Hold Your Breath for Beth; Beloved Character's Complex Childhood is Explored in This Week's THIS IS US
— February 18, 2019
By BILL HARRIS
Special to BellMedia PR
This is new for THIS IS US: An episode that finally provides a full, revelatory and illuminating back-story for one of the most beloved characters on the show, Beth Pearson, played by Susan Kelechi Watson.
The episode, titled “Our Little Island Girl,” airs Tuesday, Feb. 19 at 9 p.m. ET on CTV, with Phylicia Rashad and Carl Lumbly guest-starring as Beth’s parents, Carol and Abe. The episode encompasses both the present day and substantial flashback sequences to fill in the blanks about how Beth became the person she is.
The only bare-bones setup you need is that at the end of the previous episode of THIS IS US, Beth’s husband Randall (played by Sterling K. Brown) comes home to find Beth rushing out to visit her mother, who has re-injured her hip.
Trust us when we say that “Our Little Island Girl” captures some eye-opening encounters that obviously have long-ranging effects throughout the THIS IS US world.
“I'm so excited about this episode, because since we've started, one of the things that I hear the most - after 'How did Jack die?' - was, 'When are we going to get a back-story episode about Beth?' ” said Dan Fogelman, creator of THIS IS US. “So we've been waiting to do this. And this is an episode of television that was really made by a group of women who I'm incredibly proud of, starring a bunch of women, and telling this woman's story, both in the past and in the present.”
Two younger versions of Beth had to be cast for the flashback sequences. Akira Akbar plays Beth as a child, and Rachel Naomi Hilson plays Beth as a teen.
“Rachel, who plays teen Beth, said that she actually studied the show, to study Beth, because I was watching her, and I was like, 'What? I do that?’ ” said Watson, prompting laughter. “It was things that looked familiar to me, but I didn't realize I do. She was very much doing specific Beth things. And hair and makeup is amazing because they found contacts - I have a mole in my eye, which is a very specific thing. And they found that, and stuck that in her eye. Dirty contact.”
Eboni Freeman, who wrote the episode, said the notion of how key events in a person’s life can completely change their path was what drove “Our Little Island Girl.”
“I think when we were starting to talk about Beth's origin story, what interested us the most is that there’s the Beth we've been seeing for the last two seasons - she's the strong woman, she's funny, she's witty - but in her childhood she was a bit of a different person, a quieter person,” Freeman said.
Part of Beth’s quieter demeanour as a kid has to do with the strictness of her mom. But THIS IS US showrunner and executive producer Elizabeth Berger explained that the character changed somewhat after Rashad was cast.
“We really love what Phylicia brought to the role, because I think all of us were imagining it a little bit harsher, and Phylicia brought this really brilliant mix of love and strength that surpassed our dreams for the role,” Berger said. “So she's playing all of these things at once that just blew us away.”
Prepare to be blown away several times while watching “Our Little Island Girl.” Even by the standards of THIS IS US, it’s an emotional ride!