For a hit television show with a tight core cast, This Is Us has no shortage of roles — that's because every character goes through every stage in his or her life, and we need either the actors or the skilled makeup artists to introduce these changes. This Is Us viewers have recently seen into Beth's past, from her time in a dance academy to the death of her father to her first days at Carnegie Mellon where she meets Randall. And Rachel Naomi Hilson plays teen Beth perfectly on This Is Us, connecting Beth's past and her present.
Beth is a complicated woman, but it wasn't until after the mid-season break in Season 3 that fans learned her back story and why she is the way she is. Beth blames herself for her father's death because she wanted to go to ballet school and her father worked harder to send her there, all before succumbing to lung cancer. Beth then just wasn't good enough to get solos and eventually get into a dance company, and so she and her mother chose a new route — college.
Hilson played Beth with so much knowledge and gravitas that it's easy to see how the Beth of yore grew into the Beth of today.
If you recognize Hilson's face, you're not alone — she's had starring roles in everything from The Good Wife and The Americans to NBC's short-lived Rise and the new The First Wives Club television series. Now, she has the privilege of showing us how Beth and Randall first got together, meeting on their very first day of college. Beth and Randall are having some serious issues right now, but it's nice to go back to the beginning and see where their foundations were laid — perhaps it's the only way to get Beth and Randall back on track.
According to Essence, Hilson worked so hard to mimic and channel Susan Kelechi Watson, who plays adult Beth, that Hilson gave Watson a new lease on the role. “She helped contextualize Beth for me,” Watson said. “[I was able] to actually step outside of Beth and watch her so that I could be a bit objective.” Hilson wasn't trying to mimic Watson specifically, but instead wanted to "dive into why a character might be a specific way. I was studying her, certainly, but I was also interested in [Beth] as a teenager,” Hilson said.
Beth is a strong woman, but few people are strong teenagers, Hilson explained, saying that all teens have insecurities. “We see a lot of images of strong Black women, but for young Black women and girls it’s important to see how they got there,” Hilson said.
For now, mum is the word as to how much we'll see of Hilson and her young Beth alter ego, but with so much of Randall and Beth's young lives together unknown, the writers of This Is Us owe fans some more romantic moments to show how they fell in love — and how Randall and Beth can find their way back to the good days.