How Sterling K. Brown's This Is Us Character Helps Parents Who Adopt Kids of a Different Race
"Black hair is always a huge conversation," Brown tells PEOPLE’s Editor-in-Chief Jess Cagle in the latest episode of The Jess Cagle Interview
Last fall, audiences fell in love with the NBC drama’s fictional Pearson family. In the pilot season, viewers saw Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca Pearson (Mandy Moore) adopt Randall (Brown), who was born on the same day that the pair welcomed their triplets, one of which passed away during birth.
Speaking with PEOPLE’s Editor-in-Chief Jess Cagle in the latest episode of The Jess Cagle Interview (streaming now on the People/Entertainment Weekly Network) ahead of the Sept. 26 return of his hit NBC drama, Brown discusses the real-life impact his character has made on families who have adopted children of a different race than their own.
“Do you think that This Is Us has had any kind of impact on people raising a child of a different race of their own, specifically white parents raising black children?” Cagle asks Brown in the sit-down interview.
“I’ve had a couple people who have transracially adopted come up to me and say ‘Thank you,’ ” Brown, 41, shares. “They’ll see me in an unexpected place … and they’ll just be like, ‘We have a black child and thank you, and we have asked the questions about suntan lotion and haircuts and you know what’s proper about all these different things.’ ”
- Watch the full episode of The Jess Cagle Interview with Sterling K. Brown on the People/Entertainment Weekly Network! Download the PEN app on your favorite device or go to PEOPLE.com/PEN.
He continues: “Black hair is always a huge conversation, if you have a daughter in particular.”
“I think folks just enjoy seeing their story told in a way that’s highlighted for a national audience, because often times you feel like you’re just doing this in isolation and people can’t understand what you’re going through, but then you see someone telling your story and you’re like, ‘They get it,’ ” says Brown.
In the season 1 finale, a grown-up Randall tells his wife Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) that he’d like to adopt a child. “He’s contemplating adoption,” Brown explains to Cagle of Randall’s mentality. “He wants to sort of fulfill the legacy of his parents — Jack and Rebecca — and honor William’s memory by adopting.”
- For more from Brown, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday
FROM PEN: Milo Ventimiglia Talks Jack’s Death On ‘This Is Us’
On Wednesday, This Is Us released first footage of season 2, in which Randall seeks counsel from his mother, Rebecca, and explains to her that Beth is not seeing eye-to-eye with him on the matter.
Looking ahead to the second season, the series will further explore adoption — a topic that the series’ writers discussed with a firsthand trans-racial adoptee.
“We had this woman, she’s a young black woman who wrote a book about being a transracial adoptee and she came and talked to our writers before we even started writing so that they could really get inside the ideas and the problems and just concerns that parents have with children of a different race,” Brown explains, and adds, “and I think that we’re getting at least something right, because the response has been overwhelmingly positive and just happy to see their story told.”
“Not to sound hyperbolic or what not, but it’s more than a show,” Brown says of the series. “It is entertainment, but it cracks open people’s hearts and demands that you feel something in the most wonderful way.”
Watch Sterling K. Brown’s full episode of The Jess Cagle Interview before season 2 of This Is Us premieres Sept. 26 on NBC.
—With NATALIE STONE