outlet.
The TV star studied ballet, modern, tap, jazz, Brazilian, Caribbean, and African dance. Similar to Beth, Watson's parents could tell she had a gift from early on. "My mom said there was never a time when music played that you did not dance. I do that to this day. … I think Beth and I have that in common."
Unlike her character's commitment to ballet, Watson revealed that she didn't continue with that path beyond the age of 12 or 13. "My body didn't fit the dance form, and I received a lot of criticism because of that. They made me feel unwanted in that dance form, but I found my voice in different forms," she shared.
That topic was briefly broached in the episode with the teen version of her character, but instead of giving up, Beth stuck to her passion until her father's death.
"I felt amazing," Watson gushed about her final routine. "I danced and danced this dance, I mean we must've done it maybe 15 times in a row, and I never got tired."
Who are Rachel Hilson and Akira Akbar?
The two young actresses were called upon to portray Beth in her younger years and their likeness to Susan Kelechi Watson is honestly chilling. Akbar, who portrays Beth in grade school, is building her acting resume, appearing in episodes of shows such as Grey's Anatomy and Criminal Minds. She's slated to appear in the Brie Larson-led Captain Marvel, premiering in March.
Meanwhile, Hilson's heftier filmography includes roles in The Good Wife, The Americans, Rise, and Law & Order: SVU as well as a part in the upcoming First Wives Club TV reboot on BET. Both actresses have a dance background and share very similar traits and mannerisms. One aspect that really tied the past and present Beths together was the addition of Watson's eye freckle to Hilson and Akbar, giving truth to the age old phrase, "it's all in the details."
Watson even shared a side-by-side photo of her and Hilson, which allows viewers to get a closer look. However small, it proves that This Is Us thrives on those small details that pull a person's story together.
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How much of the episode was inspired by Watson herself?
The episode's title, "Our Little Island Girl," is a reference to Beth's Jamaican heritage, as well as her father Abe's (Carl Lumbly) nickname for his youngest daughter. As discussed above, Watson was, in many ways, the "little island girl, who danced before she walked." The actress is also of Jamaican decent.
Will there be a Randall-Beth college days storyline?
Fans were given a glimpse at Randall (Niles Fitch) and Beth's (Hilson) first meeting at their freshman college mixer — could it be the start of a fresh new storyline? While no word has been given, Hilson made a nod to the moment in a post on her Instagram page. "Oh and this wasn't a terrible moment ;)" she captioned the collage of images from the scene.
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Another previous post could indicate that this isn't the last you've seen of young Beth. "Couldn't have asked to be a part of a better TV family or a more inspiring episode led by a badass girl gang and a whole lotta #blackgirlmagic," she wrote.
Could being part of the family mean more "family moments" in the future? We sure hope so!
This Is Us, Tuesdays, 9/8c, NBC