Spoiler alert: Please proceed with caution if you’re not up to date on “This Is Us.”
When “This Is Us” returns on Tuesday, the Pearson family will face a really tough loss: the death of William Hill (Ron Cephas Jones), who succumbed to cancer during last week’s episode. And it’s not going to be easy.
William, the biological father of Randall Pearson (Sterling K. Brown), was a fun-loving person with a passion for music and the arts who faced a troubled and storied past. By the time Randall tracked down his dad for the first time, William’s health was failing.
As the season progressed, William became a big part of Randall’s life, getting to know his wife, Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson), and their two daughters, Annie (Faithe Herman) and Tess (Eris Baker). So it’s no surprise that the family will take this hard, especially because Beth and the kids didn’t get to say a proper goodbye.
In the last episode, Randall and William took a road trip to Memphis to visit William’s old stomping grounds and, along the way, they connected with some of William’s extended family. They stopped by the club where William used to play music and ate at one of his favorite restaurants. But William’s health took a turn for the worse and he never made it back home to see Beth and the kids.
Beth did get to see the two of them off before they hit the road in a short but memorable scene. In a way, at that moment, Kelechi Watson had to say goodbye to her castmate Cephas Jones.
“There’s this scene where they’re getting in the car to go to Memphis and I bend down into the car and I look in his eyes and I say, ‘You take care of you.’ And the look Ron gave me, I said, ‘Ron, stop. You can’t do that … You know what you’re doing.’ We’re looking at each other like he knows he’s going to leave,” Kelechi Watson told The Huffington Post during a Build Series interview. “We knew that these moments were so precious having him on set.”
Because the NBC series toggles back and forth between the past and present, it’s possible we’ll see William in flashback scenes, Kelechi Watson said. Though, she added, “He’s gone now in that everyday way and that was hard.”
The actress said William’s death will hit her character “hard.” Probably harder than the audience may expect.
“They started off as strangers … and then she kind of sort of let him in. And then he figures his role out in the family, and they become family and they become friends. It’s going to be difficult and she didn’t have a chance to say goodbye,” she said. “And her being his main caretaker in a sense, being home with him. You’ll find out how much she’s helped him in terms of medicine and doctors … So, it’s going to have a big effect.”
With only two episodes left, viewers are waiting in anticipation for how Season 1 will wind down. Kelechi Watson assures “This Is Us” fans that some lingering storylines will be tied up in the season finale, especially when it comes to Milo Ventimiglia’s and Mandy Moore’s characters, Jack and Rebecca Pearson.
“There are aspects of Jack and Rebecca’s life that we’ve been tracking through the season and we’ll see a lot of that — and some questions will be answered,” she said.
“This Is Us” has already been picked up for two additional seasons, so there are plenty more stories to tell.
When asked whether viewers will learn more about Beth’s past in upcoming seasons, Kelechi Watson said, “That has to be a possibility playing with time and everything like that. We have the space right now to do it because we have two more seasons. Have they thought about it that far? I’m not sure. I imagine that’s an option that’s available to us. I know that we will learn about who she is, her family and her career.”
“This Is Us” airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on NBC. Watch the full Build Series interview with Susan Kelechi Watson below.