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Sterling K. Brown Reveals His Hopes for the End of This Is Us and His Storytelling Future

Sterling K. Brown has high hopes for the end of This Is Us and explains why he's helping cancer survivors tell their stories in a new partnership.

By Lauren Piester Jul 30, 2021 10:32 PMTags
Watch: "This Is Us" Ending After Season 6: Everything We Know

As This Is Us heads heads towards its highly anticipated and much talked about ending, there's one hope that star Sterling K. Brown has for the NBC drama: Don't be like Game of Thrones

Brown is a huge fan of the epic HBO series and wants to make that known, but even through his love, he can see that things went a little wrong towards the end. 

"This is not to throw shade to [Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss], but after I watched the finale of Game of Thrones, I said to Dan Fogelman, 'Dan, we gotta do better. We gotta stick the landing,' Brown told E! News in an interview to promote his partnership with Bristol Myers Squibb's Survivorship Today. "He's like, 'We will stick the landing.'" 

"I think it would be hard for us to do worse, and I'm saying that as a fan," Brown continued. "I'm saying that as a fan of what was one of the greatest television shows in history, it failed to stick the landing. We will do better." 

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That feels like a solid promise, given that Brown already knows how the whole thing ends. Fogelman has had the ending of the NBC series planned out for many years, and has even shot some of the series finale already. And while Brown couldn't say a word about what that ending might look like, he could say that throughout its final season, the show will continue to give us the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. That means we're all gonna cry, but hopefully we'll also be laughing.

"Our show has always been about the resiliency of humanity. It was originally pitched to me as a drama, and I think the reason people call it a weeper is because you have to have some really lovely highs in order to feel the lows, [so] you're going along with the Pearsons and then all of a sudden, the rug comes out from underneath you," Brown explained. "They say, 'Oh man, that show keeps me crying all the time,' but they fail to realize that right before that cry happened, you might have had a chuckle or two. The show will continue to be what it is all the way up through the end." 

Mark Mann

Randall, in particular, has had some real highs and lows over the past couple seasons. He started seeing a therapist and dealt with the pressures of perfectionism, the struggles of being adopted by a white family, as well as the sense of loss he felt over his birth parents. He hopes that Randall's newfound knowledge that his mother loved him and simply couldn't be there for him will bring him a sense of "peace." 

"Randall has been haunted for such a long time by the idea of being perfect, and having to be perfect in order to be loved and in order to be of value. That's a very hard place to maintain any semblance of balance and sanity," he shared. "So I think more than anything else, especially after completing this last chapter of his story...I think if he has a sense of wholeness with himself, and that he's able to share a whole person with his beautiful wife and his beautiful children and his beautiful children and his beautiful family, that's my greatest hope for Randall." 

As for Brown, he's trying to look at the brighter side of the show ending, like the TV family he's built over the years. 

"I think there's gonna be a lot of emotions that we're all having as we move towards this sixth and final season, as we come towards the end. It's been such a wondrous journey," he said. "I mean, truly, when you get a chance to work with people who you care about, as individuals, not just as artists, but you know that they're going to be a part of your life forever, you're gonna miss the story, but they're still going to be a part of your life." 

Brown is just so proud of all the things the show has been able to do for people, and how it's covered mental health, race, addiction, gender and sexual identity and so much more in a way that really resonated with people. (He also has been nominated for multiple Emmys for his performance, which doesn't hurt.) 

"There's so many things that we've touched on, and have tried to, in a very conscious way, create a landscape where everyone can see themselves and recognize that they belong in the tapestry of storytelling," he said. "I'm excited to bring it to an end, because I know we've been building towards something this whole time." 

Brown is also lending his distinctive voice and storytelling experience to some real-life stories through his partnership with Bristol Myers Squibb for a program called Survivorship Today. In a new online series, he's narrating the stories of people living with cancer long-term. 

"The reason why I got involved was because I had a uncle, my mom's brother, my dear Uncle Sonny, who passed away in 2004 from cancer, and it was about six months to the day of his diagnosis that he was taken from us, and it was a very devastating thing for my myself and my entire family," he explained. "So the very fact that we're talking about living long term with cancer, 16 or 17 years later, is awesome in and of itself." 

But just because someone has "beaten" cancer, that doesn't mean the road ahead isn't long. 

Bristol Myers Squibb/Survivorship Today

"There's fear of relapse, there are physical, psychological, mental, spiritual changes that you have gone through, so living with it now is about adjusting to a new normal," he continued. "So Survivorship Today is basically a series of stories where cancer survivors can go and hear and understand that they are not alone, and bear witness to other people who are going through what they are going through right now." 

Brown said the process has obviously not been easy, but it has been "incredibly illuminating" and has given him a dose of perspective. 

"When we think our life is so hard, and then you go and talk to someone who's been living with cancer for 10 years who, especially in the midst of the pandemic, and their immune systems being compromised...[you realize] the importance of wearing a mask in their presence and taking care of your fellow man, and not just recognizing this period of time is something that is affecting you personally but affecting your fellow man, your fellow woman." 

Brown described a certain "spirit" among the people he had talked to of "this too shall pass," and that's a mentality he doesn't plan to forget. 

"I kind of carry that with me, as a human being," he said. "Recognizing the way that I face any obstacle in my life shapes the obstacle itself, in terms of how big or how small I see it as being, and my ability to step over it, to run through it, or around it." 

Telling these stories has also changed how Brown looks at the kinds of stories he wants to tell as he moves forward after This Is Us

"There are friends of mine who just like pop culture, and friends of mine who only watch foreign directors and poopoo on anyone who is into the MCU. It's like, there's so much power in so many different kinds of stories," he explained. "Each story can serve a very different purpose. I have my own personal mantra as an actor and storyteller to entertain, to educate, to edify. I want to be able to make people feel, and I want to encourage people to be better versions of themselves and make the world a better place...but there's also room for the silliest of sillies within me as well." 

This Is Us returns in 2022 on NBC. 

(E! and NBC are both part of the NBCUniversal family.) 

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