This Is Us' Ron Cephas Jones opens up about the moment he discovered William's fate


Spoiler alert for those who haven’t watched Tuesday’s episode of This Is Us, plot details from “Memphis” will be revealed.

The Pearson family has said goodbye to one of its own.

On Tuesday’s episode, Randall’s father William lost his short-lived battle with cancer, leaving fans – and the cast – heartbroken.

“It was kind of an open-mouth moment,” star Ron Cephas Jones, 60, said of the first time he learned how his character’s fate played out in the script. “I can’t believe what I’m reading. It affected me that way, all of us. Me, Sterling [K. Brown, who plays Randall], and Susan [Kelechi Watson, who plays Randall’s wife, Beth] – I remember us walking out of the building after the first reading and each of us were waiting for one of us to confirm what we just read.”

He added, “As an actor, it was almost like, Did you see what I just saw? It was that feeling of, ‘There’s something special here and I’m not sure if this is real or not.’ It was a moment of frightening horror and extreme excitement all in one. The writing was there right from the pilot.”

Credit: Ron Batzdorff/NBC

In the episode, a weak (but determined) William and Randall take a road trip to Memphis, and experience some quality father/son bonding along the way. In the midst of discovering a whole new family, Randall is quick to realize William’s true intentions for the trip — he is heading home to die.

After William stopped his chemotherapy treatments in the midseason return, his fate was left hanging in the balance, a move that Cephas Jones thinks ultimately “worked out beautifully.”

“Up until a certain episode, there was still a question on whether he was going to die, whether there was going to be a cure for him. Up to a certain point, I realized through Dan [Fogelman, the show’s creator,] that he’s definitely going to pass away. We just have to get there and we’ll see how we get there.”

The 74th Golden Globe Awards - Arrivals
Credit: Sipa

Though William’s path has come to an end, his story is still very much alive.

“That’s the greatest thing about the show because we’re kind of always filling in blanks and this one very small story that takes place over a couple of months so far, we’re always filling in these things,” directors and executive producers John Requa and Glenn Ficarra said.

“We could see young William,” they teased of future episodes. “We’ve created a world there.”

This Is Us airs Tuesdays (9 p.m. ET) on NBC.