Sterling K. Brown was born in St. Louis, Missouri, one of five children, and went by his middle name, Kelby, for most of his childhood until he turned 16. His father died when Sterling was 10, a devastating moment he would later channel into his break-out performance on the TV series This is Us.
Sterling knew acting was his calling when he was a freshman in high school and performed in the musical Godspell. After three nights of standing ovations, Sterling – who had previously devoted all his time to athletics – fell in love with performing, although he didn’t think it was practical to pursue acting professionally. However, after two years of studying economics at Stanford University, he switched his major to drama.
While attending grad school at NYU, Sterling met his wife, actress Ryan Michelle Bathe, when the two performed together in the play, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone.
After school, Sterling performed theater in Ithaca, New York, Berkeley, and in Minnesota at the Guthrie Theater. Eventually, he returned to New York City and performed at the Public Theater, as well as Shakespeare in the Park.
He moved to Los Angeles for pilot season, and after a few years he booked a spot on the TV show Army Wives. From there, he appeared in more shows, including brief stints on ER, Without a Trace and Third Watch. He had a recurring role on the comedy Starved and the fantasy-horror show, Supernatural, as vampire hunter Gordon Walker.
He appeared in a few movies early in his career, including Stay (2005) starring Ewan McGregor and Trust the Man (2005) with Julianne Moore.
In 2016, Sterling starred in the FX miniseries The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story as prosecutor Christopher Darden. He won an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie for his performance.
His biggest break to date was his starring role in the TV drama series, This is Us, in which he plays Randall Pearson, whose estranged biological father suddenly returns to his life years after abandoning him as a baby. Sterling prepared for the role by considering his own parental loss: "I really got in tune with who my dad was for me, and how special the bond was that we shared with one another. Then, I got myself in tune with the absence of that and what that does to a person."
His powerful performance has broken new ground in Hollywood accolades, as he was the first African-American actor to win a Screen Actors Guild Award in the Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series category. He also won for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series with the rest of his This is Us cast.
On the big screen, Sterling appeared in the blockbuster Marvel hit Black Panther (2018) and played the criminal Waikiki in the film Hotel Artemis (2018). He also played a role in the science fiction flick, The Predator (2018) and lent his voice to The Angry Birds Movie 2 (2019), sequel to The Angry Birds Movie (2016).
In 2019, he lent his voice to the hit sequel Frozen II, bringing to life a new character, Lieutenant Mattias.
The same year, Sterling played the role of Reggie on four episodes of the third season of the hit Prime Video series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel in 2019.
Sterling and his wife Ryan Michelle have two sons together.
The Angry Birds Movie 2 (2019)
The Predator (2018)
Hotel Artemis (2018)
Black Panther (2018)
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (2016)
The Suspect (2013)
Our Idiot Brother (2011)
Righteous Kill (2008)
Trust the Man (2005)
Brown Sugar (2002)