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Here are the 10 ‘This Is Us’ characters that made us cry the most

Is it even possible to pick between Jack and Rebecca?

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Jack, Rebecca, Randall, Kate, and Kevin’s tumultuous journeys across six seasons brought tears, laughter, headaches, and a healthy dose of self-reflection to anyone watching This Is Us. Now that the show has aired its storybook ending, fans will surely look back fondly on these characters.

This Is Us fans are especially privileged, though, because whereas time-jumping episodes are special events in any given show, with This Is Us, the entire narrative is split between a thousand time frames. Just between The Big Three, there were five different sets of actors cast. As for future timelines, the adult actors would don impressive aging makeup that transported the characters into their 60s or even 80s. 

The result was one of the richest television series ever made in a complete reinvention of the family drama genre, as well as extraordinarily fleshed-out characters. From children to elderly, viewers have accompanied these people as they evolved and grew, for better or worse. 

So, with the power of hindsight, here are the top 10 This Is Us characters, in an imperfect ranking.

10. Toby Damon & Nicky Pearson

OK, this might be considered cheating, but in a show with an ensemble this rich, singling out just 10 characters is almost impossible. 

From the onset, Toby Damon is defined by his humor and larger-than-life personality, perfectly fitting the “funny fat guy” trope that’s been done a thousand times before on television. This Is Us, however, is all about reverting expectations and offering depth to societal archetypes people have become too lazy to challenge. 

Throughout the six seasons, viewers got to know Toby’s past and the deep struggles hidden behind the joker façade. Toby isn’t just funny, he isn’t just someone who struggles with his weight, and he isn’t just Kate’s (ex-)husband. Instead, Toby is shown to be a dedicated father to Jack Jr. and Hailey, an ambitious professional with career dreams, a social butterfly, an insecure but dedicated romantic partner, a nerd, and a fighter, all while dealing with chronic depression. 

As for Nicky Pearson, there aren’t many characters with a growth as fantastic as his. Jack Pearon’s younger brother, Nicky was the center of one of This Is Us’ biggest plot twists when viewers found out Jack had lied about him dying in the Vietnam war. Instead, Nicky lived as a recluse, struggling with severe war trauma for his entire adult life, until Kevin found out he was still alive and helped him recover, in what became one of the most beautiful storylines tackled on the show.

Nicky opened himself up to joy, sought therapy, found love and a caring family among the rest of the Pearsons. His grumpy demeanor, but soft interior made him one of the most endearing additions to the This Is Us family, bringing a little bit of Jack along with him. 

9. Deja Pearson

Deja also had an incredible development throughout This Is Us. She was initially fostered by Randall and Beth Pearson as a result of her mom’s financial and emotional instability. Trauma from previous foster families and the hardship of having to let go of her mother resulted in Deja lashing out at Randall and Beth, but as the three opened up to each other, their bond strengthened and the couple ended up adopting her. 

As an adopted child himself, Randall’s relationship with Deja became one of the most special in the entire show. In turn, the stability the Pearsons offered Deja helped her achieve her full potential and, by the end of the show, she had become a successful doctor, having a baby boy with her first love, Malik. The couple’s teen love also marked one of the cutest romantic arcs on This Is Us

8. Miguel Rivas

Miguel Rivas is definitely a fan favorite character. He starts the show as Jack Pearson’s best friend, but we soon find out he would be marrying Jack’s wife, Rebecca, in the future. He’s quite cocky and stand-offish at the start, but the potential Jack sees in him is confirmed when he shows up and shows out for the Pearsons after his friend’s death. 

Season six finally gave fans the long-awaited Miguel flashback episode, shedding some light on the character’s attitude, as he became dazzled by the American dream as a young adult. The Pearsons’ influence and his love for Rebecca cultivated a much more generous and altruistic side in Miguel, as he became Rebecca’s ever-loving and reliable life companion, slowly but surely gaining his step-children’s approval. 

7. William Hill

William Hill is truly a star in the This Is Us universe. A wise, bohemian, artistic, loving man who was dealt some bad cards in life, William is Randall’s birth father who is forced to give his son away, believing his wife, Randall’s birth mother, had overdosed.  

Randall’s search for William is one of the first big storylines on This Is Us and arguably one of its most successful. William’s journey as he forgave himself for giving Randall away, in the process reconnecting with his former lover Jessie, impressed fans like few others could. William was also one of only two LGBT+ lead characters on This Is Us, a side left widely unexplored on the show.  

6. Beth Pearson

Beth Pearson is another virtually unanimously loved character on This Is Us. Within the cast of supporting characters, she is the most relevant to the show as a whole. Independently from her role as Randall’s confidant and partner, viewers got to see Beth come into her own career-wise when she quit her desk job to re-enter the ballet world as a teacher and later by opening her own dance academy. 

Beth was often the voice of reason and realism within a somewhat overly dramatic narrative, perfectly balancing Randall’s emotional nature. Her presence was sorely missed any time she skipped a family scene and her contribution to the show’s identity was always on a par with the main five Pearsons. 

5. Kevin Pearson

Kevin Pearson probably takes the trophy for most fluctuating character on This Is Us, being incredibly easy to adore, but just as easy to dislike. 

