When This Is Us star Susan Kelechi Watson was a broke Fine Arts major at Howard University, she received a life-changing phone call: Denzel Washington was going to pay $5,000 for her — and five of her classmates — to study Shakespeare at England’s prestigious University of Oxford.
“They didn’t have any minority students, much less [people] from a historically black university,” Watson revealed during a Tuesday, January 22, appearance on Live with Kelly and Ryan. “We went and it changed all of our lives.”
Years later, Watson, 36, ran into the the two-time Oscar winner and told him what he had done for her. “I said, ‘Excuse me, you paid for my scholarship,’” she recalled, laughing. “He said, ‘Yeah, you’re welcome.”
The Jamaican-American actress is best known for playing strong and protective Beth Pearson on the NBC hit This Is Us. She studied at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts with her onscreen husband Sterling K. Brown, who recently picked up a Golden Globe and a SAG Award for his portrayal of Randall Pearson.
Watson has said their shared history at grad school helped when she first read for the part of Beth. “I was like, ‘Oh, good! Somebody who reads from the same handbook,’” she told Entertainment Weekly earlier this month. “I know his technique is similar to mine, so I know that it’s about just dropping in and being authentic. He was very relaxed, and it felt good.”
This Is Us airs Tuesdays on NBC at 9 p.m. ET.
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