EXCLUSIVE: 'This Is Us' Star Susan Kelechi Watson on Beth and Randall's Romance: 'Marriage on TV Can Get a Bum Rap'

by Philiana Ng 8:00 AM PDT, October 11, 2016
Photo: NBC

After a week off, This Is Us returns on Tuesday with the spotlight focused squarely on Randall (Sterling K. Brown).

Titled “Kyle,” the new episode explores the origins of Randall’s name, how his biological parents met and an unexpected connection Randall’s dying father, William (Ron Cephas Jones), has with a member of his adoptive family, all the while continuing the hit freshman drama’s heart-wrenching and gut-twisting storytelling.

“To hear how people are attaching to the story is a whole other adventure,” actress Susan Kelechi Watson, who plays Randall’s loving wife, Beth, told ET.

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Ahead of Tuesday’s major Randall-centric episode, the Louie alum jumped on the phone with ET to chat about what’s coming up next.

ET: It’s only been two episodes, but This Is Us has already struck a chord with America. Have you cried watching the episodes yourself?

Susan Kelechi Watson: Well, you know, I’m the weirdy [sic] -- I’m not a big crier. I can go to a funeral and not cry. (Laughs.) I think I feel it in a different way; I get tingles, my stomach does certain things, my throat kind of tightens up. I know that that’s [not] equal to crying in real human terms, but there’s definitely a lot of emotion. I love that [the show] will take you there, but it’ll send some laughter your way, too, to pick you up out of it. It’s the poignancy, but there’s something that connects the audience from a very human level. These are all things we’ve been through; they’re tap-dancing on that thing that happened to me when I was kid or something that’s happening with my relationship.

What has the response been like from the fans?

I’ve had a lot of women reach out to me and say the way Beth has her husband’s back reminds them of their relationship or that’s how they want to be in their relationship. I see it as #RelationshipGoals and things like that, which has been such a positive reinforcement for us. It runs the gamut of emotions. But have I gotten choked up? Most definitely, I’m right there with everybody.

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One of my favorite relationships on the show is Beth and Randall’s marriage, and your chemistry with Sterling K. Brown is off the charts. With Randall being raised by a white family, how does that affect the dynamic between the two?

That’s a good question. I haven’t been asked it but that’s something we’re developing a lot of because what we find out is more of Beth’s background and they come from very different backgrounds. I’m under spoiler lock and key, but what we will find is how their backgrounds have differed from one another and where, at certain points, they connect or disconnect because of that.

What was it like seeing your co-star, Mandy Moore, in old-age makeup? Have you gotten used to it by now?

She’s playing it so well. When we interact with one another, she’s only in the old-age makeup on set and so I forget! (Laughs.) I just see Rebecca as I know her because she’s embodied her. Not only does she have outstanding makeup -- it looks pretty flawless close-up, from the face to the hands, to the neck to the feet. It’s trippy when I remind myself, like, oh yeah, she does not look like that.

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Looking ahead to tonight’s episode, it’s a big one for Randall. What can you tease?

It’s very rich, it’s very deep. It explores the past that makes us who we are. What if we had this ability to show people where we came from, to further understand where we ended up? This episode does that in such a rich way. We got to watch it a couple weeks ago and I was so moved by this episode, really. It’s so full and it introduces a few more players who will be in and out, and it’ll play with time again. I think that’s the most I can tease. (Laughs.)

Randall doesn’t have a great relationship with his brother, Kevin, who is about to move to New York City. Will we get to see Beth’s opinion on that Randall’s dynamic?

Beth will know a lot of Randall’s perspective of his relationship with his brother, Kevin, so that may influence her, in terms of how she sees Kevin. I think she’s very open to the idea of him being in New York and all of that. I think Beth and Kevin’s relationship is going to grow and shift as well.

You’ve worked mostly with Sterling and it’s easy to believe you guys are a married couple. Have you reached that point where it’s second nature?

Both Sterling and I come from the same training background and I just trust him and I believe that he trusts me as well. We get into the scene and we’re just in it. I don’t even really know how to explain it. We just both understand the circumstances of it and we’re both in loving relationships. So I think we understand the context of that and be in that. We’re growing to understand our characters more and more, and at the base level of this couple is trust and love. No matter where things go -- you’ll see things go a lot of different places with them -- we know that they trust and they love each other. Then it gives you room to play. The rug is firmly under you and you know what the relationship is really about and they can go there with each other, they can support each other, they can be angry with one another, they can joke around and they can be sarcastic. We have an understanding of that with them.

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When there’s a married couple being portrayed on TV, there’s often a threat -- whether it’s external or internal -- trying to break them up. It’s refreshing to see that that’s not the case with Beth and Randall.

It’s almost [showing] when a marriage works. I don’t know if there’s ever such a thing as perfect, but when you have two people who are like “This is where I want to be” and they’re taking it day to day making it work, what does that look like? I agree with you, marriage on TV these days can get a bum rap. I’m not married yet, but I’m looking forward to being [married] one day so it’s nice to put out there what I want in my own marriage.

This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

For more on NBC’s breakout hit, watch this behind-the-scenes video below.