The essence of Kevin’s character could perhaps be summed up as a trier, and therefore as the character who worked the hardest to become as outstanding as he was in the end. Growing up, Kevin was often resentful of his brother Randall for his apparent favoritism, a dispute the two brothers took decades to resolve. His Pearson genes led him to alcohol as he navigated the grief from his father’s passing, which in turn led him to destroy his marriage to his soulmate Sophie. 

As an adult, Kevin struggles the most in search of identity, love, and the familial security he had known growing up and was desperate to emulate. Missteps and relapses constantly fumbled his progress, all the while making him stronger and more resolute in his pursuit of happiness. His determination left no one indifferent, and fans of This Is Us just couldn’t help but root for him, even at his worst.  

In the end, Kevin’s efforts were rewarded as he became a father to twins, found his way back to Sophie, developed the dream business his father never got to build, and uprooted his entire life just to be there for his mom. 

4. Randall Pearson

When someone thinks This Is Us, Randall Pearson is surely one of the first images to pop in their minds. His immense goodness and virtue ever since he was a child were true pillars of the show. He was the perfect son and, as Rebecca once described, simply easier to love than his siblings. But, of course, these titles didn’t come without burdens. 

The pressure on Randall to always be good and reliable resulted in an anxiety disorder that he only ever treated in his 40s, as well as a superiority complex that he couldn’t always shake off. Add to that the inherent feelings of inadequacy that come from growing up with a white adoptive family as a black man, and, really, Randall’s life was far from easy. 

Randall was always destined for greatness, though, and after his journey to find mental wellness, he became a Senator and, had the show continued, possibly president. He reconnected with his biological parents, made peace with Kevin, raised three gorgeous girls, and, despite obstacles, maintained the only relationship in the show that could rival Rebecca and Jack’s – his marriage to Beth. 

3. Kate Pearson

Both Randall and Kevin are definitely worthy of a spot in this list’s top three and they’re certainly number one for many This Is Us fans. But the third element of The Big Three, Kate Pearson, earns this bronze placement purely because she was never as desperate for it as her brothers. 

If Randall was always the good, reliable child, and Kevin the troubled sibling, then there was hardly room for Kate to take up space. Kate was just a regular human, dealing with regular teenage angst, and a regular quarter-life crisis, who always had to make herself smaller in order to contend with the egos around her. 

Jack was usually the only one who could make her feel truly seen and heard and his description of her as the glue of the family could not be more accurate. Kate’s journey toward becoming the best version of herself was way less flashy than that of her brothers. It happened slowly and quietly, in the challenges she accepted, the people she helped, the way she let herself be loved by Toby and Philip. When her son Jack Jr. was born, with severe visual impairment, Kate shone the brightest, fiercely bending the world to her son’s needs and making sure he was never defined by his limitations. 

Rebecca knew when she picked Kate to be in charge of her care that her daughter would be the most sensible of the three, and the only one who would never put her own ego above the needs of her mom. So, Kate earns her place as the best character among the big three, not because she is a better person than her siblings, but because she is the biggest team player. 

2. Jack Pearson

Jack Pearson would be number one on this list if This Is Us had only three seasons, but as the show began focusing on the present timeline, as well as the aftermath of his death, he lost some of his relevance. Even so, Jack never stopped being the single-most important influence in the lives of his family. He was a once-in-a-generation father and husband who, in spite of his demons and vices, never failed to show up in the most essential ways. 

Jack would move heaven and earth for those he loved in a way that would feel so incredibly unreachable had he not also been shown to be suffering behind the scenes. In the end, Jack’s heroic sacrifice after rescuing his family from their burning house contributed the most to his God-like after-life presence in their lives, but the Pearson patriarch somehow managed to live up to every bit of those impossible expectations in life. 

1. Rebecca Pearson

When push comes to shove, there could be no one else leading this list. Rebecca Pearson is This Is Us. She is the true main character and driving force of the show’s whole story. 

Despite being as amazing a parent as Jack, living a full life meant Rebecca had the time to err in ways that made her character all the more attainable and real. When Jack died, Kate, Randall, and Kevin were teenagers — possibly the trickiest time to be a parent — and Rebecca had to deal with it on her own. Her strength and sheer belief in her children eventually made up for the trauma of losing a father and husband so early. 

Rebecca was pure poise and class. She was as fearful as she was fearless, and never let either define her, making way in her life for vulnerability just as much as grit. Not a single person in Rebecca’s life could help but fall in love with her, which made her battle with Alzheimer’s in her old age all the more painful to watch for the other characters and This Is Us fans alike. Her goodbye on “The Train” doubled as a tribute to the entire show, because, in the end, it had been Rebecca’s life viewers had been following all along.

Francisca Tinoco
About the author

Francisca Tinoco

Francisca is a pop culture enthusiast and film expert. Her Bachelor's Degree in Communication Sciences from Nova University in Portugal and Master's Degree in Film Studies from Oxford Brookes University in the UK have allowed her to combine her love for writing with her love for the movies. She's a freelance writer and content creator, working in both the English and Portuguese languages for various platforms, including WGTC.