Sterling K. Brown was last seen cradled in his TV brother’s arms as his character suffered a breakdown on the last episode of This Is Us, but this week viewers will see Randall Pearson back in action and taking charge. Brown will headline a standalone episode of the NBC drama, titled “Memphis,” which is set one week after Randall’s debilitating panic attack. In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Sterling K. Brown talked about the special This Is Us episode, which finds Randall taking a road trip with his dying biological father, William (Ron Cephas Jones).
“He had to step away from work,” Sterling told THR of his character. “I think he just had to remove himself from that situation in totality in order to focus on what was important, which was his own health. He also recognizes that he only has a limited amount of time with William remaining.”
Sterling K. Brown revealed that the father-son duo will get some much-needed bonding time as William’s cancer battle heads into its final stages, despite the fact that Randall isn’t usually one for dropping work and taking impromptu vacations.
While This Is Us fans are used to the show’s time-traveling format, the “Memphis” episode will flashback all the way to the early 1940s to William’s birth and childhood. The episode will also introduce several new characters into the ensemble drama, including Randall’s biological grandmother, Dorothy (played by Amanda Warren) and his cousin Ricky (Brian Tyree Henry). Jermel Nakia will return to the show as young William. In addition, an original song written specifically for the series will be featured in the emotional episode.
The website Commercial Appeal recently confirmed that shooting for the episode took place on location in Memphis and that a good part of the story will take place in the year 1976. Sterling K. Brown’s Randall wasn’t born until 1980, so it’s safe to assume that the 1976-set scenes will be his biological father’s backstory.
Spoiler TV posted a brief synopsis of “Memphis,” revealing that Sterling K. Brown’s character announces his road trip plans to his wife Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) and that his adoptive father Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) also appears in the episode in some way. No other main characters appear as this is truly a Sterling K. Brown episode.
According to the spoiler site, This Is Us fans will learn everything they need to know about the William character through flashbacks. Viewers will see him as a young adult performing with his band and find out exactly why he left Memphis for Pittsburgh and when and why he started doing drugs.
In addition, the scenes set in the present day will feature a more lighthearted Sterling K. Brown and Ron Cephas Jones. But—and this is a big spoiler alert—the duo’s trip is cut short due to a sudden hospital stay for one of the men. In other words, get the tissues out.
While This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman won’t dish if William will make it to season 2 of the show, he did tell Television Critics Association reporters that the remaining episodes of season 1 will focus on his illness. Viewers previously saw a flash forward to an undetermined date with Sterling K. Brown’s character mourning his biological father’s death, so fans know it is coming at some point.
“The back half of the season is very much focused on William’s fight with cancer,” Fogelman said, according to TV Guide. “Different answers are searched for, and different possible outcomes are on the table. In terms of Randall’s storyline and William’s storyline, our focus really turns to that.”
As for Randall, Fogelman says Sterling K. Brown’s character’s stress will continue to do a number on him, so don’t assume that “Memphis” hospital stay is for William.
“Suddenly this man is beset on all sides by various stresses, at his work and especially at his home,” Fogelman told EW. “And as we head into…the future weeks, we start seeing it in full…I think people are going to freak out a little bit, and then people are going to learn a little bit more in the subsequent episodes.”
You can see Sterling K. Brown and the This Is Us cast in the trailer for “Memphis” below.
This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.
[Featured Image by Mike Coppola/Getty Images]