Kane Lieu and Jennifer C. Holmes as Hai and Laurel in ‘This Is Us’ (Photo credit: NBC)
Sunday’s This Is Us episode “Birth Mother” has folks fanning themselves over the love story involving Randall’s mother Laurel and her Vietnamese neighbor Hai.
Played by Jennifer C. Holmes and Kane Lieu in flashback, an older Hai (Vien Hong) tells Randall (Sterling K. Brown) about some of the missing chapters in Laurel’s life. Hai’s story includes the love he shared with Laurel before she met Randall’s father, William (Ron Cephas Jones) and suffered from drug addiction.
In true This Is Us fashion, the episode was full of tear-jerking moments, but as Twitter is wont to do, much of the focus went to Hai and Laurel’s love story, with fans thirsting over Lieu and his character.
Other fans wanted Hai and Laurel’s story to have a happy ending, even though they already knew it wouldn’t end like a fairy tale.
Some even wondered how William even found his opening into Laurel’s life when Hai and Laurel seemed perfect together. Some fans were trying to balance the two relationships in their minds.
Fangirling aside, Hai and Laurel’s relationship continues television and film’s growing focus on non-white interracial relationships. I’ve written about non-white interracial relationships before, particularly where Black-Asian relationships are concerned. I hope that TV and film writers focus more on people’s humanity in relationships instead of stereotypes or fetish. Seeing how This Is Us is all about exploring the gamut of textured emotions, it seems like the focus of Hai and Laurel’s bond was about genuine love and heartbreak, which is a vital step in the right direction when it comes to humanizing people of color in relationships.
Even though Insecure is more on the dramedy side than This Is Us, that series also seems like it gave fans a compelling and complicated love story with Molly (Yvonne Orji) and Andrew (Alexander Hodge). Fans took sides with the characters, critiquing and praising both for how they handle romance. The amount of discussion Molly and Andrew generated was fascinating to watch since most of it wasn’t about race. Instead, most of the debate was about whether Molly took Andrew for granted or if Andrew was sometimes passive-aggressive. In short, fans were analyzing the characters for human traits and foibles rather than just sex appeal.
As for This Is Us, we’ll see how much more the series gives about Hai and Laurel’s romance. Fans’ appetites have been whetted, meaning This Is Us might have to create even more moments with Hai and Laurel to appease a newly-awakened part of the fandom.