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It’s time to break out the tissues. Following a weeklong hiatus, This Is Us returns Tuesday night with a follow-up installment to the devastating “Memphis” episode that sees how the rest of the Pearson clan deals with William’s (Ron Cephas Jones) memorial.
According to series star Susan Kelechi Watson, who plays Randall’s wife, Beth, the episode picks up roughly a week following the family’s heartbreaking loss and everyone is still fresh from the shock.
“Beth has a hard time with it. She’s been in it with William day in and day out,” Watson tells THR. “She now has to mourn. They’ve had such a journey together. It wasn’t easy for me as an actress to be on set with Ron Cephas Jones those days and it’s not easy for Beth to process.”
While Jones is no longer on the show in the present timeline, the actor will return for the episode as viewers learn of William’s final preparations via flashbacks and revisit him through other characters’ recollections of their time with him. Given the overall flashback nature of the show, Jones will return in future intervals as well, confirms showrunner Dan Fogelman, although it will be different than how viewers see deceased patriarch Jack (Milo Ventimiglia).
“It’s a little more complicated only in that to really actively involve William in every storyline is a little trickier because he’s only come into this immediate family’s life in the last year,” Fogelman told THR following William’s onscreen passing. “Whereas Jack, anytime you flash back, he’s in the story. If you’re going to flash back to William a lot, you’ve got to see his life before he came into Randall’s life. Which makes it a little more complex, but it’s the same type of idea. Everybody talks about this character, Jack, who has essentially been dead the entire series, yet he’s such a massive part of the show. William’s character is going to stay very much present the same way.”
In the meantime, the memorial itself is being kept somewhat under wraps. However, Brown teased to THR that William left “specific directions on how he wants to be memorialized, and he leaves specific directions that he doesn’t want it to be a sad event.”
Whether he gets his wishes remains to be seen — after all, how happy can a memorial actually be? But Watson promises either way that the fan-favorite relationship between Beth and Randall remains as tight as ever through this latest life speed bump.
“You can get into a room with Beth and Randall and breathe. It’s not like [Friends‘] Ross and Rachel — you can kind of come in and say, ‘What y’all talkin’ about?’” Watson says. “I said, ‘Sterling, if we are anything like [Martin’s] Martin and Gina, we’d have done all right.’ That was the couple when I was growing up that I was looking at and saying, ‘Oh, they’re so in love. He just loves her. He’d drink her bath water.’”
Overall, it seems that the episode will be a bit of relief for viewers for now, especially since the coinciding story will see Kevin (Justin Hartley) finally go through with the opening night of his play; the original premiere was canceled at the last possible second when Kevin rushed to Randall’s aid during his anxiety attack.
“Kevin has a lot of work to do to get the critic back in there and he’s got to convince people that the play’s not shut down,” Hartley says. “Meanwhile, he’s working on trying to get back together with Sophie. So he’s got a lot on his plate; a full dinner.”
This Is Us airs Tuesday at 9 p.m. on NBC.
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