This Is Us delivered its most emotional episode yet with the latest offering, “Memphis,” when Randall (Sterling K. Brown) returned home from a father-son road trip—alone. This Is Us viewers saw William (Ron Cephas Jones) live out his last days with extended family down South, including a final musical jam with his estranged cousins before he said goodbye to his “beautiful boy” in a Memphis hospital room. On a scale of 1-10 tissue boxes, This Is Us star Milo Ventimiglia rated this one a 30.
In the aftermath of William’s expected but still sudden death, This Is Us star Ron Cephas Jones talked about his character’s future on the show. If that sounds strange, remember that dead characters are seen in flashback scenes on This Is Us. According to TV Guide, William will be seen in Season 2 via flashbacks.
Jones told TV Guide he found out early on that his This Is Us character would die sometime in the first season, but he didn’t know exactly when.
“I had to follow along with the script to find that out each time,” the This Is Us star revealed. “I didn’t know episodes ahead how he was going to die and I didn’t know when. Each time I got a script, I was like, ‘Ah, okay. I’m still here!'”
Jones added that “hands down,” the scene where his character was on the bed dying was the most emotional This is Us scene he had to play thus far. The actor said the tears in the scene were real, and that it’s “difficult” to imagine playing William going forward.
“You’ll see him again but it won’t be in this incarnation,” the This Is Us star said.
“There’s a sadness to it. The only consolation is that as an actor I know that I’m coming back to be able to hang out with my friends for those scenes. As far as William is concerned, I’ve just got to let him go now until next season. That’s going to be a process, letting that character go. Sometimes he’s still here. I can feel him or I’ll say something that sounds too much like him.”
In an interview with People, Jones said reading the “Memphis” script for the first time was “an open-mouth moment” for him and fellow This Is Us stars Sterling K. Brown and Susan Kelechi Watson (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,” Jones said. “As an actor, it was almost like, Did you see what I just saw?… It was a moment of frightening horror and extreme excitement all in one.”
The This Is Us star also dished that early on, there was still a question on whether William would die or if his cancer would be cured. In the end, he found out by the fifth episode that his This is Us character would die this season.
This Is Us fans also knew William’s death would happen at some point—a flash forward to an undetermined year showed Randall mourning his biological father’s death— and last week This is Us creator Dan Fogelman teased the “Memphis” episode would be a major tearjerker.
Last 4 episodes are very special. I'm not a cryer but tonight is 1st episode I openly wept in edit bay. And next week? Oh god. #ThisIsUs— Dan Fogelman (@Dan_Fogelman) February 14, 2017
The This Is Us showrunner also shared a note he wrote to the cast and crew, which he put at the end of the “Memphis” script. Fogelman said he hoped the writers did the characters proud.
After William’s death scene aired on Tuesday’s This Is Us, Sterling K. Brown paid tribute to the character—and his TV dad—on Twitter.
In addition, This Is Us stars Mandy Moore, Milo Ventimiglia, Susan Kelechi Watson, and Chrissy Metz also posted to social media. Metz revealed that she was crying too hard to live tweet during the episode, while Milo Ventimiglia posted an excuse note for fans who need to take a sick day after the gut-wrenching This Is Us episode.
Take a look at the video below to see Jones and Brown talking about the heartbreaking This Is Us episode “Memphis.”
This Is Us returns March 7 at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.
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