At the exact moment that This Is Us fans were blown away by the unexpected flash-forward at the end of Season 5, series star Susan Kelechi Watson was take a little break from social media. “I stayed off Twitter for that,” she laughs, as she recalls the fervor over the revelation that Kate and Toby would divorce at some point in the future. “I just let him mellow and settle in before checking in.”
What now that the initial shock has worn off? “It’s a fun place,” she begins, then pulls back a bit. “Well, not” fun. »Scratch” fun “. But it’s an interesting place to go next year, to see how Kate ended up preparing to marry someone else, and what happened between her and Toby. And before we can ask, Watson clarifies that she is unaware of what will happen next in the time jump set at Kate’s wedding to Philip: “I mean, I’m ready to see it.” , she says. “I’m on the edge of my seat!
This Is Us won’t return for its sixth and final season until 2022, but Watson has plenty to keep it busy until production resumes later this summer. First up: playing Madame Nkechi Ford in the Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park production of Merry Wives, an adaptation of Merry Wives of Windsor set in the West African immigrant community of South Harlem.
TVLine recently chatted with Watson about This Is Us’ upcoming swan song, her return to live theater (and the post-pandemic return of live theater), and the pride she feels in the Between the World special. and me from HBO, which she produced and appears in.
TV LINE | We’re definitely going to be talking about This Is Us and Between the World and Me, but I’m too excited about the return of live theater, so let’s talk about Shakespeare in the Park.
I’m so excited for the live theater, Kim! I’m just over the moon because I was really concerned about the theater community. Coming from the theater community, I know what it’s like to be in a position where [you’re] not booking and maybe not having enough weeks for health insurance, and all that sort of everyday actor stuff. But to really have it completely removed, I was so worried. It’s such a vibrant part of the community, especially in New York City, not having her around and not knowing when she would be back was just crazy. Because you know the motto of the theater is “The show must go on”, right? So it’s crazy when it doesn’t, because it takes a lot for a show to not continue. A pandemic, I guess, yeah it’s going to do it. [Laughs] But yeah, it was really hard and really heartbreaking to see that. [Now], I’m in a room with some very excited artists, including myself, so that was really great.
TV LINE | Have you already started rehearsals for Merry Wives?
Yes, we started two and a half weeks ago now. Saheem Ali directs, he is artistic director associated with the Public [Theater], and Jocelyn Bioh is a very talented playwright and writer, and she did the adaptation for us. She is from New York, lives in Harlem, so everything is very close to her home. We have a lot of people from the African diaspora. And it’s been a really fun time because it’s a comedy, so we just make up funny stuff like crazy all the time and we make each other laugh all the time.
But we are also very aware that we are emerging from a pandemic. We are very aware that our bodies are different, our voices are different. They haven’t been used this way for 15 months. And we also really realize how blessed it is to be in this room right now. We are still very safe from COVID. We test three times a week. It’s kind of like the same test program as This is Us… The vibe is amazing. Everyone is great, and there’s a lot of love in the room, so we’re having a great time.
TV LINE | At the end of the season, Beth’s dream of having a dance studio is dead, but we know that she and Randall both have great professional growth ahead. But at the end of season 5 / beginning of season 6, tell me where she is, emotionally, after this big loss.
Well I think Rebecca has really helped her with her confidence to be someone who changes the system, who makes dancing more inclusive, and who doesn’t come with any kind of discrimination or making people believe. people that they cannot be a part of. because of their body shape or origin. It seems to me that she gave him the confidence to say, “Hey, if you don’t like this whole system, you’ve got to do something to change it. And don’t just say “I don’t want to be a part of this,” but you should be the agent of change. So it looks like that’s the way she’s going to go. Rebecca gave him some great advice.
TV LINE | Where was Beth’s dance school when I was 6 ?!
I’m telling you, it’s so true! This is part of the reason why I never felt completely accepted as a ballerina. I felt very out of it, because I felt like I didn’t have the body for it.
TV LINE | Randall has accepted, or at least started to explore, so much that weighed on his heart for the duration of the series. It looks like Randall and Beth, as a result, are set for a good romantic relationship in the coming season, perhaps having them on more emotional streaks?
Randall also understands the kind of support he needs for Beth. Like in the scene where my dance studio is closed, and just be there for me the way I need to. It’s beautiful, because they’ve been married for at least 13 years, and it’s a beautiful thing to see that they’re still learning. They are still learning to manage their relationship, navigate with each other, be there for each other in a healthy way and in a way that allows the other person to thrive. And they are still learning to see and see each other. I feel like this is a relationship goal for me.
TV LINE | Now let’s talk about Between the World and Me, which was quite a project to succeed in the event of a pandemic.
TV LINE | Was it difficult to convince people?
It seemed like the perfect time, as Ta-Nehisi’s book said everything anyone working on the project wanted to say at the time. We realize that had already been said six years ago, when Ta-Nehisi was talking about Mike Brown, you know? It had already been said in such a beautiful and poetic way. And after Ahmaud Arbery and after Brianna Taylor and after George Floyd, that it looked like the scenario to our inner thoughts. It was like the script of what was close to our hearts. And so, it made sense to give that a bigger audience, so we could continue the conversation.
TV LINE | What were some of the reactions you had when it aired?
We’ve had a lot of pictures of people watching with their kids, kids who want to watch and are engaged. Lots of stories about people who thought this was what they needed right now. It was all they felt, and it did so in a way that didn’t trigger more negative emotions. He did it in a way where you felt like you could face it and start to find a way to get over it which was one of our main goals and I especially know one from Kamilah [Forbes]’major goals as a director, wasn’t to re-traumatize, you know?
… We are extremely proud of it. And you know that was, I think, probably one of the easiest requests that I will see in my career. [Laughs] These people were so, so eager to be a part of it in a way that, you know, we were so very grateful. When we asked almost everyone, we asked unless there was a conflict that said yes… It felt like a community thing, and it brought some healing to us and those. with whom we have worked.