Sterling K. Brown’s Best Performances, from ‘This Is Us’ to ‘American Fiction’

Sterling K. Brown has been a gem onscreen for years, and finally, he’s getting his Oscar due.

The “This Is Us” alum and “American Crime Story” Emmy winner landed his first Academy Award nomination for the dark comedy “American Fiction.” Brown stars as novelist Monk’s (Jeffrey Wright) eccentric queer brother Cliff, whom Brown described to IndieWire as “a hot mess.” And Brown wraps in comedy, drama, and all the complexities in his performance, making Cliff more than just the sidelined comic relief. It’s no wonder Brown is a 2024 Best Supporting Actor nominee.

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To some, it would be easy to remember Brown as the married sibling with kids on “This Is Us.” But even that undermines his performance that elevated an NBC drama series into prestige TV with each scene he was in.

Brown humbly told IndieWire that “as an actor, it’s nice to have a job,” but Brown never makes acting look like work.

“I got a chance to do something artistically fulfilling, with a story that impacted people’s lives by virtue of seeing the character in their living rooms, to pay the bills, to be at home with my wife and with my two kids,” Brown said of “This Is Us.”

Yet that doesn’t mean Brown was ready to be pigeonholed: He opted for a “very un-Randall-esque” (referencing his “This Is Us” character) role-playing Cliff in “American Fiction,” calling it a “wonderful” experience.

“He’s a bit of what we call a hot mess,” Brown said of his character in Cord Jefferson’s film. “But purposefully. In his mind, it’s all or nothing, right? It’s either you try to stay in this closet, and be a good husband, and be a good father. And then after it all blows up, he’s like, ‘Well, I’m going to go about as opposite as I possibly can.’ Eventually, there will be a new equilibrium that he finds where he’s able to be truthful.”

While Brown is set to reunite with “This Is Us” creator Dan Fogelman for the upcoming Hulu series “Paradise City,” let’s revisit some of his best roles to date. As Brown even said, “Anytime you can do something to subvert folks’ expectations, I welcome the opportunity,” and his diverse filmography proves it.


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