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How Randall's Journey On This Is Us Was Inspired By The West Wing, According To Sterling K. Brown

Randall and Rebecca Pearson take a selfie.
(Image credit: NBC)

Spoiler alert! This story discusses the events of This Is Us’ Season 6 episode called “Every Version of You.”

It was Randall’s turn for the Big Three Trilogy treatment, and This Is Us’ latest episode made a big move to clear up another of the series’ mysteries by addressing Randall’s political future. The Season 5 finale showed us that in five years the Philly councilman seemed to have taken some leaps in his career, as evidenced by a big magazine profile. “Every Version of You” set him on that path, and Sterling K. Brown revealed that another hit NBC drama — The West Wing — may have been the inspiration.

“Every Version of You” put Randall and Rebecca (Mandy Moore) on a road trip to Boston to pick up Deja (Lyric Ross) after her boyfriend Malik (Asante Blackk) broke up with her. Road trips have always been transformative for the character, and this one was no different, as Randall confided in Rebecca not only that he was considering running for Senator, but that if he ran, he would win. This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman may have gotten the idea for Randall’s political ambitions when Aaron Sorkin discussed an idea for a West Wing revival starring Sterling K. Brown. The actor told People:

Dan saw a couple of years ago, people on Twitter were talking about a reboot of The West Wing. They were saying like, ‘Would it be cool if Sterling Brown were in The West Wing?’ And Aaron Sorkin said something to the effect of ‘that's not a bad idea.’ I was like, ‘What?!’ I mean, I was a West Wing fiend! Me and Jed Bartlet are like this [crosses his fingers]. So, Dan saw that and he's like, ‘You know what? How cool would that be, if we set Randall Pearson up to become a politician and then like, Sorkin took it over?’ I don't think [Dan]'s deliberately doing that, but like in his mind, maybe he's like, ‘Well, you know what? Maybe that is something that we could see Randall doing.’

Dan Fogelman actually got a chance to see how Sterling K. Brown looked in a White House setting, as the actor did take part in 2020’s A West Wing Special to Benefit When We All Vote. The original cast of The West Wing reunited for a stage performance of the Season 3 episode, “Hartsfield's Landing." Brown played the part of Chief of Staff Leo McGarry, as the character’s original actor, John Spencer, died in 2005 during the political drama’s final season. 

Assuming Randall wins the upcoming Senate election (which I am, because time is running out on this series), does that mean he’ll follow in the footsteps of Martin Sheen’s Jed Bartlet as one of NBC’s fictional U.S. Presidents? It’s always possible! In the Big Three’s young adult timeline, Randall (Niles Fitch) was shown talking his way out of some trouble he got into with Kevin and Kate, and he told the officer: 

Oh, and I may end up being president one day, so I really can’t get arrested.

Randall spoke it into existence, and I can’t wait to see where he ends up. (And if Aaron Sorkin wants to go ahead and continue that storyline in a spinoff, that would be absolutely just fine with me.) 

“Every Version of You” was the final episode of Season 6’s Big Three Trilogy, with one episode each that focused on Kevin, Kate, and Randall. In “The Guitar Man,” Kevin started work with Nicky and Cassidy on the cabin his father always wanted to build for Rebecca. Seeing the veterans who Cassidy had hired for the crew inspired him to start Big Three Homes, which would employ military veterans.

Kate, meanwhile, made a big decision in “The Hill,” when she did not fold to the ultimatum that Toby presented when he said that her moving to San Francisco was the only way their marriage was going to work, and instead put her name up for an open position at the school where she’d been teaching with Phillip. 

This Is Us’ final chapter is officially past the halfway point. The past three weeks have set the Pearson triplets down their paths, so let’s all stock up on tissues and meet back at NBC next Tuesday, April 5 at 9 p.m. ET. In the meantime, check out our 2022 TV Schedule to see what new and returning shows are premiering soon. 

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Can usually be found rewatching The West Wing instead of doing anything productive.