Tonight, This is Us returns to NBC with a very special episode, “Birth Mother,” which tells the backstory of Randall’s mother.
Viewers were left with a cliffhanger when it was revealed Randall’s mother, who was previously thought to be dead, was actually alive which has only heightened anticipation for tonight’s show. And because the drama series is known for exceptional storytelling, NBC got two of the shows Black female writers, Kay Oyegun and Eboni Freeman, together with Sterling K. Brown and Susan Kelechi Watson to discuss developing this backstory.
“Our imaginations could literally go wild because we’ve only learned very little about Laurell, Randall’s mother,” Freeman explained of the writing process. “So it was really cool to be able to have a blank slate to work off of and to fill in all of those rich details to make her this fully realized person. We laugh about it all the time. This episode literally fans her entire life, so it was a mass undertaking to fit that in 45 minutes of television- hour worth of television – but it was a lot of freaking fun.”
Oyegun has been a part of the This Is Us family from the very beginning, starting as a staff writer to now making her directorial debut with tonight’s show. Explaining her experience working on the ensemble cast series she said, “It’s different from most of our directors on the show that this is an experience where a lot of times you are given someone else’s vision, you have to go into it, and follow that vision. But in this situation, it was kinda like, from the beginning to the end, we had earlier prep time because there was so much we knew and sort of put it together. It was great! You work on the show, you know the crew, and have a clear sense of vision of what you want.”
Randall’s life story has slowly been unfolding for the past five seasons, but Brown admitted he was “sort of deeply concerned” about his character’s mother being alive and what the writers were going to do with that storyline. When he read the script, the actor said his first thought was what was the justification for Randall’s mom being absent this whole time and not choosing to be a part of his life.
“I think they did a really wonderful job of answering that question,” Brown said. “Then, in terms of the story, there’s so many things Randall has had to make peace with overtime. His father’s abstinence, then his ultimate coming back into his life, then his passing away, and how personally he takes everything, like is there something he could have done or should have done to change things and make them better. And at a time he kinda makes peace with it all, another piece of the puzzle sort of introduces itself in a way that I thought all the puzzles fit together like this. And now, I’m getting another piece of information that could sort of unravel all the other pieces that I put together and he’s sort of just hopeful that it doesn’t unravel.”
Watch a snippet of the conversation between the cast and writers below and head over to the show’s YouTube channel for the full chat after tonight’s episode. This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9 pm ET on NBC.