'This Is Us': 1 Randall Moment Was Cut From the Pilot Because the Writers Feared It Was 'Tragedy Porn'

This Is Us Season 5 provided a monumental moment for Randall Pearson (Sterling K. Brown). During the NBC show’s latest season, Randall finally got some closure regarding his birth mother, Laurel (Jenifer C. Holmes and Angela E. Gibbs). Unfortunately, however, the story of the “Big 3” member’s biological parent almost didn’t happen. 

‘This Is Us’ fans discover The Pearsons adopted Randall in season 1

On Sept. 20, 2016, This Is Us debuted on NBC for the first time. The hour-long drama follows the Pearsons as they navigate through their personal lives and familial relationships. Fans watched Randall connect with his birth father, William (Ron Cephas Jones) in the pilot. However, viewers discovered Randall got adopted by Jack and Rebecca Pearson (Milo Ventimiglia and Mandy Moore).

The couple took Randall home after William dropped him off at a fire station. Although he had a home with parents Jack, Rebecca, and his twin siblings Kevin (Justin Hartley) and Kate (Chrissy Metz), Randall always longed to know more about his roots. After William died in season 1, he seemingly found peace in meeting his biological dad. And yet, the character got hit with another blow in season 5. In season 5, episode 4, “Honestly,” Randall learned that a man named Hai (Vien Hong) had additional information about Laurel. 

Why Randall didn’t find out about Laurel until after ‘This Is Us’ Season 4 

During season 5, episode 6, “Birth Mother,” Randall accepts Hai’s invitation to visit Laurel’s home in New Orleans. Once he arrived, he and Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) discovered that Laurel was alive for most of his life. Contrary to William’s story of her death from an overdose, Randall’s mom lived until 2015. However, the shame of getting arrested and losing Randall caused her not to reconnect with her son. 

This Is Us writer Kay Oyegun tells The Hollywood Reporter that Laurel was supposed to have a more prominent role in the This Is Us pilot, “The Big Day.” According to Oyegun, the writers wanted Laurel to give birth to Randall. The writer said the choice was made to “parallel those two birthing experiences” between her and Rebecca.” However, she felt that the fans needed to get to know Randall more before meeting Laurel. 

“The version that was discussed was really not ideal,” Oyegun said of the original idea. “It was an exercise in what’s the battle, what’s the hill, all that kind of stuff. I was just sort of like, ‘I think this is tragedy porn in a way that we don’t need to do.’ So it was kiboshed then because it wasn’t humanizing the experience. We knew so little about anyone in that space, and, frankly, we didn’t have anyone on the show at that point to be able to tackle that storyline with an element of grace. As we were fleshing out what [Randall’s] journey was going to be [in season five], this one organically came out, and then we built out the stories from there.”

Sterling K. Brown was opposed to Laurel being alive on ‘This Is Us’

Although Laurel didn’t have a more significant role in the This Is Us pilot, “Birth Mother” gave viewers a new perspective on Randall’s biological mom. Until she died, Laurel lived in her aunt’s house, which she left to Randall. In his interview with THR, Brown said he was firmly against the new development in his character’s story. 

“I was about to be like no, she can’t be alive, because if she is, that f*cks up everything for me,” Brown explained. “What really cemented it for me is that this is the first time Randall got a chance to think of her as an individual and not just as his mother.”

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