Sterling K. Brown has been in the entertainment industry a hot minute but his body of work didn’t pick up steam until the last few years. Not only does he portray depth and emotion effortlessly, but his jovial laugh and optimism make you root for him, no matter the project. As a man beloved by all, Brown is by all accounts, some version of Randall Pearson from This Is Us. Here’s why.
Sterling K. Brown has a heart-breaking backstory just like Randall Pearson
Randall’s story on This Is Us is a complicated one. He was left on the stoop of a fire station when he was an infant. The firefighter on duty took Randall to the hospital after his wife told him the two of them couldn’t adopt the baby.
The day Randall landed in the hospital was the day Rebecca (Mandy Moore) gave birth to her triplets. But, because one of the triplets was stillborn, she and Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) made room in their hearts to go on with their plan to take home three babies, with (who they later named) Randall.
Raised in a white family, Randall didn’t know of his biological father, William Hill (Ron Cephas Jones), until his adult years. Season 1 of This Is Us opens with their first meeting, and beyond.
Brown can’t relate to Randall’s direct storyline, but in an interview on Sunday with Willie Geist, he told the story of losing his 45-year-old father when Brown was 10 years old.
The shock of seeing his lifeless father, and his mother asking him to put clothes on his dad, “cause he was naked in the bed,” is something that still haunts Brown.
“And his body was stiff. And as they’re carrying him out on the stretcher, he looks at me over the railing, and he winks. Just winks. They carry him out the door — last time I saw him.”
Brown, who then went by his middle name, Kelby (hence the “K”), changed his name to Sterling in honor of his father.
“The impetus for me is that he had been gone for some time, and I was like, ‘Kelby was a little boy’s name.’ I felt like I was ready to become Sterling.”
Brown is a go-getter but knows when to say ‘no’, unlike Randall
Randall has determination in his blood. It’s as if he’s always trying to prove something, whether to himself or to others. He rarely turns down the offer to do something for someone, even at his own expense.
His anxiety creeps in the more he takes on. It all piles up until, at some point, it knocks him down. He doesn’t know when to say no.
Brown, on the other hand, isn’t afraid to turn down a project if he’s already slammed.
“’No’ has become my best friend,” he said recently.
He emphasized that he’s not ungrateful. It’s not saying ‘no’, but how you say it
“‘Honestly, I appreciate your consideration of me to be a part of this project, but at this particular time, this is what’s on my slate, and I have to say no,’” he used as an example.
The husband and father of two knows his limits. That’s something Randall Pearson has yet to lean into.
Brown advocates for mental health to protect those who relate to Randall’s struggles
Brown is opening the dialogue around mental health — specifically for men, and men in marginalized communities where stigma is often strong.
As someone who portrays a character with anxiety, Brown is one of the celebrities who became part of the #CureStigma campaign by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). The organization tackles stigmas surrounding mental health.
“My cure for stigma is listening,” Brown said in a video. “When it comes to mental health issues, so many of us feel as if we have to do something to solve someone’s problem… Sometimes the best thing you can do is just listen.”
Brown and Randall may not be exactly alike, but they’re both kind and deeply emotional, and both have unparalleled ambition coupled with an approachable persona. That said, the now-iconic This Is Us role couldn’t have been played by anyone else; we’re sure of it.