‘This Is Us’: Who Plays Young William Hill?

With the season 5 premiere of This Is Us, fans get a little more insight into Randall’s (Sterling K. Brown) heritage. Though his biological father William Hill (Ron Cephas Jones) died at the end of season 1, fans get a closer look at how Randall came to be a Pearson — thanks to flashbacks of a younger version of William. Who plays young William and why do we want to give him a giant socially-distant air-hug?

[Spoilers for This Is Us Season 5 below]

More of Randall’s backstory will unfold in ‘This Is Us’ season 5

Cast of 'This Is Us'
Cast of ‘This Is Us’ | Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Turner

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After a longer-than-usual hiatus, This Is Us returned with a jam-packed two-hour season premiere, “Forty: Part One and Two.” One prominent storyline the writers dove into is that of Randall Pearson’s (Brown) roots.

With that, fans were treated with flashbacks of William and Laurel — Randall’s birth parents — who’ve appeared in previous episodes. However, the premiere offered more details on what happened when Laurel gave birth to Randall, including how Laurel died. Or, so William thought.

The premiere revealed that, after Laurel gave birth to Randall, paramedics were called when she didn’t wake after an apparent overdose (to deal with the pain of childbirth). EMTs attempted to resuscitate bu ultimately pronounced her dead.

William left immediately after and took Randall to the firestation. Eventually, he ended up in the hospital where Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca (Mandy Moore) adopted him.

The shocking ender showed Laurel taking a breath — something William may not have known. The scene left fans wondering if Laurel’s been alive all this time, or whether she still died thereafter.

Regardless, it’s the haunting portrayal of young William that puts all the feels in every flashback scene.

Who plays young William Hill?

Alexandra Breckenridge, Jermel Nakia, Jon Huertas, and Mandy Moore
Alexandra Breckenridge, Jermel Nakia, Jon Huertas, and Mandy Moore | Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Turner

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Jermel Nakia plays the role of young William Hill and, at first glance, you can see why. The Kansas City native moved to Los Angeles in 1994, according to The Kansas City Star.

“Oh, you better bring out the tissue,” Nakia said of his role. “If I have anything to do with it, you might have to go through a box or two.”

Nakia doesn’t have a lot of credits to his name, but he’s been acting in plays since elementary school. He played Scarecrow in 2011’s After the Wizard and appeared in a handful of other projects, including 24. This Is Us is Nakia’s “breakout” role.

“I do think that this is just the beginning of a new season for me,” Nakia said at the time. “I’ve been at it for a long time, but this definitely continues to have the wheels spinning for me.”

The actor who enjoys travel believes the profession chose him. The role of William allows him to touch lives. Nakia told People that, “A gentleman reached out to me and said he saw himself as William and watching the show he saw the possibility of redemption. If you can change someone’s life while also entertaining, that’s pretty awesome.”

He continued: “I still live in that moment of, ‘Is this really happening.’ From the first time I saw a clip of the pilot, I knew the show was right down my alley. It’s surreal.”

Nakia most enjoys showing how William could’ve take the wrong direction in his life, but chose a different path instead.

“It’s really incredible because we can capture the hypersensitive state of the black man and what is happening now. When I first read the episode I just thought, this requires huge responsibility. To be able to bring [William] to life was mind-boggling.”

How much will Nakia appear in season 5?

This Is Us
Cast of ‘This Is Us’ | Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

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While Nakia also admitted he never gets to work with the other big names in the series — because his scenes are shot in the past — it’s creator Dan Fogelman who hinted that there may be more to William and Laurel’s story ahead.

“There’s definitely answers as to, ‘Is she still alive in the present day?’ And definitely answers as to kind of what happened after this from before,” he told TV Guide.

“Honestly, who was this woman well before this moment, well before she met William. Where is she from? This woman who was Randall’s birth mother and hasn’t played a prominent part in our story thus far — who is she, where is she from, what is her story? That’s a big part of Randall’s journey this season.” 

Fogelman added that the plan had always been to incorporate more of Laurel’s history into Randall’s story.

“For us, Randall’s story, big picture, has always been a story of identity. He’s a man that’s constantly, like many people who come from different backgrounds, is kind of searching for who he is and where he’s from. It’s always been a part of his story, the story of his birth mother that we’ve never really shown out and told,” he said.

“I think for Randall, for that character, until he can get some answers there, and some kind of closure, it will be a final kind of step in him coming to terms with some of his own questions about his identity.”

Only time will tell how much of Nakia we’ll see in season 5 of This Is Us, but William (of all ages) is a fan favorite, so here’s hoping.