‘This Is Us’ Heartbreaking Episode Starring Phylicia Rashad Reveals Beth’s Difficult Family Dynamic

Ron BatzdorffNBC

This is Us will delve deeply into the difficult family dynamic that led Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) to be the driven, family-first woman she is today, with some help from the appearance of her mother Carol, played by Tony-Award winning actress Phylicia Rashad, in a heartbreaking episode that will continue to showcase the strengths of this ensemble-driven NBC series.

In a new episode titled “Our Little Island Girl,” Beth’s backstory will finally be explored, showcasing what has made her so driven and why she cannot just sit idly by to watch her husband Randall (Sterling K. Brown) succeed as a councilman while she stays put as a politician’s wife, not pursuing her own dreams.

Watson spoke to Entertainment Weekly about the delicate episode, where Rashad shines as Beth’s domineering mother whom Beth and her cousin Zoe (Melanie Liburd) try to convince to retire.

“We’re going deep. We’re digging in the crates. In other seasons, she’s been helping others and trying to be there for her husband as he figures himself out, but this time she’s not feeling easy about where she is in life, so she really wants to find her true path,” Watson revealed to the publication.

Fans have been yearning to learn more about the woman in the power couple that is Beth and Randall. This is a pair who seemed to have it all as an upwardly mobile, successful couple and parents of two biological and one adopted daughter. They were given a tease in the fall finale of the series, which showed Beth running a ballet studio and heading alone to a mysterious family event.

"This Is Us" episode "Our Little Island Girl" stars (l-r) Phylicia Rashad as Carol, Akira Akbar as Young Beth, Carl Lumbly as Abe.
Featured image credit: Ron BatzdorffNBC

It will also reveal the heartbreak that Beth suffered at the hands of her mother, who chose her life path instead of allowing her daughter to fully realize her own dreams. It also reveals the depth of her love for her father, Abe (Alias alum Carl Lumbly), who died when she was young. Also appearing in the episode is Goran Visnjic, who will play Beth’s teacher Vincent.


“She was willing to try hard and sacrifice to be a dancer; it meant everything to her,” said Watson of her character’s childhood, according to EW. “There’s hope — and then there’s regret.”

Fans of the show will also be thrilled to learn that Watson does all her own dancing in the episode, despite the fact that she was not classically trained in dance.

The irony of Beth’s dancing past and Rashad’s presence on the series is that the actress is the sister of famed choreographer Debbie Allen, who has made her career in the dance world and starred in the iconic ’70s film Fame. Upon learning that Rashad would be playing her mother, Watson remarked that she needed to “step up her game” against the former Cosby Show star, noting to herself she “needed to act if her life depended on it.”

This is Us featuring the challenges of Beth’s backstory airs Tuesday at 9 p.m. EST on NBC.