There’s no doubt that three-time Emmy-award winner Sterling K. Brown is a damn good actor. He’s shown his range, playing real-life attorney Christopher Darden in the FX miniseries, The People v. O.J. Simpson, vampire hunter Gordon Walker in the fantasy drama series Supernatural, and a host of memorable roles too long to list here. But his role as Randall Pearson on the hit NBC drama This is Us is what made me a superfan.
I didn’t jump on the This is Us bandwagon right away. But when I did, I couldn’t stop watching – or crying. Brown’s character, a Black man, adopted by a white family, was easy to love. Writers gave him plenty to sink his teeth into, making Randall’s issues with his identity and his mental health central to his storyline. And while the series brilliantly connected the stories of every member of the Pearson clan, the episodes that focused on Randall’s loving relationship with his wife and children were my favorites. So when Sterling K. Brown stopped by our offices this week, I had to ask him how he expected me to move on in a world without Randall Pearson.
“I’m sad about it too,” he said. “After six years of being with people, they become your family. But when you see [them] pursuing opportunities and God opening up other doors for folks to pursue, you realize life goes on. You’re going to be alright.” Although he doesn’t see them at work every day, Brown says he still keeps in touch with his tv family. But I still had to wonder if the rest of us, who aren’t on the text thread, would be alright?
Fortunately, Brown is still on his grind. On September 2, he’ll hit the big screen alongside Regina Hall in the comedy, Honk for Jesus, Save Your Soul. Brown and Hall star as pastor and first lady of a Black megachurch rocked by scandal. When the couple hires a documentary film crew to help them find their way back to prominence, hilarity ensues. “It’s sort of a critique of the Black church in terms of prosperity preaching and acceptance of the LGBTQ community,” he says. Brown adds that while the film takes some pretty good swings at the church as an institution, it’s all in good fun. “I think it’s only when you love an institution that you can critique it well. Hopefully, it’s received in that spirit,” he laughed. “My momma is a strong Christian soldier. Hopefully, she’ll like it.”
He’s also executive producing Washington Black, a limited series for Hulu based on the bestselling novel by Esi Edugyan. Brown describes the project, which tells the story of a young Black boy who flees a Barbados sugar plantation, as a “globe-trotting fantastical voyage.” He says he was attracted to the project because Black people don’t often get a chance to see themselves depicted in the realm of fantasy. “I wanted to make this one for us so that we know we belong in this space,” he said. “I feel like there has been so much trauma, and Hollywood has been so enamored with our trauma, and they think that’s the only story we can tell. But we deserve to have a little bit of joy too.”
I left the conversation still sad about the end of This is Us, but excited to see what the future holds for Sterling K. Brown. He says he’s proud to have been a part of a project that gave the rest of the world a look at a healthy Black family. “For a show to go to a mainstream audience and at the heart of [it] was this Black family who loved and supported each other, I’m very happy that image went out into the world,” he said. I am too.