'This Is Us' Star Reveals Secrets Behind 'Heartbreaking' Beth Moment and That Pregnancy Shocker (Exclusive)
By Philiana Ng
Warning: Spoiler alert! Do not proceed if you have not watched Tuesday's episode of This Is Us. If you have, read our recap, then come on back...
Are Beth and Randall in too deep?
The beloved This Is Us couple faced a big hurdle in Tuesday’s episode, when their foster child, 12-year-old Deja (Lyric Ross), cut off her beautifully-braided hair after she and Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) shared a rare bonding moment. Deja’s decision to cut off her hair didn’t come out of nowhere, though.
After Beth helped Deja wash and braid her hair for the first time in a long while, Beth discussed their conversation with Randall (Sterling K. Brown). Randall later sought Deja out, attempting to extend an olive branch in an effort to connect (and to apologize for getting into a heated argument over Deja during what was to be a fun trip to the bowling alley): “If you ever feel like you want to, I would love to go running with you.” Deja’s response? “She told you what I said?” Randall’s crestfallen face said it all: This wasn’t going to go over well.
Following Tuesday’s episode, ET jumped on the phone with Watson to break down Tuesday’s biggest moments, including how Beth and Randall handle Deja’s decision, earning back Deja’s trust and that surprising pregnancy reveal. (Fun fact: It was omitted in the original script!).
ET: Beth has always been a pillar of strength and in many ways, represents the heart and soul of the show. What has been fulfilling for you this season as you’ve continued digging into her journey?
Susan Kelechi Watson: It’s been fulfilling to learn more about her, to learn the different sides of her and how she responds to different things. But not only like, who she is as a wife or who she is a mom, but who she is as a person. While I was researching this role, one of the things that I pulled up from my mental Rolodex were the friends or the family that I have who are wives and mothers. How they’ve either held on to their personal identity or felt like they let it go and looking to get it back. I thought, what if we have a woman who’s a wife and mom, but also holds onto her identity as just Beth, and has let go of certain things in order to be this wife, in order to be this mother but is also an individual outside of that. That’s part of, to me, where she expresses herself from -- it’s her thoughts and her opinions. As I get to know her more, I get more of that other side of her, of who she is as an individual.
In what ways do you feel like she’s getting back aspects of her identity that she has lost or pushed to the side?
Last season, she was splitting her time [between work and home]. Now, the great part with Randall staying at home is that she gets to go back to work and fulfill her dreams, and be useful and purposeful in another way, and to provide in another way. She doesn’t think Randall’s going to be not working forever, but she does get to provide for the family in a financial way that she hasn’t before. I think she’s happy about that. That’s what she wanted. It’s the reason why she didn’t want to have another baby. She was just starting to get things back on course and find herself again and find her place again. We’ll see things like Beth coming back in from a workout and we’re going to see her go to work, and do these other things outside of just being in the house. Now, she’s starting to reclaim that side of her.
Currently, Beth is facing one of her biggest tests in fostering Deja. Is this her greatest challenge so far?
I always think that her dad passing was probably the biggest, but this, I think, is up there, in terms of what she’s had to deal with. I would say yes, probably after her father’s death. Trying to help someone who’s coming from a very different lifestyle, who’s coming from abuse. Beth grew up in a household where her and her siblings were taken care of, not that they were living at the level that she and Randall are, but there was love and there was family. What really, really bothers her is how neglected this young girl has been, how she hasn’t been taken care of, how much stress she’s had to experience. All of these things anger her and bother her, and they’re not easy fixes. It’s not something that’s going to be wrapped up quickly. There is a challenge of opening your home and saying, “Come into this safe space,” yet you don’t know how that’s going to be received at all. It’s not their perfect little life that they’ve set up for themselves, there’s going to be more chaos than they signed up for.
There’s a heartbreaking scene in tonight’s episode, where Beth is horrified after Deja cuts off all her hair, right after they share a rare moment of connection. What did that scene say to you?
I’ve watched as Lyric [Ross], who plays Deja, cut off her own hair and really cut it off. For a young girl, and I’ll speak even more specifically, for a young black girl, hair is so much of our lives. Not even intentionally, but because of what goes into our hair care and because the beauty that it’s attached to. For a young girl who doesn’t want to... It’s a big thing in the black community to have long, beautiful hair -- and the care that goes into that -- or to have full hair, or to have healthy hair. All those things are a big deal. For this young girl to have to actually cut her own hair off… Like, I cut my own hair off when I went natural without any chemicals in my hair and it took me three-and-a-half hours. I had to tap out and call friends and pray and do all these things as I went along, and this girl had to do it in a matter of 10 minutes for different takes and every take, she had to keep getting closer and closer to the scalp. So by the time she walked into the kitchen, I saw what she had gone through and what it takes to have to do that. It was heartbreaking, that Deja, as a character, hurt that much. Something she was taking so much pride in and feeling good about herself, that she could spiral that quickly. In the end, it said she didn’t trust Beth anymore.
How does Beth earn back Deja’s trust?
It becomes about both Randall and Beth, to where she’ll see that Beth telling him, it wasn’t a bad thing. That they’re both on her side. It becomes more about showing her that they’re all on her side. They’re not trying to take advantage of her in any way. They actually support her. Her path and everything she comes with is not something that they feel like is gossip. It’s really Beth and Randall discussing her, so they can make life better for her. Those are the things that they’re going to look into in the next few episodes.
Could there come a time when Beth and Randall meet Deja’s mother?
I probably can’t say too much about that. (Laughs.)
Beth mentions in this episode that her three sisters and her mother are “very opinionated.” How much backstory have you gotten on that, and have you filled in the blanks with your own ideas?
It’s been a little bit of both, because the writers are starting to tell me what they’re throwing around about Beth’s family. I also fill in the blanks with my own imagination and sometimes, I get to talk to them when I think [there are things] culturally she’s probably experienced and the order in the midst of three girls. Beth is probably second to last or somewhere in the middle. They’ve started to discuss it, which is exciting, because all that stuff helps me to discover who she is even more and why she is who she is. With the Big Three, Mandy [Moore] and Milo [Ventimiglia], we get to see, literally, on the screen what they’ve been through and why they are where they are now. For me, what I find out about Beth helps me in the same way, though we may not see it onscreen. Who knows, they may do it one day.
We learned early on that Beth is an urban planner, but we haven’t seen her at the office, in work mode or with co-workers. Is that coming?
Yeah, I can actually say that’s coming! (Laughs.) Coming soon. We’ll see her with blueprints and all that kind of stuff, see what Beth does outside of the house.
Lastly, it’s revealed that Kate is pregnant. What was your reaction to that twist?
I think it’s just beautiful. It was one of the those things that was left out of the script when we first got it. But it was such a lovely moment. When I finally did get to read the script for that scene, I could just imagine Chrissy [Metz]. Imagine the little smile that she gives and that feeling of being so deeply content with knowing that there’s a little KaToby? (Laughs.) A little Toby-Kate? I don’t know how to mush that together, but there’s a little one inside of her. [Editor’s note: A few minutes later, Watson -- in the middle of answering another question -- settles on Kate and Toby’s combined name, “Tate! We got it!”]
Since Kate and Rebecca aren’t close, will Beth be a support system for Kate during her pregnancy, as someone who’s gone through it?
I’m up for any reason that Beth and Kate can be closer. I keep pitching that: Can they be best friends? Hopefully, that’ll be written that somehow Kate and Beth connect over that.
What did you think of Tuesday's episode? Did you see Kate's pregnancy coming? Tell us your thoughts by tweeting Philiana Ng at @insidethetube or via @etnow!