November 29, 2017 at 11:47 AM EST

This Is Us

TV Show
run date
Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore, Justin Hartley, Sterling K. Brown
Dan Fogelman

This episode explores the idea of what is the best environment for Deja. We haven’t seen Shauna much, but when Randall spotted her showing her friend the clothes she bought for Deja, did he see enough to think that she’s a more capable mother this time around and that Deja is better off with her than with Randall and Beth? How did you settle on the balance of exactly how sympathetic and competent to make Shauna?
It comes down to the worldview of the show, and what we’re always trying to do is make nobody the pure villain and nobody the pure hero. But what’s so tough about this situation, because we tell the story solely from Beth and Randall’s point of view, is we have no more information about Shauna than they do, which is very, very little. We probably spent six minutes with the character over our whole series so far. So they have to make this incredibly difficult situation about whether to fight this — and fighting it, by the way, that’s a really messy process. It’s not like they can decide to keep Deja — they’d have to be brutal and lawyer up and really go after this woman. So based on such little information, they have to make this decision: Is going after Deja’s biological mother, after we’ve spent weeks with her and this woman has spent years with her, what’s actually best for this child? They don’t know if they’re making the right choice. They don’t have very much to go off of. But they go with the gut, and they decide that she has to go back with Shauna, and all they can do is hope that that’s the right call, and hope Shauna has done the growing and improving that she needs to do to be a good mother to Deja. But at the end of the day, they really are just hoping that they made the right choice.

As Linda says, this foster care business isn’t an exact science.

In their goodbye scene, Deja tells Randall, “I don’t want you to think that just because I want to go home that it doesn’t mean I don’t like living with you.” Even though he said, “I know that. You don’t have to worry about that” — and even though she calls him her foster dad during her science presentation — how important was it for him to hear her say that? Because it feels like he needed to hear that, even if he said he didn’t.
Of course. And the fact that Deja has the wisdom and wherewithal to know that this adult man needs to hear that from her, and that Lyric actually pulls that off without it feeling precocious is a testament to her. Her performance is so incredible in this episode. If you look back when she came in episode 3, she would barely speak, and she would flinch when Randall came into the room because she thought he was going to hit her. And now here we are in episode 10, where they’re able to hug and they have this insight into each other, where she can give this man exactly what he needs to hear about what this experience meant to her, and is willing to claim him publicly as her foster father. It’s so beautiful and just speaks to the baby steps and the really, really subtle moments that they’ve had together to get here.

There is closure in the driveway with that goodbye, but we’ll ask anyway: Is there possibly more to this story? Have we seen the last of Deja?
I can’t say whether we’ve seen the last of Deja. This could be it. She could be back. But we all do really love that girl [laughs], so there’s definitely a possibility that there’s more to this story to tell.

Randall tells Beth that they don’t have to go through the foster process again if they don’t want to, but she says that she does, even if it means losing a child all over again. We then catch a glimpse of the young boy who was having trouble going through the foster care system. What can you hint about this boy who seems to be coming into their life?
The end of this episode is very, very dark and heavy for most of our characters, but it’s our way of showing that out there in the universe, when you least expect it, there is that possibility and this hope and this other child that needs a home. And he might be the one that winds up with Beth and Randall for good.

How soon might this happen?
That’s more of a flash to what’s to come for them, so it’s not like next episode that kid’s going to show up, it’s a bit of a bigger picture for the season.

Randall’s kids have been rather drama-free, so it’s a bit startling when Tess tells Kevin that she hates this house. She seemed welcoming of Deja, and was sad when she left. Can you hint at why she is so unhappy? There’s been so much upheaval in the house this last year with the arrival of William and Deja. Is Randall’s attention too divided by the events of the last year?
That’s going to be something that we definitely explore more in the back half of the season. It’s exactly that. It’s part the attention, it’s part that she’s been living in this house, [and Randall], with the best of intentions, but still, has brought now two new family members into the home that she’s fallen in love with and have either passed away or ripped away from her very suddenly. That’s a lot for anyone — that’s especially a lot for a young girl to deal with, and I think it’s really trying for her. There’s a couple of moments where you see she’s really struggling with this, but it’s pretty slight in the episode. Because it goes to that greater idea for this whole trilogy, which Jack sums up at the end: When you have many kids, when you have many siblings, when you have many people in your life that you care about, and there’s a lot going on, it’s so easy to take your eye off the ball and become too wrapped up in what’s going on your own life, or in something else, and miss someone else in your life that you love who is really hurting. So Randall kind of misses what’s going on with Tess and she winds up hiding in the back of Kevin’s car, just as Jack takes Randall to look at the college and misses Kevin. Kevin is so wrapped up within the drugs and misses what’s going on with his sister. Everyone is missing what’s happening to the people right around them.

NEXT PAGE: Has Kevin bottomed out? And how close are we now to Jack’s death?

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