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The 8 Best Characters To Only Appear In One Episode

Important characters on NBC’s hit drama series This Is Us are hard to come by. Nearly every person who crosses paths with the Pearson family serves a purpose of some sort, whether that be to stir the pot or move a main character’s story forward. Even when a character only appears in one episode of the show, they leave a lasting impression.

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Outside of the Pearson family, there is a long list of recurring guest stars that have been in and out of the family drama over the course of six seasons. However, there are a handful of individuals whose appearance on the show was brief, yet their episode and storyline propelled the series forward and left fans wanting more.


Alan Thicke As Himself (“Pilot”)

Alan Thicke acting on "The Manny" on This Is Us

The legendary Alan Thicke appeared as himself in the very first episode of This Is Us, acting opposite Justin Hartley’s Kevin Pearson on the fictional sitcom, The Manny.

Alan’s fictionalized version of himself witnessed Kevin’s iconic meltdown in which he revealed how much he hated the show and how lost he felt as an actor and a person. Having such a beloved actor in the first episode created credibility for This Is Us, and made fans believe that Kevin’s show was successful, therefore making it a huge deal that he stormed off set and cut ties with Hollywood.

Katey Sagal as Lanie Schultz (“The Big Three”)

Katey Sagal as Kevin's agent on This Is Us

After Kevin’s massive meltdown in the pilot episode, his agent had to go into damage control mode. That agent was played by none other than Katey Sagal, known for her roles on shows like Futurama and Married…With Children.

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Katey Sagal starred as Lanie Schultz for only one episode where she attempted to convince Kevin to continue his acting career by finishing out his contract on The Manny. Her bluntness toward Kevin, revealing that she found him unfunny upon discovering him was hilarious and gave fans what they wanted, which was for someone to be unsympathetic toward Kevin and put him in his place.

Camryn Manheim as Debbie (“Don’t Let Me Keep You”)

Jack Pearson's cousin Debbie on This Is Us

Despite Jack Pearson being on television screens for six years, fans have learned very little about his extended family. All viewers knew of them prior to his centric episode in season 6 was that his dad was an alcoholic, he helped his mother out of the house, and his brother was dead to him.

That’s where Camryn Manheim’s Debbie came in. She owned the house that Jack’s mother Marilyn moved into after separating from his father. Debbie educated Jack on all things Marilyn following her death, proving that he knew so little about his mother that he talked to every Sunday. Debbie was family but didn’t want to be referred to as such, and her stern attitude toward Jack made him realize how much he had missed by not being an active part of his mom’s life.

Sophia Bush as Lizzy (“Lights & Shadows”)

Sophia Bush as Lizzy on This Is Us

Fans were elated when they found out that One Tree Hill‘s Sophia Bush was going to be joining the cast of This Is Us in season 4, only to be thrown a major curveball when her character only appeared in one episode.

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Sophia Bush’s Lizzy was the ultimate fake-out when it came to Kevin finding his soulmate. After years of back and forth between Sophie and Zoe and Cassidy (and eventually Madison), viewers thought Lizzy could be the one he had been waiting for. That turned out to be the opposite of the truth rather quickly when Lizzy revealed that she was married and Kevin was her celebrity hall pass. Lizzy as a character was a major plot twist and red herring that allowed Kevin to keep searching for the romance of his dreams.

Sylvester Stallone As Himself (“Deja Vu”)

Slyvester Stallone as himself on This Is Us

Kevin’s fame is often understated on the show, only being brought to light when he lands massive moving roles working with directors like M. Night Shyamalan and Ron Howard. One of his most important roles as of late was starring alongside Sylvester Stallone in a period war drama.

Just like Alan Thicke, Sylvester Stallone played himself acting opposite Kevin on This Is Us. His character gave sage advice to Kev, and got to interact with superfan Kate as well. It was great to get a glimpse into Kevin’s work life. And to have a real, iconic actor like Sylvester Stallone on the show made the episode interesting and light-hearted.

Genevieve Angelson As Young Sally (“One Small Step…”)

Genevieve Angelson as young Sally on This Is Us

Nicky Pearson is one of the best characters that was introduced on This Is Us after season one, and it has been joyous to watch his story unfold over the years. One of the best Nicky-centric episodes came in season five’s “One Small Step…”, where fans got to meet his first love, Sally.

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An older version of Sally showed up in season 6, but young Sally only appeared in one episode where she was seen meeting and falling in love with the other Pearson brother. Young Sally was a ray of sunshine, adding dimension to Nicky’s character and showing that he once had a wild and carefree side. She provided a much-needed backstory for him that allowed viewers to understand why he never loved again.

LisaGay Hamilton As Mae DuBois (“Birth Mother”)

LisaGay Hamilton as Mae DuBois on This Is Us

Possibly the greatest plot twist turned mystery on This Is Us was the reveal that Randall’s birth mother Laurel didn’t actually die the day he was born. She went on to live another 30-something years and was never able to reconnect with him or his father.

An integral part of Laurel’s backstory was her relationship with her Aunt Mae, played by LisaGay Hamilton. Aunt Mae was Laurel’s saving grace, the one person she could run to when feeling overwhelmed by her overbearing parents. It was in Mae’s care that Laurel met Hai, a man she cared deeply for until her death. Aunt Mae gave Laurel a second chance at life and allowed Randall to solve the missing pieces of his mother’s mystery.

Carl Lumbly as Abe Clarke (“Our Little Island Girl”)

Carl Lumbly as Beth's father on This Is Us

One of the greatest episodes of This Is Us is season three’s “Our Little Island Girl”. It’s Beth-centric, giving fans a peek into her childhood and meeting Randall for the first time. It also revealed her close relationship with her deceased father, Abe, played by Alias alum Carl Lumbly.

Abe passed away around the same time as Jack Pearson, and both were incredible fathers to their children. So much of Beth’s pain and backstory came from her relationship with her dad, so his role in this episode was incredibly important. Any more screentime may have been overkill, but one episode of Abe and Beth was the perfect amount for their story.

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