Kay Oyegun directed episode 5×13, “Brotherly Love,” of the NBC hit drama. The episode focused on Randal and Kevin reuniting to hash out their past. Oyegun is a part of NBCUniversal’s Female Forward program, which is the company’s annual initiative for female directors that aims to achieve gender parity among scripted series directors.
Everyone has a family. And every family has a story. This Is Us chronicles the Pearson family across the decades: from Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca (Mandy Moore) as young parents in the 1980s to their kids (the big three), Kevin (Justin Hartley), Kate (Chrissy Metz), and Randall (Sterling K. Brown) searching for love and fulfillment in the present day along with Toby (Chris Sullivan) and Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson). This grounded, life-affirming dramedy reveals how the tiniest events in our lives impact who we become, and how the connections we share with each other can transcend time, distance, and even death.
“I love the show. I’ve been working on the show since the first season,” Oyegun told The Nerds of Color. “This was the second episode I directed. I co-wrote and directed the episode, ‘Birth Mother.’ I’m a fan of two-word titles.”
Keep reading to find out everything else Oyegun shared about the episode!
You’re part of NBCUniversal’s Female Forward program. What has that program taught you and how has it helped you move forward in your career?
Kay Oyegun: The program puts together a group of directors who get to form a collective as we navigate the TV directing landscape. That cohort has been wonderful to be a part of. We share stories, trade experiences, and offer insights into pitfalls and best cases of directing gigs. The program as a whole is also quite impressive. We had access to a slew of acclaimed directors and DPs and got to take several workshops where no question was off-limits. The director mentors have also been invaluable. I’ll definitely continue bugging them throughout my career.
You directed, “Brotherly Love,” which was such an impactful and highly-anticipated episode; did the episode teach you anything personally?
As part of the writing staff, you’re pretty involved in every episode and process. This episode has been planned for a while and so I’d been involved with the breaking and offered insight to the brilliant Jon Dorsey who wrote the episode. I’m not sure if I learned anything as far as the story goes. But I did learn a lot as far as directing goes. I worked with young actors for the first time and that was an exercise in decisiveness and patience. I enjoyed that, watching a five-year-old take and interpret a note is quite something.
Do you have a favorite scene from the episode?
I have a lot of favorite scenes, but I think the one that I really enjoyed moving through was the final Ghost Kingdom where Randall is with William and Laurel. I have a soft spot in my heart for Jermel Nakia (William) and Jennifer C. Holmes (Laurel), they are such warm and talented actors. I just enjoy creating spaces for them to inhabit.
Can you describe your process for directing the episode? Did you do any specific preparation?
I pray. That’s always the first thing I do. I hand the episode to God and I thank him for blessing the works of my hands. I thank him for wisdom and favor and I pray for the cast and crew. Then I break the script down which for me involves going through each scene and walking through how I see it. If there are scenes that are written in a way that needs to be adjusted for filming, I make that note. After I’ve broken the script, I do another pass of notes of performances and small moments I need to make sure I capture. I also try to figure out if there are interesting locations or visual choices that can make scenes more dynamic. I do this before prep begins.
Were there any specific challenges you faced?
Not any more than normal. Working with children will always be a challenge because of schedules as kids can only film for certain hours so it puts pressure on those scenes.
When did you know you wanted to pursue this aspect of the entertainment industry?
Pretty early on. I come from a news background so I’m used to handling cameras and working with people in that way. Basically, I tend to know what I want and I’m fortunate to be able to convey that to people around me in a way that feeds collaboration and creativity. I love set, I love crew, I love production. Always have.
Are there any other parts of the industry that you want to try in the future?
I’m pretty sure I’m going to do all the things. I have no idea what those all are just yet, but I’m pretty sure I will. Just grateful for that.
Are there any other NBC shows that you’d like to direct in the future?
What advice do you have for other females wanting to pursue this career path?
Grab your friends and go make something you want to make. If you need help, hit me up.
Best piece of advice you’ve received?
Don’t be an asshole.