Happy birthday, Sterling K Brown! The Emmy Award-winning actor was born on April 5, 1976. And though he’s best known for his work as Randall Pearson on NBC’s hit show, This Is Us, he’s also played some of our favorite roles in films and television shows, too.
Of course, his best-known movie role just might be as N’Jobu — Erik Killmonger’s (Michael B. Jordan) father — in Black Panther, but he’s also had roles in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot and Righteous Kill, and he loaned his voice to both The Angry Birds Movie 2 and Frozen 2.
As for television, Sterling K Brown did have a few well-known roles prior to This Is Us. In addition to his award-winning performance as Christopher Darden in The People vs. OJ Simpson, he starred as Roland Burton in the hit drama, Army Wives, and as Lionel on Insecure.
But even if his role as Randall Pearson is his true legacy, it’s quite the legacy indeed. That role helped the actor make history, as he became the first Black actor to win an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series in the award’s 75-year history. And he definitely won’t be the last actor to be honored as such!
In honor of his groundbreaking performance as Randall Pearson — and in honor of his birthday — we’ve come up with this list of the top 5 This is Us moments featuring the actor’s best-known role.
Happy birthday, Sterling K Brown!
'Memphis' — which Sterling K Brown says he's 'most proud of'
One of the most emotionally riveting hours on television was the This is Us Season 1 episode titled “Memphis.” In this episode, Randall Pearson reconnected with his long-lost biological father, William (the incomparable Ron Cephas Jones), in yet another way. The pair took a road trip to Memphis — William’s hometown — where Randall got a deeper understanding of where he came from…so he could know where he was going.
For Sterling K Brown, it was one of his character’s finest hours — and the episode he says he’s most proud of.
“What I love about the episode, truly, is that the majority of the episode is full of so much joy and liveliness,” he said to EW at the time. “It’s about enjoying the time that you have with someone — not even knowing; William definitely knew more than Randall did when the journey began — and that’s what it was like as an actor too.”
The Season 5 premiere
When COVID-19 hit, everyone felt the weight — and our favorite characters on This is Us were no exception.
In the Season 5 premiere, the impact of police brutality — and how Black men, especially, deal with it — was addressed when Randall Pearson (Sterling K Brown) fell into a deep depression over the murder of George Floyd.
Randall Pearson and his breakdown
Mental health is often something that’s overlooked — or otherwise stereotyped — in mainstream media, so to watch Randall Pearson go through a mental breakdown in real-time on the Season 1, Episode 15 episode of This is Us, and do so in such a way that’s both nuanced and realistic, is a testament to Sterling K Brown’s strength as an actor.
All of the flash-forwards are fascinating. But Season 5, Episode 9 of This is Us was when we saw the grown daughters of Randall and Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) — Deja, Tess, and Annie — looking beautiful, well-adjusted, and successful. And when Sterling K Brown greeted the trio as “the beautiful branches of my family tree,” we couldn’t help but shed a tear. Bravo!
Reconnecting with his biological mother...sort of
As fans of This is Us know, Randall Pearson’s mother was thought to have died shortly after he was born — but, as we later found out, she didn’t die at all. Instead, she was left for dead, dope-sick and alone, wondering forever what happened to her baby boy.
But as Randall’s political profile began to rise, he got a chance to connect with an unlikely figure — his mother’s boyfriend — which led him on a journey through New Orleans and a mystical (and, dare we say, magical) reconnection with his mother, Laurel’s, roots.
Top-notch acting and performing all around. Well done, sir.