The Heartbreaking Reason ‘This Is Us’ Star Sterling K. Brown Changed His Name As a Teen

There’s little anyone in the cast of This Is Us can’t do. The series, in its fourth season, is brimming with talent. Among the award-winning actors, Sterling K. Brown knows a thing or two about real-life drama. Here’s what Brown said about the reason behind his legendary name.

Why Sterling K. Brown says ‘Waves’ is a ‘heavy’ film

Sterling K. Brown
Sterling K. Brown attends the Premiere of Disney’s ‘Frozen 2’ | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

Waves is a film written and directed by Trey Edward Shults (It Comes at Night). The movie follows a family struggling with their high school athlete son Tyler, (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), who spirals with addiction to painkillers after an injury.

Tyler discovers his pregnant girlfriend, Alexa (Euphoria’s Alexa Demie), won’t have an abortion. Ronald’s (Brown) strict demands push Tyler beyond the brink.

Tyler follows Alexa to a party. The interaction ends with her death. Yep — pretty heavy.

“I, Sterling, was a little scared for Kelvin,” Brown told The News of one of the important scenes.

He didn’t want the character to be “vilified,” Brown said. “I didn’t want him to be seen as a monster. I didn’t want to add another image of a black man being sort of animalistic.”

The second half of the film, he said, is redemptive.

“Forgiveness and love are able to help people move on with life in a way that they couldn’t without it.”

The film is already making “waves,” with Brown’s name tossed into the ring of Oscar-contenders.

“If the Academy sees fit to put me in a category with people who I absolutely adore, I will pee all over myself, dude,” he said on the latest episode of The Big Ticket.

The movie is important for reasons far beyond a father and son story, and it goes all the way back to Brown’s childhood.

Why ‘Waves’ resonates with Brown

In an interview on Sunday Today with Willie Geist, Brown opened up about his personal connection to Waves.

“I think the whole dynamic of fathers and sons is one that resonates with me and is resonating really strong right now,” Brown said. “My dad was 45 when he passed away, and I was 10.”

He explained that he remembers “really specific things” about the day his father died.

“Waking up that morning and going into the kitchen and my mom being on the phone and calling the paramedics, and asking me to put clothes on my dad, ‘cause he was naked in the bed,” he said.

“And his body was stiff. And as they’re carrying him out on the stretcher, he looks at me over the railing, and he winks. Just winks. They carry him out the door — last time I saw him.”

He added there was nothing he lacked from his father.

“While the time was short, it was everything that I could’ve hoped for, for 10 years.”

Here’s why Brown changed his name as a teen

Brown recalled an important story told by his mom.

“I went by Kelby. My mom tells me this story – she was reiterating it the other day – in kindergarten, I came home one day and said, ‘Mom, Sterling is eight letters and Kelby is five.”

He went by Kelby until 16, then change his name to Sterling. Brown has no memory of the conversation but said it was a big decision.

“The impetus for me is that he had been gone for some time, and I was like, ‘Kelby was a little boy’s name.’ I felt like I was ready to become Sterling.”

Brown made a lasting impression in the entertainment world, regardless of what name he goes by. Sterling Sr. would be proud.