Now that This Is Us has ended its run, there’s a strong possibility that standouts like Sterling K. Brown and Mandy Moore will get Emmy nominations. This Is Us made its cast household names, but the show’s strong crop of talent does not stop there, as many major celebrities from television, film, news, and even music have made appearances.
Whether the celebrities are appearing as heightened versions of themselves or taking on pivotal episodic or recurring character roles in the lives of the Pearson family, all of them are big draws. That they appeared on This Is Us is just a further testament to the overall strength of the series.
This Is Us might be a family-focused drama, but many actors who are known for their comedy work have appeared as well. In one of the show’s very first episodes, Brad Garrett, best known for his Emmy-winning work in the long-running sitcom. Everybody Loves Raymondmakes an appearance in Kevin’s storyline.
Garrett’s character is a very tough, short-tempered network executive who has been given the unenviable task of handling Kevin following his outburst on the set of The Manny. Given that Garrett’s body of work has mostly consisted of various comedic roles, this brief cameo in episode two was a real departure for him.
Another Emmy-nominated actor known widely for her work on a classic sitcom appears in This Is Us, but this actor also happens to be a multiple Tony winner, too. Phylicia Rashad is an incredibly accomplished actress with decades of work in her filmography, but most television audiences know her best for her work as Clair Huxtable in The Cosby Show.
In This Is UsRashad portrays yet another tough but loving matriarch as she is introduced as Beth’s mother, Carol Clarke, in season 3. Rashad’s work in the series earned her three Emmy nominations, even though she only appears in four episodes, which is a further testament to the high caliber of her performance.
At the beginning of season 1, Kevin’s career is really in flux as he begins to chafe at the pressure of being a high-profile television star. Enter his no-nonsense agent, as portrayed by the legendary Katey Sagal, to try and clean up his messes.
Sagal has had an incredibly versatile career, with work ranging from raunchy sitcom Married … with Children to darker-than-dark drama Sons of Anarchy. Although her This Is Us The character only appears in one episode, she still makes quite the lasting impression due to her bluntness and Sagal’s screen presence.
While many famous people who appear in This Is Us are actors taking on important roles, there are occasionally celebrities who cameo as themselves. Many such celebrities are affiliated with NBC, since all six seasons of This Is Us aired on the Peacock network, including former NBC anchor Katie Couric.
Couric is yet another actor whose “character” exists in Kevin’s celebrity orbit, but with a real twist. Couric appears as a heightened version of herself to interview a struggling Kevin during a disastrous dream sequence, in which she castigates him for his inappropriate professional behavior and failure as a theater actor.
One of the biggest stars to appear in This Is Us only showed up in the penultimate episode. “The Train” follows what happens as Rebecca nears death and reconnects with the people most important to her in the afterlife. As a parallel to this storyline, viewers get to witness what happened to Jack Pearson when the Pearson family home burned down.
On that night, Jack connected with a fellow struggling father named Kenny Brooks, who is portrayed by the legendary Dule Hill. Hill is known for his work on series such as The West Wing, Psych, Suitsand The Wonder Yearsand he has been a mainstay in the world of film and theater, too.
Kevin’s frequently changing career brings the most unexpected celebrity faces into the series, even when it is only to show those celebrities working behind the camera. Across the first two seasons of This Is Usdirector (and onetime sitcom star himself) Ron Howard appears as himself as the director of a new war drama film that Kevin is starring in.
Retaining some of the dry wit from his years as the narrator of Arrested DevelopmentHoward shares scenes with Kevin that provide an interesting new tone for the series, as he is one of the first real mentor characters that the struggling Pearson has following the loss of his father.
Some of the biggest names to appear in This Is Us only brief cameos, no matter how ridiculous the scenes might appear in retrospect. In season 1, Kevin and Randall are having an argument on the streets of New York and wind up physically fighting each other on the sidewalk, rolling around in the dirt like children.
Enter Seth Meyers of all people. The former Saturday Night Live star and current talk show host recognizes Kevin and interrupts the brothers’ childish sparring, asking if they need help before just walking away when Kevin says it’s just his brother. It’s a hilarious, completely random cameo that gives This Is Us an extra layer of corny charm.
M. Night Shyamalan
Howard isn’t the only famous director to appear in This Is Us. A more surprising face arrives in season 4, when M. Night Shyamalan makes a cameo as himself in the episode “A Hell of a Week: Part Two.”
Shyamalan is yet another celebrity who enters the series via Kevin’s acting career as they are working on a new film project together. He also provides Kevin with both high praise for his acting talent and future career, and also some foreshadowing words of wisdom that hint at the eventual resolution of Kevin with his first love Sophie, who features prominently in the same episode.
In yet another example of perfect NBC cross-promotional synergy, world-famous singer and The Voice judge John Legend makes a cameo as himself in the season 4 episode “Light and Shadows.”
It’s one of the briefest cameos in the series, as it primarily consists of Legend serenading Kevin and his current date with the song “Conversations in the Dark,” a single that Legend released in conjunction with his appearance on the series. It’s also one of the weirdest things This Is Us has ever done since it truly does amount to little more than a quasi-music video plopped in the middle of a normal episode.
Thanks to Milo Ventimiglia’s work as Robert Balboa, Jr. in the Rocky franchise film Rocky Balboa and their off-screen connection, Sylvester Stallone appeared as himself in season 2 during the production of Kevin’s war-themed film.
Kevin and Kate both got to interact with Stallone, whom they lauded as their father’s favorite actor in a sweet meta-reference. Stallone even provided both Pearson kids with some comforting words about their father being proud of them, and gave Kevin some additional acting advice, too.
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