Frazer Harrison, 2016 Getty Images
There were bigger stars in The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, but none shone brighter than Sterling K. Brown, who embodied the nobility, pain and conflict of Simpson prosecutor Chris Darden.
The St. Louis native, 40, USA TODAY's TV Person of the Year, had achieved success as a working actor (Army Wives), but FX's O.J. was a coming-out party.
His scenes with Sarah Paulson's Marcia Clark displayed a vulnerability and compassion as the two prosecutors deal with pressure and loss. Those with Simpson attorney Johnnie Cochran (Courtney B. Vance) show a searing defiance in the face of condescension. All three won Emmys.
O.J. by itself would mean a huge year for most actors, but Brown then moved on to broadcast TV’s buzziest fall hit, NBC's This Is Us, a family drama that has drawn critical praise and high ratings. He plays Randall, a successful business executive and family man who is emotionally torn after finding his birth father, who is dying of cancer.
Again part of a stellar cast, Brown stands out for his portrayal of a man who struggles with perfectionism and an uncertainty about his identity shaped partly by his well-meaning white adoptive family. He shows compassion and anger toward his mother (Mandy Moore), who hid his birth father's identity.
This month, Brown snagged Screen Actors Guild nominations for both those roles.
He also appeared on the big screen inWhiskey Tango Foxtrot and filmed Marshall, due in 2017, which focuses on Thurgood Marshall’s legal work before he became a Supreme Court justice.
“To have come from O.J. to this is extraordinary,” Brown told USA TODAY. “I feel like recently there’s just been an abundance of blessings that have been coming my way. I hope it continues.”