Sterling K. Brown had this ritual. As a Stanford University undergrad, he would sneak into the drama theater at off hours and let the possibilities wash over him.
“One of my favorite things to do was be in that empty theater. The ghost light would be on. I’d stand in front of the light and watch my shadow cast out over the audience,” he said. “I’d put out my arms and say, ‘For the next two hours, I’m going to take care of these people. I will hopefully entertain them, educate them and hopefully they’ll be a better version of themselves when they walk out.”
His TV character Randall Pearson on “This is Us” — a guy who wants to do so much that his fictional wife tells him to “slow your roll” — is inspiring the masses. Before the third season of the family drama premieres on Sept. 25, the 42-year-old Brown has a key role in new creature feature “The Predator.” It marks the return of the universe’s fastest and most deadly and lethal hunter.
At home in Los Angeles, Emmy Award-winner Brown, a native of St. Louis, is Dad to sons Andrew, 6, and Amara, 2, with his wife, Ryan Michelle Bathe, who is also an actress.
Review-Journal: What is your idea of a great Sunday?
Sterling K. Brown: It’s a day for family. You have to grab that time and just have fun while also teaching those important life lessons. You answer the questions. You give your kids the space to express themselves. I love my family with the strength of a thousand suns. When I’m home, I’m just a dad. The kids don’t care about Golden Globes or Emmys. They just want to get down with that Pokemon.
You were instrumental in the birth of your first son.
It was 2:23 a.m., and my wife comes crawling out of the bathroom on all fours. She said, “I think I’m crowning.” But it was way too soon. It was our first baby. In the moment, I looked between her legs and the baby’s head was there. She dials 911. I’m on the phone with the midwife. I look down and the baby’s head is out. She pushed again and the baby wriggled out. I grabbed the baby. My credit is only he got no carpet fibers on his body. I kept him clean.
“The Predator” might not be your typical Sterling K. Brown role. Why do it?
Anytime someone tries to put me into a box and say, ‘‘This is what Sterling Brown does,’’ I like to give them something a little bit different. If I can make you yell ‘‘yeah’’ back at the screen and then make you cry when you come home and turn on your TV, well, that’s when I’m really loving life. I like doing it all.
Who is your character?
I’m Will Traeger who runs Operation Star Gazer. He basically collects data about extra-terrestrials. He has information on the Predator. He honors that that Predator has been here several times in the past and wants to learn as much about it in order to fight the good fight. The man I play is not good or bad. He has his own agenda throughout the trajectory of the film. He is a bit of a lone wolf.
“This Is Us” returns in a couple of weeks. Your co-star Milo Ventimiglia said you have the best male cry of the cast. He said that during table reads, you’ll get into an emotional moment, close your eyes and let just one tear fall.
I can’t help it. This material is so beautiful that you cry when you get those scripts. I love when I hear from fans that we’ve made them feel something and they cried. I hear, ‘‘You made me cry’’ all the time and it makes me so happy. That means I’m doing my job.
Do you remember the day you were sent the pilot script for “This Is Us?”
I was excited from the jump. It was just exceptional writing. On network TV, this kind of writing doesn’t always happen. I can count on one hand how many times something moved me like this … laughing out loud and crying at the same time over a character. I knew this would be a true joy for me as an actor.
Why do you think that audiences have embraced “This is Us?”
It’s a show that asks: Where do I belong? Where do I come from and how did it mold me? Above all, I think people just want to know they’re not alone. I know I relate on so many levels. As a man who lost his father at age 10, which is my story, I still ask myself, ‘‘Man, I wonder what my dad would do?”