There aren’t many actors on a bigger roll at the moment than Sterling K. Brown. A pivotal role in the worldwide smash Black Panther, his first Saturday Night Live hosting gig this weekend, and an award-winning triple play (Emmy, Golden Globe, and SAG award) for his role as Randall in everyone’s destination ugly-cry series This Is Us? That’s more success than most actors get in a career, so Brown’s infectious enthusiasm on Thursday’s Tonight Show was completely understandable. Host Jimmy Fallon doesn’t need much prompting to gush over his guests, but, with the genial and funny Brown in the house, at least Fallon’s giggly effusiveness was understandable, too.
On his role as N’Jobu in the record-crushing Black Panther, Brown, pointing to his childhood worshipping superheroes played by Christopher Reeve and Michael Keaton, told Fallon how tickled he is at the thought of little white and Asian kids dressed up as T’Challa this Halloween. “I never saw someone who looked like me,” enthused Brown, pointing to the genuinely moving recent Tonight Show bit where starstruck fans were overcome at the reveal of Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman. “It means something to people,” said the clearly moved Brown. As to Saturday’s live SNL comedy endurance test, Brown assured Saturday Night Live vet Fallon that his theater experience has him both suitably impressed by the SNL staff, and approaching the stint in a state of relative calm. Indeed, Brown schooled Fallon in an impromptu tongue-twister vocal warmup and in one of those farting-around party games Fallon makes everyone play. (Brown thoroughly outplayed Fallon in the lightning round word association game. Remember: cookies are the most dangerous food.)
But, with the This Is Us season finale coming up on Tuesday, Brown—who in a previous visit had played it spoiler-cagey with Fallon about his Black Panther role—teased the Tonight Show audience with hints of yet another major This Is Us heartbreak. Noting that the season has been building up to the wedding of Chrissy Metz’s Kate and Chris Sullivan’s Toby, Brown’s seemingly offhand remark “whether they happen or they don’t happen” caused the sort of audible, justifiably anxious moans This Is Us fans emit with regularity. Hankies at the ready, people.