Sterling K. Brown burst onto the national scene as a member of the “big three” on NBC’s This Is Us. Brown has earned multiple Emmy Awards, including for his portrayal of Randall Pearson. He also made history as the first African-American actor to win the Golden Globe for best actor in a television drama.
This Is Us was hardly his first role, however. Brown started his career in 2002, so there are plenty of projects you might have missed him in. Gossip Cop takes a closer look.
Brown’s big-screen debut was small. Brown Sugar is a 2002 romantic comedy about friends falling in love in the hip-hop industry. The project was a vehicle for Rent’s Taye Diggs and Love And Basketball star Sanaa Lathan. Queen Latifah, Yasiin Bey, and The Wire’s Wendell Pierce also starred. Brown is credited simply as “co-worker,” but you have to start somewhere.
Third Watch was an NBC police procedural that ran for six seasons. This was Brown’s first true recurring role. He played NYPD Officer Edward Dade in nine episodes over three seasons. The series had a revolving door of cast members, including Wendell Pierce and Bobby Cannavale.
For years, you could spot Brown in single episodes of many popular shows. He was on ER, NYPD Blue, and Alias. In 2005, he starred as Zeke Borns in an episode of Boston Legal. It’s pretty common for actors making a name for themselves to do exactly why Brown did: star in loads of episodes of popular shows. Why is Gossip Cop highlighting Boston legal specifically? Because it would go on to star Ryan Michelle Bathe, Brown’s wife. Bathe and Brown would go on to work together on Army Wives and This Is Us. You can currently watch her on BET’s First Wives Club.
In a premise that’s aged rather poorly, Starved was a TV-MA comedy about an eating disorder support group. This was Brown’s first television show where he was a central cast member, although it only ran for a scant seven episodes. The program was not well received and did not last long. Starved debuted on FX as part of a brand new comedy block. The other program to debut on August 4, 2005? It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia.
Brown had a memorable turn as vampire-hunter turned vampire Gordon Walker. Brown could have had an even longer arc on Supernatural, but he was contractually obligated to appear on Army Wives, so he had to be killed off. Years later, when asked who they would cast in their own roles, Jared Padalecki said Brown would make an excellent Sam Winchester. Brown was flattered.
Brown played Dr. Roland Burton in 103 episodes of the Lifetime series Army Wives. This series was a breakthrough for Brown, as he was at the top of the bill of a successful series for over six years. While working on Army Wives, Brown would continue to pick up television roles here and there, including episodes of The Good Wife, Nikita, and a multi-episode arc on Person of Interest. Before landing This Is Us, Army Wives would be Brown’s best-known role.
Al Pacino and Robert de Niro had a Heat reunion in 2008’s Righteous Kill. Brown was part of a really eclectic supporting cast. He starred alongside 50 Cent, Rob Dyrdek, Melissa Leo, and Donnie Wahlberg. This thriller would not enjoy the same reputation as Pacino and de Niro’s other collaborations, but that’s a tall task when you’re talking about The Godfather Part II and The Irishman. It must certainly be a highlight for Brown, as he got to act in scenes with De Niro and Pacino, together, which is as rare as hen’s teeth.
Our Idiot Brother
Between JAG, Third Watch, and The Mentalist, Brown played loads of police officers and lawmen. He played yet another, as Paul Rudd’s parole officer, Omar Coleman, in the 2011 comedy Our Idiot Brother. Brown had a small – but memorable – role in a pretty loaded cast, that includes Rashida Jones, Steve Coogan, and Adam Scott. Rudd played the titular brother. Brown would go on to star in another big-screen comedy, Whisky Tango Foxtrot, alongside Tina Fey and Alfred Molina.
The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story
2016 was Brown’s big break. This Is Us became one of the most popular drama’s on television, but it wasn’t his only major project that year. Brown joined an all-star cast in The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, where he played lawyer Christopher Darden. The series became a critical darling and racked up 22 Emmy nominations. It earned Brown his first of seven Emmy nominations and his first win for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series, beating titans and co-stars David Schwimmer and John Travolta.
After 2016, Brown would become a reality star, able to crush any roles that come his way. He’s made his way into the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Black Panther, and into Disney proper with Frozen II. This Is Us will end its run after Season Six, but the sky’s the limit for this son of St. Louis.