Sterling K. Brown

Sterling K. Brown Biography

Television Actor, Film Actor (1976–)
Award-winning actor Sterling K. Brown first earned widespread fame for his performance in 'The People v. O.J. Simpson,' before going to star on 'This Is Us.'

Who Is Sterling K. Brown?

Born in St. Louis in 1976, Sterling K. Brown initially pursued an economics degree at Stanford before rekindling an early passion for acting. His early career was marked by contributions to such popular shows as Third Watch, before he scored his first legitimate starring role on Army Wives. In 2016, he portrayed prosecuting attorney Christopher Darden on the crime anthology series The People v. O.J. Simpson, for which he earned an Emmy Award. Brown later scored another Emmy and a Golden Globe for the role of Randall Pearson on the acclaimed drama This Is Us.

Sterling K. Brown Photo

Sterling K. Brown arrives for the Television Academy Celebrates Nominees For Outstanding Casting at Montage Beverly Hills on September 7, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California. 

Movies and TV Shows

'Army Wives' and Early Roles

Brown's acting career got off to a solid start, with a small part in the film Brown Sugar (2002) and a recurring role on the long-running crime drama Third Watch. After appearances in ER and NYPD Blue, he co-starred on the short-lived dark comedy Starved, as a police officer suffering from bulimia, before landing a multi-episode part in Supernatural.

In 2007, Brown finally scored a role with legs on Army Wives, playing the lone husband of a group of women dealing with the deployment and troubles of military spouses. A hit for Lifetime, the show lasted until 2013.

Brown returned to sporadic appearances in hit shows like The Good Wife and The Mentalist, and nabbed another recurring role via Person of Interest. On the big screen, he appeared in Tina Fey's Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (2016).

‘The People v. O.J. Simpson’

In 2015, Sterling K. Brown was cast in The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, which recalled the drama surrounding the 1995 murder trial of former football star O.J. Simpson in Los Angeles.

Brown faced an interesting challenge in the role of Christopher Darden, a black assistant district attorney tasked with prosecuting a black celebrity at a time when the city was reeling from racial tensions. Forced to take a back seat to lead prosecutor Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson), and eclipsed by the theatrics of defense lawyer Johnnie Cochran (Courtney B. Vance), Brown delivered a nuanced, powerful performance that thrust him to the forefront of a star-studded cast.

'This Is Us'

In 2016 Sterling K. Brown was tapped to join NBC's This Is Us as Randall Pearson, the grown-up black adoptee of white parents, in a family drama that jumps back and forth between generations.

Brown immediately grabbed viewers in the pilot episode when he reconnected with his biological dad, William, and his presence in large part drove the popularity of a show that has been praised for the its stark portrayal of genuine family issues.

“Randall Pearson is special. Not because of me but because of the journey,” he told Variety. “It’s such a unique story. ... When you have these craftsmen writing and telling these stories, you have this perfect synthesis in order for it to happen."

The success of the show led to numerous awards nominations, along with the wins for Brown, prompting an early renewal by NBC for two more seasons.

'Marshall' and 'Black Panther

Taking advantage of increased opportunities, Sterling K. Brown made a buzzworthy appearance on the HBO comedy-drama Insecure in August 2017, and soon was featured prominently in Marshall, as a client of pre-Supreme Court laywer Thurgood Marshall. He was then set to make his Marvel superhero universe debut in Black Panther (2018).

Emmy and Golden Globe Winner

In September 2016, Sterling K. Brown first became known outside of a relatively small circle of fans when he claimed an Outstanding Supporting Actor Emmy for his work on The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. His win was even more impressive considering he was up against two better known actors from the show, John Travolta and David Schwimmer.

One year later, Brown's name was called again at the Emmys, this time for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for This Is Us. He thus became the first African-American actor since Andre Braugher in 1998 to win in the category, a moment only slightly dampened when producers cut away from his acceptance speech. 

In January 2018, Brown made history again as the first African American to win Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series - Drama, for This Is Us. In a more condensed acceptance speech, he thanked show creator Dan Fogelman for writing "a role for a black man that can only be played by a black man," adding, "What I appreciate so much about this is that I'm being seen for who I am and being appreciated for who I am, and it makes it that much more difficult to dismiss me or dismiss anybody who looks like me."

In September 2018 Brown continued to receive recognition for his work, earning two Emmy nods in the Lead and Guest Actor categories for This Is Us and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, respectively.

Acting With Wife Ryan Michelle Bathe

Brown, who met wife Ryan Michelle Bathe while both were undergraduates at Stanford University, has a knack for being paired with his significant other on the small screen. Bathe has appeared in the recurring role of Yvette on This Is Us, and prior to that, she shared casting credits with Brown on his previous long-running series, Army Wives.

Personal Life

Married since 2007, Brown and his wife have two sons, Andrew and Amaré. Andrew's arrival caught the young couple off guard and resulted in a home delivery, an event that was mirrored in an episode of This Is Us.

In late 2017, the actor began starring in a series of TV spots to promote tourism in St. Louis, called “In the Know.” He said he would donate the proceeds from his appearances to the Mathews-Dickey Boys’ & Girls’ Club.

Early Life & Education

Sterling Kelby Brown was born on April 5, 1976, in St. Louis, Missouri, and raised in the suburb of Olivette.

Brown suffered a terrible blow at age 10 when his father, also named Sterling, died of complications from a heart attack. Known as Kelby for most of his childhood, Brown reverted to using his given name as a teenager in honor of his father.

Recovering from the loss, Brown thrived at Mary Institute and Saint Louis Country Day School, where he played varsity football and became student council president. He also discovered a love for acting as a member of the school's student theater group, the Troubadors.

Brown initially became an economics major, until being "bored to tears" while interning at a bank. He rediscovered his passion for acting, and went on to earn his B.A. in theater in 1998, before claiming an MFA from NYU in 2001.

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