When This Is Us aired on April 13, 2021, Randall Pearson (Sterling K. Brown) shared his “Ghost Kingdom” story. It was a sad yet touching revelation about what goes through his head when he thinks about not being adopted. However, at the end of the episode, the vision changed. One director and writer on This Is Us broke down what this new alternate reality means for Randall.
‘This Is Us’: Randall shared his ‘Ghost Kingdom’ story with Kevin
To get his brother, Kevin (Justin Hartley), to understand how different it was for Randall growing up Black in a white family, he painted him a picture. The April 13 episode opened with Randall’s “Ghost Kingdom” family on This Is Us.
“It’s like an alternate reality in your mind where you imagine the life you would have had if you were never adopted,” Randall told Kevin. “And I realized that I’ve had this Ghost Kingdom my entire life. I just never had a name for it. Since I never knew who my birth parents really were, I imagined that the nice librarian from the neighborhood library and the Black meteorologist from the local news were my parents.”
However, he explained that his alternate reality was slightly different than other children who were adopted. Randall also imagined Kevin, his sister Kate (Chrissy Metz), Jack (Milo Ventimiglia), and Rebecca (Mandy Moore) in the dream.
Is the ‘Ghost Kingdom’ a real thing?
In an interview with People, director Kay Oyegun and writer Jon Dorsey confirmed that Randall’s story on This Is Us is based on truth.
“[Ghost Kingdom is] a real term used within that community,” Dorsey told the outlet. “I definitely read up on a lot of it. It’s a real term, but it’s much more complex than we portrayed it. I think we needed to melt it down to the most basic kind of concept, so it’s easier to understand. [It’s] that alternate reality and safe haven for people who deal with these identity struggles.”
The director explained where the “Ghost Kingdom” term came from for Randall’s storyline on This Is Us.
“Betty Jean Lifton coined the term,” Oyegun explained. “We had a transracial speaker come into the [writers’] room, and she walked us through her experiences as not someone who is personally affected but also someone whose work engaged with other transracial teens and adults and holds support groups. She actually gave us her personal Ghost Kingdom narrative. Her dad was Magic Johnson, and her mom was Halle Berry. Those are the people she imagined as her parents growing up.”
‘This Is Us’: Is Randall’s ‘Ghost Kingdom’ gone now?
In the last few minutes of This Is Us, Randall goes to sleep. Instead of dreaming about the librarian and the meteorologist, he has a new alternate reality. In this new world, Randall dreams of growing up with his birth father, William (Ron Cephas Jones), and birth mother, Laurel (Jennifer C. Holmes). The director explained what this new vision means to Randall.
“It’s a beginning in a lot of ways,” the director told People. “Sometimes we write Randall, and we’re so sad for him. I can’t imagine that sort of constant weight of having to do that balance. Many people have retreats, but for Randall, there are so many rooms in his mind that are locked. So scary and so sad. But we’re grateful that he’s opening some of those doors.”
Randall’s journal with his identity on This Is Us is a rebirth and a new beginning now. This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. EST on NBC.
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