Sterling K. Brown Explains the Heartwarming Reason He Changed His Name as a Teenager

The actor took home the Emmy Award for outstanding supporting actor in a limited series or movie, for his role in The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story

Photo: Gilbert Carrasquillo/FilmMagic

Fresh off his first Emmy win, Sterling K. Brown is all smiles.

At Sunday evening’s 68th annual awards, the The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story star dedicated his golden statue to his late father, Sterling Brown, and told Access Hollywood Live that his father – a TV lover – is “smiling from ear to ear.”

“I lost my dad relatively early in life, but he gave me 10 of the best years that a kid could ever have,” Brown said. “And I never doubt that he loved me unequivocally, unconditionally. Oh he loved TV. He loved entertainment, and so the fact that I became an actor and this is what I do for a living, like I know he’s smiling from ear to ear.”

Brown, who also stars on NBC’s This Is Us, also revealed that he changed his name as a teenager in honor of his father. As a child he went by Kelby, but told his mother that he would be called Sterling when he turned 16.

“I went by Kelby. My mom tells me this story – she was reiterating it the other day – in kindergarten I came home one day and said, ‘Mom, Sterling is eight letters and Kelby is five. I’ll just do Kelby and then when I turn 16, I will go by Sterling.’ And I don’t remember that. 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,” the actor said.

Upon accepting his outstanding supporting actor in a limited series or movie Emmy at the 68th annual awards, an emotional Brown said on stage, “Mama, I can hear you, I love you. Sterling Brown Jr., I changed what people called me at age 16 so I could hear your name every day of my life. I love you, daddy.”

This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.

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