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Read the Moving Speech William Gave Rebecca on This Is Us' "The Train"
In a way, it's a thesis for the whole show.
Ron Cephas Jones, who played Randall's biological father, William, on This Is Us, passed away on August 19, 2023. He leaves behind a legacy of excellent screen work, including his 45 episodes of This Is Us, for which he won two Emmys. In honor of him, NBC Insider is revisiting some of William's most poignant moments on the show. His character is beloved by fans and will forever be cherished.
This Is Us Season 6, Episode 17 was a tough one. After a long battle with Alzheimer's, Rebecca (Mandy Moore) passed, and the way her family told her goodbye was beautiful. Viewers were taken inside Rebecca's psyche (literally) as she approached death. For her, this manifested in the form of a moving train. Rebecca was young on the train, and the passengers were people in her life, past and present. Meanwhile, in real life, as Rebecca's family said their final goodbyes, they appeared on the train. And the person leading her through this experience (a.k.a the conductor on the train) was William (Ron Cephas Jones).
At the end of the episode, after the family members have said their last words to Rebecca, she reaches the train's caboose. "This is quite sad, isn't it?" she asks William. "The end?"
To this, William gives a beautiful, stunning speech to Rebecca. These are the last words she hears before going into the caboose (before she passes away). Read them in full, below:
"The way I see it, if something makes you sad when it ends, it must have been pretty wonderful when it was happening. Truth be told, I always felt it a bit lazy to just think of the world as sad, because so much of it is. Because everything ends. Everything dies. But if you step back, if you step back and look at the whole picture, if you're brave enough to allow yourself the gift of a really wide perspective, if you do that, you'll see that the end is not sad, Rebecca. It's just the start of the next incredibly beautiful thing."
William's speech epitomizes that moment—and it epitomizes This Is Us in general. If the show has taught us anything, it's that nothing is forever. Any sadness or loss we saw the Pearsons experience in the present was always followed by a flash-forward, where we saw them happy, thriving, and doing just fine. Each storyline has shown us that no chapter is forever—the good ones end, and so do the bad ones. Life keeps moving, and we move with it. It's a comforting message for anyone experiencing a hard time. Chapters always, always come to a close.
It's something Chris Sullivan (Toby) told NBC Insider when talking about the legacy of This Is Us. "From the first episode, they show you tragedy and pain, but they also shoot you into the future and show you, 'Oh, this family's OK,'" he said. "We jump back and forth and see, 'Oh my gosh, this father died in a fire.' Then, we jump forward and see, 'Oh, this family's OK.' Tragedy and joy are held in both hands...Everything cycles around."
Originally published May 17, 2022.