Fans of This Is Us have waited four and a half seasons to get the story of Randall Pearson's (Sterling K. Brown) birth mother.
On January 12, they finally got it, brought to life by the actress who has played her in snippets all along.
Jennifer C. Holmes, too, has waited for this moment, and it did not disappoint. She says, "You get what you ask for. I've been dying to hear her story and for them to write more of her. So when the moment came it was like, all right. This is what you asked for for all these years, and it's finally happening. I had to buckle up.
"I'm just trying to take in everything and be present in this moment of everything that's happening. "
The character, Laurel, was not easy to play, or to live with, but the director, Kay Oyegun, who is also a writer on the series, made the set a safe place to play such a difficult part. Holmes explains, "Kay Oyegun made her director debut on this episode. And she's a phenomenal, not just writer, but person.
"So she made the set a really safe space to explore and to create and to really get there. And it was so easy. It was so easy with her. every day feeling the pain of someone who went through so much suffering through life. And it seemed like she had all these obstacles. And every time she would experience one loss, she would experience another one.
"So coming on set every day, I had to prepare myself. And Kay made it just a wonderful experience for me. And then at the end of the night, I would go home and I would try to heal my spirit."
Holmes also credits the writers with building a fully-realized character, "Kay Oyegun and Eboni Freeman, yeah. The writing was so beautiful. So, if I was able to get there emotionally just reading it, me doing the work and the back story of Laurel, that took me on a whole other journey."
Holmes's own journey has taken her far in a relatively short time. "I started acting after I graduated high school" she says. "And my mom was a big reason for that. She actually was an actress. And she put it on to the side because she had children. And she had to make us priority, and she was a single mother. So she put that spark in me."
"So after high school, I moved to LA. And I went into different acting classes. And some stick, some didn't. The ones that did, I learned so much just about the moment and being in the moment and really being raw in the reality of the connection between human and actor.
"And so, for me, personally, how I get there is just me being present in the moment with the character that I'm playing. I didn't have to think of anything but the circumstances that Laurel was in. And that was enough for me to know that she missed her son and she would no longer be able to connect with [him].
"And William was no longer in her life. And the death of her brother, I mean, that was just enough for me to sit in that and really work on the backstory of that to get there."
Holmes's own backstory is an awakening stemming from a move from Orange County to Los Angeles. She explains, "[I grew up in] the little bubble of Orange County. And it was actually a positive experience for me to get out of that bubble and to explore the city of LA. Even though it's 45 [minutes], an hour away, It's a lifetime away.
"It's a huge difference, culturally, everything. So, moving to LA really helped with me finding out who I am, who I wanted to be, and also being able to connect with so many different cultures and people and beliefs and opinions about life in the world.
"When you live in that bubble of Orange County, you kind of get stuck to one track of mind or thinking. So moving to the city really brought me out of that. Growing up in Orange County, I was the only Black girl in my class. And so I didn't have a lot of girls that looked like me. So I think that was an eye opener, too, when I moved to LA.
"It helped me to appreciate Orange County because I learned so much from being in that bubble. I did. I learned a lot. I guess wherever you go, you'll learn a lot about yourself and who you want to be. And then coming out of it, I learned even more, even more."
So, what is the future for Laurel, now that the bulk of her story has been told? Holmes says, " That, personally, I do not know. But I think the writers left it all there in episode six. But you never know. You never know what Dan Fogelman and what the writers may have in store in the future. You just never know."
And for Holmes herself, it's a matter of staying in that moment and being open to whatever comes.
She notes, "What's next? Man, well, like I said, I'm taking everything in. And I'm hoping for our next project to be just as amazing as this one. So I'm taking in this moment and we'll see, we'll see. I'm excited to see what's next. And I'm auditioning and I know and I hope that it's going to be a great one.
"Being a new up-and-coming actress and getting that reel together and your credits, this is really my first big breakout guest star role. And it's such a blessing what has come with it. And I thank Dan Fogelman for trusting me with the role and this opportunity for other doors to open up for me."