In the premiere episode, Beth first steps to Randall and makes him understand he's not going to steamroll her into an adoption she's not ready to take on. Then, because they are one of the best couples on TV, they come to the conclusion that if they're going to adopt to honor his fathers' legacies, they're going to adopt a kid that "no one else gives a damn about" to give him a good life.
Beth being awesome is no surprise. She was a consistent scene-stealer in the show's first season, but these first two episodes have allowed Beth to step into her own and give the audience a real showing of who she is — and we can't get enough. In 2017, having a successful black woman unashamed of her heritage or culture isn't groundbreaking, but it is still rare.
Watson's scene partner Sterling K. Brown has frequently discussed how important it is for him to be part of a drama series that depicts a functional black family with both parents present in the relationship. TV Guide asked Watson during a conference call with other journalists about her own feelings about This Is Us' representation of a modern black family, especially as she plays a character who is so frequently marginalized even in today's television.
"I will obviously always be playing a black woman. There is something about this particular light that is special because historically, we just don't many times or consistently have that kind of representation much ever," she said. "You can count on your fingers the number [of positive black females] that we have seen. It may not fill up both hands. To be part of something symbolizes success, hope, love and consistency, marriage ideals, relationship goals, — and we're a black couple. That doesn't just represent something for black people. That represents something for all people. People can see the universal attributes in their relationship that they would like to have. It's huge."
Playing Beth in 2017 for Watson is a chance to follow in the footsteps of the actresses who were positive role models for her growing up. Women like Phylicia Rashad on The Cosby Show and Tisha Campbell-Martin on Martin help paved the way for a character like Beth to exist fully on broadcast TV. The latter became an especially strong influence before Watson signed up for This Is Us.
"Before I started the show I was binge-watching two things: Unsung on TVLand and repeats of Martin," she said. "I didn't know why. I was like, 'Why am I so drawn to this right now?' There was something about the chemistry of Martin Payne and Gina on that show that I was just so drawn to and I could not stop watching it."
She took her feelings about Martin to Brown and set the lofty goal of bringing Martin and Gina's chemistry into the new century.
"I showed up on set and I said to Sterling, 'Man, I think I'm watching this because I feel like if we can do this and come across as close to as real as they feel as a couple, close to the vibe that they gave us when we grow up, that connectivity, that ride-or-die type of love. No matter what they did they were going to be together. You believe these two are in life together. If we can do something similar to that, I'm happy,'" the actress recalled.
To be counted among her heroes is a huge accomplishment that isn't lost on Watson, even if she doesn't know how to fully explain it.
"To be counted in that number of what I thought was positive images of black people on screen, just being themselves, being a reflection of our culture — not any kind of stereotype, not any kind of preconceived notion of how black people should be — if we can do that, then that's everything," she said. "To know that we are that for people and that we are accomplishing that in some way, I don't know what to say about that. I don't know if I have the words yet, but it means a lot to me."
It means a lot to us too, Susan.
This Is Us continues Tuesdays at 9/8c on NBC.