I’m a writer. I’ve published poetry books. I’ve interviewed actors, artists, authors and musicians. I’ve written articles and book reviews for The Nerdy Girl Express. In addition, I write a column with my twin sister Stacy titled “The Miller Twins Talk Supernatural” because Stacy and I are passionate fans of the CW’s longest running show about those Kansas born Winchester brothers (played by Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles) who travel cross-country in their classic 1967 Chevy Impala (affectionately nicknamed Baby) to hunt supernatural evil and save people. It’s a thankless job, but for Sam and Dean Winchester, it’s their “family business.” They’re the guys who have given their lives to save the world.
I don’t watch too much television. If I’m not reading a book to write my next book review, I’m usually writing poetry. There is only one other television show that I watch: NBC’s This Is Us. The Pearsons don’t grapple with the supernatural like the Winchesters. Yet, these seemingly unrelated shows existing in unrelated genres share one important feature: The importance of family.
Actually, Supernatural and This Is Us share two important things, both shows are fortunate to boast the acting talent of Emmy-winning actor Sterling K. Brown. Brown had a recurring role on Supernatural in Seasons 2 and 3. As legendary vampire hunter Gordon Walker, Brown revealed Gordon’s tunnel vision when it came to monsters. For Gordon, there were no shades of grey when it came to monsters because they were evil and needed to be killed. His approach ran counter to the Winchester philosophy that was known, on occasion, to champion the coexistence of humanity and the “friendly monster.” If a monster, say a vampire like Lenore (Amber Benson) didn’t threaten humans, why kill her? Consequently, it wasn’t long before Gordon clashed with the brothers over their benevolent approach, then fixated on the notion that Sam’s psychic powers rendered the younger Winchester inhuman.
“Sam Winchester must die.” Gordon proclaimed to whomever would listen.
Gordon Walker was a complicated man and Sterling K. Brown rose to the challenge of portraying him. More than a decade later, Gordon remains one of Supernatural’s most memorable characters, a true testament to Brown’s talent.
Brown’s work has met with both fan accolades and critical acclaim. With the skill of the Pied Piper, Brown’s stellar acting seduced audiences to follow him. We gravitated towards the allure that this veteran performer radiated onscreen. We were mesmerized by his riveting and Emmy award-winning portrayal as Christopher Darden in The People v. OJ Simpson. We continued to be riveted by his work as Randall Pearson in NBC’s critically acclaimed show This Is Us.
If there is any justice in the world then Sterling K. Brown deserves another Emmy for his work on this show.
Randall is an everyman character full of heart, yet arguably, tremendous emotional baggage. Abandoned at a fire station as a baby by his biological father, the newborn Randall was adopted by kind hearted couple Jack and Rebecca Pearson (Milo Ventimiglia and Mandy Moore), the parents of newborn twins (Jack and Rebecca’s third baby died at birth). An additional wrinkle: The Pearsons are white and Randall is black.
Other shows might have ignored the racial issue as the uncomfortable elephant in the room, opting to present Randall’s narrative as an idyllic fairytale of sorts, but not This is Us. There is no question that Randall is loved by his parents and siblings Kate and Kevin (Chrissy Metz and Justin Hartley). However, Randall’s racial identity isn’t glossed over. We see his struggles in adapting in his predominantly white neighborhood and school. We see his search for black role models to inspire him. We see his desperation (once he reconnected with his biological father) in understanding his roots and his sense of belonging. This lingering ache was punctuated in the emotionally gut wrenching episode “Memphis” when Randall accompanied his dying biological father William (Ron Cephas Jones) to William’s Tennessee birthplace. While there Randall learns about his father’s life and meets a slew of relatives he never knew he had.
Brown has no lack of material to include on his Emmy reel. The aforementioned “Memphis” is full of moments that resonate. Brown and Cephas Jones have a believable, comfortable rhythm that speaks to undeniable onscreen chemistry. I would argue that all of the actors on This is Us constitute the best at their craft. I’m especially reminded of the scenes between Brown and Mandy Moore (Rebecca knew about William when Randall was a child and kept the secret from Randall out of fear and maternal love).
However, one of the standout moments for me for Randall’s character is when he suffered a nervous breakdown in the episode “Jack Pearson’s Son.” Audiences had grown to expect Randall to be the level-headed, rational thinking man who effortlessly negotiated the challenges of home and work with perfect precision. But emotions are tricky and when we are pulled in so many directions and we persuade ourselves that we must maintain control at all times while internally safeguarding our feelings, these emotions boil to surface and cripple us. We saw this when Randall crumbled to the floor, emotionally exhausted and crying, holding onto his brother Kevin as if his brother were his lifeline. That moment is forever seared into my brain.
Can we just give Sterling K. Brown his Emmy for This Is Us already?