Sterling K. Brown Wants the Conversation Around Diversity to Shift From 'Inclusion' to 'Celebration' The producer and 'This Is Us' actor says recognizing and embracing differences creates the best collaboration.
The NBC drama This Is Us is beloved for many things: its ability to bring viewers to blubbering tears with every episode; cross-generational family drama portrayed by a gorgeous collection of Hollywood actors; and, most significantly, the fact that each week, on network TV, it broadcasts relatable, authentic story lines about its black characters. But success like that doesn't just happen. It is, says This Is Us star Sterling K. Brown, the result of a diverse staff that's comfortable confronting their differences -- which is a recipe for success that reaches far beyond television.
On the show, Brown plays Randall Pearson, the adopted black son of a white family. It's a loving and complicated relationship. It's also one of the strongest story lines on This Is Us, which has three black writers in the writers' room and regularly invites its cast -- black and white -- to consult and contribute to stories. Showrunner Dan Fogelman is aware of his own blind spots, as a white man, in representing the black experience. So as they work through story lines or scripts, Fogelman often asks Brown and his colleagues, "Does this feel good?"
Brown loves this question. "When there is a well-functioning collaboration, where everyone is listening and willing to proceed to the best idea in the room," says Brown, "then the potential to create something truly collaborative and inclusive is extraordinary." The way he sees it, the question "Does this feel good?" is really an acknowledgment -- that Fogelman recognizes Brown's different life experiences and perspectives and wants to bring that to bear on the show's creative decisions.