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Warning: Clip contains NSFW language.
The curse that comes with the blessing of being on a hit television show is that audiences often connect an actor too closely with the character they’ve played over multiple seasons. Just ask Sterling K. Brown, whose Emmy-, Golden Globe- and SAG award-winning portrayal of the anxious "weather trader" Randall Pearson on NBC's This Is Us has certified him as one America's most endearing Sensitive Males, unafraid to shed some tears — an image he memorably spoofed during his opening monologue on Saturday Night Live.
Brown plays another father in the dizzying and gut-punching new drama Waves, written and directed by Trey Edward Shults (Krisha, It Comes at Night), but there are few traces of Randall in Ronald Williams, the patriarch of an upper-middle-class Miami family whose tough love parenting approach and domineering tendency to push his high-school wrestling son (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) to the limits inadvertently lead to tragic consequences. (Watch an exclusive clip of Brown, who's drawing Oscar buzz for his sensational performance, above.)
For Brown, the dramatic differences were exactly part of the appeal.
"I'm trying to fight against the idea that there is a type," Brown told Yahoo Entertainment's Kevin Polowy in a recent interview. "I think Randall sort of projects the idea that this is a type. And I love Randall, immensely, but he's an aspect of who I am and not the totality. So [I enjoy] any time I get a chance to explore someone who's a bit different. And this is a much more stern, paternal figure. He has a very particular way in which he wants to see things executed in his household and when people deviate from that, he doesn't abide by that.
"But it's about 'that guy Sterling K. Brown, he's a good actor. I don't know what his type is. But if I give him something, I think he can play with it.'"
Not only are both This Is Us and Waves emotionally grueling in their own separate ways, Brown filmed them at the same time, flying to Florida to shoot Waves on weekends in between filming This Is Us during the week in Los Angeles.
"So it was intense but it was also exhilarating because I knew that I was stepping into something that was completely different, and that people weren't necessarily accustomed to seeing, but he was somebody who I recognized as real, and someone who I recognized, even though it was external, was difficult, he loved his children, and I loved the fact that he gets a chance to love his children even better throughout the course of the film."
Waves is now in theaters.
Watch Brown talk about his musical number cut from Frozen 2:
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