Emmys 2017: 5 scenes that prove Sterling K. Brown should win Outstanding Actor

Photo Credit: This Is Us/NBC, Acquired From NBCUniversal Media Village
Photo Credit: This Is Us/NBC, Acquired From NBCUniversal Media Village /

Sterling K. Brown is nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. Here are 5 scenes that prove why he deserves to win.

Despite the favorable odds, we’re at little pessimistic about Sterling K. Brown’s chances at winning Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama this Sunday at the 2017 Emmy Awards. Maybe we’re too cynical about a weepy broadcast show usurping serious prestige performances; maybe we don’t want to get our hopes up. Maybe we just need a little convincing.

Luckily, Brown, who plays Randall Pearson on NBC’s This Is Us, provided a veritable plethora of powerhouse clips over the course of the show’s first season — showcasing humor, anxiety, pathos, dadliness.

In fact, there were so many great moments, it was hard to choose just five to make the case. We learn so much about Randall over the course of the season. There’s his #relationshipgoals-level marriage to Beth, his rollercoaster introduction to his biological father, his betrayal by his adoptive mother, his rivalry with his brother. Not to mention all the elements of his personality: Smart, nerdy, anxious, enthusiastic, caring, funny.

But without further ado, here are 5 scenes that make the case for Sterling K. Brown to win the 2017 Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series.

5. Randall’s soccer coaching

In the grand scheme of Randall’s story on This Is Us — adoption, abandonment, dead dad, dying dad, anxiety, racism — his dad cred may perhaps seem like one of the more minor elements to convey. But really, Brown’s performance of Randall as a father is one of the foundational parts of his character. So much of his personality is shaped by what Jack taught him and so much of his story is directed by developing a relationship with William, it follows that how he acts and how he and Beth parent their girls is an essential element of his performance.

And as Brown said on the TCA Press Tour:

"The perception in this country at large is that black men are absent when it comes to their families, so to be on a show that is on network television, where you see a black man who loves his wife and his children to the core, it’s a wonderful image to put out into the world."

But, of course, Emmys aren’t just for actors who take on important and meaningful roles. They’re for the performance. And, in scenes like the soccer game opener, or when he’s braiding his daughters’ hair, or trying to be musical for career day, he conveys that love in deep and adorable ways. He walks the walk.

See also: Embarrassing his daughters on career day; almost any kitchen scene.

4. Randall’s hotel night excitement

So much of what makes Brown’s performance of Randall amazing — and award-worthy — is his ability to express extreme and deep emotions with nuance. Anxiety, exclusion, grief — Randall goes through it all. But Brown is also an incredible comic actor. His timing is impeccable and his ability to rattle off thoughts as he gets increasingly excited is a joy to behold.

Yes, the hotel night takes a turn for the serious, but before then, the audience enjoys peak excited, nerdy Randall totally in the zone, thinking about shower sex, burgers — BURGERS! — and Florence Foster Jenkins.

In fact, most of Randall’s scenes with Beth are delightful and the banter they share — she will always tell it like it is — is a big part of why fans love their relationship. Othertimes, it’s Randall’s own perfectionism getting a little zany and off-track — like that aforementioned attempt at being musical and playing the piano — or Randall reveling in meeting his biological extended family (“You get a cousin! You get a cousin!”) in Memphis that provides the humor.

The character has no chill and it makes for a super entertaining performance.

See also: Randall on Thanksgiving morning — Thanksgiving Dad!; Randall on mushrooms, but only from the perspective of Kevin and Kate (his trip is pretty intense on the inside).

3. Randall fights Kevin

Randall and Kevin’s relationship was more of a focus at the start of the season, where we’re introduced to the brothers and their strained dynamic. They clearly have very different personalities, for starters, but early episodes revealed how Kevin felt like Randall got special treatment and Randall felt like Kevin treated him treated him like a dog.

In the present day, this played out in a very subtle and nuanced way — clearly, these men had been living with this established dynamic for years. It becomes apparent that the two never spend time totally alone together and their night out gets out of control as they both try to avoid their feelings — until they can’t. The scene is ultimately humorous, they end up fighting like teenage boys in the street and Brown’s ad-lib “Let’s go! I’m still black” is incredible, but Randall’s admission later that it was the first time Kevin had ever claimed him as his brother was heartbreaking.

There are so many ways Randall’s experience as the adopted son — and the adopted black son in a white family — informs Brown’s performance on This Is Us and the actor does an excellent job nailing the ways you never let go of certain things.

See also: Kevin’s late-night call.

2. Randall confronts Rebecca

All right, here’s where we get really serious. Another reason Brown’s performance as Randall is so impressive is the way he’s able to scale the emotions he conveys. The hurt and anger that he feels toward Kevin and those aspects of his childhood are notably different than the way he expresses those same feelings toward Rebecca, when confronting her about her pre-existing relationship with William. Brown cycles through so many feelings during this confrontational scene without ever going over the top or losing the essential truths of Randall’s character.

This skill appears throughout the season and is particularly notable for keeping the character real in the plot’s more melodramatic moments.

Which is to say, you can see the same talent in his other “big” scenes — like William’s goodbye at the hospital or when Randall finally quits his job. They’re the tearjerking and fist-raising moments that you might expect from a network TV and in the hands of a lesser actor, they could have felt contrived even as they succeed in their emotional manipulation. But with Brown, the moments carry the weight and emotion they warrant, without ever feeling extra.

See also: Randall talking to William; William’s death; quitting his job; the mushroom trip, but from Randall’s perspective.

1. Randall’s panic attack

As William later remarks, it’s a shock to see Randall so vulnerable — he normally keeps it all together. He’s a little tightly wound, but it mostly comes off as responsible if kind of nerdy. Endearing, generally. We’d seen indications — like his shaking hand — that something big was coming and Beth had warned William that he had a serious episode before, but watching him fully break down at his desk was still one of the most powerful moments of the season.

And, like everything about Brown’s performance, it was totally in character for Randall. Just as it made total sense that he would be able to balance so much — his 20 hour a day job; being a good father, good husband; introducing his biological father into his life; coming to terms with his adoptive mother’s betrayal; the day-to-day wacky hijinks of the Big Three — it was also fitting that when he broke, it would be in an almost total moment of stillness. And the fact that it was Kevin who recognized what was happening from the phone call and showed up like he never had in the past was just, *chef’s kiss.*

Next: 25 This Is Us laughs that made the tears worth it

There are, of course, so many more scenes that make the case for Sterling K. Brown’s Emmy. In fact, there’s a whole season worth of evidence. (And let’s watch that This Is Randall compilation again, too, why not?)

The odds are good that Brown takes home the gold hardware, he’s the current experts, editors and people’s pick and a popular choice. And while we wait for This Is Us to return for season 2 — Sept. 26! It’s so close! — an acceptance speech from Brown would be a pretty great consolation.