‘This Is Us’: Jermel Nakia Teases The Most ‘Broken’ Young William We’ve Seen Yet

Jermel Nakia, the actor who plays young William, talked with HollywoodLife.com EXCLUSIVELY about learning more of William's backstory. We're going to continue to see this man's 'trials and tribulations.' Check out our interview!

William’s story is far from over on This Is Us. The character may have sadly passed away last season, but there’s still so much to learn about this remarkable man, especially regarding his younger years. HollywoodLife.com got the chance to chat with Jermel Nakia, who plays the younger William to Ron Cephas Jones’s older William. We’ve gotten glimpses into the life of younger William, but Jermel’s incredible performance has left fans wanting more and more.

What happened to William from the time he gave up Randall to when Randall showed up on his doorstep 36 years later? There’s so much to learn from that gap in time. The Nov. 7 episode will feature young William, and Jermel teases that his character is not in this best place. Plus, does Jermel know all of William’s backstory? Check out our Q&A with Jermel below.

What can fans expect to see from young William going forward?
Jermel Nakia: I think you definitely will see him at his most broken state. The name of the upcoming episode is “The Most Disappointed Man,” and we clearly get to see why. First, he loses the love of his life, Laurel, and then his mother, and then his child. Most of us don’t go through near the trials and tribulations that this one man goes through in a period of a year, and it continues for him. For many years, he’s basically a tortured soul. One thing that I’ve learned about playing the role of William is that he’s an impressionable sponge. Whatever comes in his path, the good and the bad, it’s impressed upon him because he’s so open. Some things have gotten him in trouble, and then other things have led him down a path to love. I think in this episode we get to see him just at a state of nothing really matters. William always just held on for just the hope of being able to have some sort of connection with his son, because that was the only human left for him to connect with that was still bloodline. I feel like that’s his only reason to fight, because he still feels responsible for this child, even though he doesn’t have him in his life.

Will we ever see young William in a good place again?
Jermel Nakia: Let’s just say that I hope so. In truth, I’m not really sure where the journey is actually going to go. I mean, I have some ideas, but I don’t know specifically the light that we will see, meaning the good that we will see with William.

There’s still so much time between younger William and older William. Have the writers filled in any of those gaps?
Jermel Nakia: It’s a secret for me, too! Anything, honestly, that I think is going to happen is because I’ve made it up, not because anyone has definitively said, “Okay, Jermel. This is where we’re going with the character.” I really don’t know. I’m almost as much in the dark as I think all of the audience is.

Last season, Sterkling K. Brown’s Randall and Milo Ventimiglia’s Jack had a scene together, even though Jack’s never in the present day. Have you thought about having a scene with Ron’s older William?
Jermel Nakia: With this show being the sort of the pinnacle of flashbacks and interweaving stories, I actually think it’s quite possible that that could happen. Of course, it’s not possible for it to be real but in someone’s imagination, I can see it.

Have you and Ron talked about the character of William together? It truly feels like we’re watching the same person play both roles. 
Jermel Nakia: We’ve had very, very, very brief discussions. This is a role that I honestly feel when this series and this story and this man William was created, it just aligned for us. We’ve had very little sit downs. In fact, before I started filming my first episode, I spent about 5 minutes with him, and the next day I think was my first day of shooting last season. The only thing I could do was try and usurp the energy that he was giving me, this old soul nature that Ron has by design and I have as well and just sort of live with that. When I see him in passing, we’re like, “Wow, you do the same thing I do.” But I think it was just meant to be, not because we ever talked about it. It’s kind of extraordinary. We’ve never been in the same room at the same time that any of it is happening.

This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.

HollywoodLifers, is William your favorite character on This Is Us? Let us know!

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