It’s no secret that This Is Us (Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on CTV) has us running for the Kleenex boxes every week. Or that Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) and Randall (Sterling K. Brown) are pretty much our favourite onscreen couple — maybe even of all-time. But for three seasons now we’ve also secretly held a bit of a grudge against the show for one pretty big reason: why have we never delved into the backstory of Beth Pearson?
Thankfully that issue is being rectified with the Feb. 19 episode of the series, “Our Little Island Girl.” Not only does the series finally give us the Beth backstory we’ve been craving, but we had a chance to screen it in Los Angeles recently (we know we’re lucky) and we have to say that it’s also the episode we’ve all needed.
Without giving away too many spoilers, here’s everything you need to know about the upcoming episode.
It calls in the big guns
Show creator Dan Fogelman told us that, aside from fans wanting to know how Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) died, the question he’s most asked about the series is, “When are we getting a Beth episode?” So not only did he know it was time to do one, but that he also had to deliver.
To get that done, casting Beth’s mom became a big piece of the puzzle. Fogelman says that he always knew he wanted to cast former Cosby mom Phylicia Rashad, and getting her was a dream.
“From the moment we cast Susan we were like, ‘If we ever get to Susan’s mom it’s got to be Phylicia,’” he said. “We didn’t know if it would be realistic because of logistics of her schedule, but that was a dream come true.”
So who did the show cast to play Beth’s father? None other than Carl Lumbly(Supergirl). Rounding out the star-studded cast is Goran Visnjic (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) as Beth’s former teacher Vincent.
We meet young (and younger) Beth
The episode takes a pretty deep dive, which means the show had to cast not just one younger version of the character, but two. Rachel Naomi Hilson plays teen Beth, while Akira Akbar tackles the youngest role.
Both casting choices are pretty spectacular, but we particularly love how the show found ways to have the actors share certain physical traits, like finding a contact lens that gives each younger Beth the same mole on her eye that Kelechi Watson has in real life.
“Rachel actually studied the show to study Beth,” Kelechi Watson said. “We all do things that we don’t realize, and then, I don’t realize I do as the character. And she was very much doing very specific Beth things. She helped to contextualize Beth for me. That was such a help. It informed me to actually step outside of Beth and watch her so that I could be a bit objective because I’m so close to her. So, it gave me clues about who Beth is as well.”
Yes, there’s dancing
Remember that flash-forward to when an older version of Beth was suddenly at a dance studio, supposedly as some sort of teacher or director? This episode goes deep into the character’s love of ballet and her quest to blaze trails as an African American ballerina — despite her mom’s ‘better’ judgement.
That means all three versions of Beth get to dance throughout the episode, which is definitely lots of fun to watch. That’s probably why Kelechi Watson was so pumped to do it.
“I received a call about really training to dance [because] we’re going to do a big episode, and Beth is going to go back into her roots of dance and what that was about,” Kelechi Watson said. “So we began training for it outside of the show… I found out maybe in September of 2018 that that was going to happen. I was joyous because maybe the greatest form of expression, to me, is the physical expression: What can happen with the body. I was so excited by the opportunity to go back and do that again because I’ve been dancing all my life.”
We get into Beth’s Jamaican roots
Kelechi Watson is Jamaican in real life, so the opportunity to go back and dig into Beth’s Jamaican roots was something else that pumped her up for the episode. In particular, she was excited by Lumbly joining as her father, since he actually has the accent in the episode.
“I grew up, man, hearing some chopped up Jamaican accents, or what people call Jamaican accents. I don’t know what it is. It’s not Jamaican, but they were so good,” she said. “It honours my culture in such a deep way. We talk about representation, but the specificity of where I’m from, it honors it so much in Carl Lumbly playing this role because he is authentically Jamaican. The man was born there; he’s there four times a year. So, what we’re hearing is an Americanized Jamaican, which is what a lot of second-generation, first-generation Jamaicans grew up around—especially Jamaicans who marry an American. Everything is that perspective, and that’s a joy for me to get to represent for my people.”
Beth and Randall have a moment
Beth and Randall fans can also expect a pretty big moment between the two at some point in the episode, when they ‘meet’ for the first time. We don’t want to give too much away, but according to co-showrunner Elizabeth Berger, a lot went into crafting the moment we’re talking about.
“Whenever there’s something big like that, we give it a lot of discussion,” she said. “We are going to be revisiting that moment coming up really soon in an episode [we] just wrote.”
We can’t wait.