How Sterling K Brown Finds Drama in ‘Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ but ‘Brings in the Yucks’ on ‘This Is Us’

TheWrap Emmy magazine: “Life is a combination of all of it, and you try to find a blend,” actor says

Last Updated: August 19, 2020 @ 11:15 AM

A version of this story about Sterling K. Brown first appeared in the “Emmy Hot List” issue of TheWrap’s Emmy magazine. 

Of the actors nominated for multiple Emmys this year — Sterling K. Brown, Jason Bateman, Giancarlo Esposito, Maya Rudolph and Wanda Sykes — all except Brown relied on guest roles for at least one of their nominated performances. But Brown was recognized for continuing (not guest) roles in two different series: the drama “This Is Us,” where he’s been nominated four years in a row for playing Randall Pearson; and the comedy “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” where he plays Reggie, the manager of singer Shy Baldwin who clashes with Rachel Brosnahan’s up-and-coming comedian Midge Maisel.

It’s hard to find statistics about this — has anybody else ever been nominated for non-guest roles in a comedy and a drama in the same year?
Technically, there was Ed Asner for “Roots” and for “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” (in 1977). “Roots” was a limited series, but they didn’t have a distinction between limited series and drama. So I think I’m in esteemed company with Mr. Ed Asner — who, by the way, me and my youngest son were listening to in the wonderful film “Up” just a couple of weeks ago. So it’s really good company. And if on a technicality, I am one of the first or only, that is kind of amazing.

I can understand how it doesn’t happen, because really you’re supposed to just do one show at a time, which is what most of my career has been. But there’s been just such a wonderful deluge of opportunities that have happened over the past four or five years, and I’ve tried to take advantage of many of them as possible.

It occurs to me that you were nominated for a comedy in which your role is more serious than the guy you play in the drama, who tends to be more lighthearted. You’re serious in the comedy, but goofy and fun in the drama.
That is a pretty interesting observation. When people talk about “This Is Us” and how I make them cry, well, I’m actually trying to bring in the yucks, you know what I’m saying? And then when I got a chance to play Reggie, (“Maisel” creator Amy Sherman-Palladino) was like, “I need him to be really, really serious. I need him to scare Midge.” And I was like, “Well, she’s a teeny, tiny Jewish woman. It’s not going to be that hard.”

Comedy, drama, whatever, are sort of arbitrary delineations. Life is a combination of all of it, and you try to find a blend. So yeah, a little bit of yin and yang.

In “This Is Us,” it’s taken Randall a long time to where he finally goes to therapy to deal with his anxiety.
Yeah. Randall is the kind of guy who likes to be in control. Anytime he feels as if he has to yield control to someone else, he’s going to be inherently uncomfortable. And when things start to spiral, when he starts to lose control, that’s when his anxiety starts to act out. So the idea of consulting someone else for your own mental well-being is at odds with his philosophy of maintaining control. That’s an easier thing for him to wrap his mind around rather than going to an outsider, sharing one’s most vulnerable secrets and hoping that they can be of assistance. But he did it, begrudgingly.

Read more from the “Emmy Hot List” issue of TheWrap Emmy magazine.

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