This Is Us finale: Sterling K. Brown on Randall’s family surprise

The season 1 finale of NBC dramedy This Is Us ended on an unsettling, uncertain, unkind note for Jack and Rebecca after a vicious, years-in-the-making fight sent Jack packing for Miguel’s place. But before a sobered-up Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) told Rebecca (Mandy Moore) that their love story was just getting started and walked out the door, Rebecca worried that this trauma would affect her kids. Jack assured her that the Big Three would be just fine. “Sometimes they’ll make good decisions, sometimes bad decisions,” he said, “and every once in a while, they’re going to do something that’s going to knock us off our feet. Something that exceeds even our wildest dreams.”

In a flashforward sequence during our ’90s story — or, as you may also know it, the present day — Kate (Chrissy Metz) announced to Toby (Chris Sullivan) that she’d like to become a singer, following the dreams that her young (and older) mother had, and Kevin (Justin Hartley) jetted off to a meeting with Ron Howard about a movie in L.A., which would take him away from Sophie (Alexandra Breckenridge) in New York. Time may deem those two choices “Good” or “Bad,” but we already know which Big Three decision falls under “Knock Us Off Our Feet.” It came courtesy of father-of-two Randall (Sterling K. Brown), who surprised his wife with a feel-good announcement. After we saw him add a picture of William (Ron Cephas Jones) to a photo album and leaf through childhood pictures of himself with his adoptive parents, Randall told his wife Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) that he wanted to adopt a child. Indeed, the man who was taken in by the Pearson clan 36 years ago to create the Big Three, is now looking to create his own three-sibling familial unit and in a way, to honor the legacy of both fathers.

How did Brown feel about this perfect pay-it-forward parenting moment? “It was a conversation that Dan [Fogelman, the series creator] and I had early on about a possibility to be explored in the upcoming season, and it makes great sense to me — on a personal and professional level,” he tells EW. “Professionally, in the context of the show, having been the product of an adoption myself, and having a loving father and being able to pay homage to my family, makes perfect sense. And then also myself being a father of two and on the precipice of wanting to expand my family or not expand my family, it’s a conversation that my wife and I have all the time. So, it’s sort of art imitating life imitating art. I don’t know which one came first, the chicken or the egg.”

The egg was almost fertilized earlier the season. In “The Game Plan,” Beth thought she was pregnant, causing the spouses to spiral into a mess of stress. And just when they both managed to get to a good place of acceptance and love, they learned that she was not pregnant — and celebrated in relief. So, what changed in Randall about expanding his family as he looked over that album? Factor in the literal and figurative journey he made with William, as well as the fact that he now has the time to focus on such an undertaking now that he reprioritized his life to honor William’s legacy; in “What Now?,” he rolled down the windows and quit his pressure-cooker job doing… you know, something with the wind. “It definitely was something that went on internally within him,” says Brown. “I believe that Randall and Beth talk about everything [but] our show begins with him doing something where he doesn’t announce to Beth that he’s actually going to be bringing his biological father home, and it seemed perfectly fitting to go ahead and end the season with him not talking to her and saying, ‘Yeah, I think we should do this.’ I just think [it’s] the loss of William, going to visit Jack’s memorial, recognizing the benefits of having had his mom and dad bring him up in the loving environment, and wanting to possibly have another child. And part of the thing personally my wife and I explore — because we have two boys — my wife sometimes is like, “It would be really nice to have a little girl.” And I think to a similar extent, he’s one of three, he has two girls right now, it could be very nice to have a little boy.”

While not too much is known about season 2 — series creator Dan Fogelman does promise, “We’re not going to be coming back into season 2 with them divorced and sharing the kids on the weekend”— the adoption process seems to be an early order of business. “That’s something that’s going to be explored right from the beginning,” hints Brown.

Before “Moonshadow” aired, Brown said that the finale “was one of the first episodes that I watched that just left me saying, ‘Man, this is dark,’” pointing to that Jack-Rebecca fight, which he called “pretty damn special.” “Something that I appreciate about Dan is never being afraid to recreate the show anew.” While fans are now voicing disappointment that they did not learn or see how Jack dies in the finale, Brown previously dropped a hint to EW that it will be impactful when it’s finally revealed. “I think Jack died the way that he lived, by always trying to do the right thing,” he said. “I think folks are going to be moved, and surprised, and it’s very, very sad.”

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