Spoiler alert: This episode contains spoilers from the This Is Us episode “The Most Disappointed Man in the World.”
This Is Us is making headlines, but not for its ongoing storyline about patriarch Jack Pearson’s untimely death. Some fans of the hit NBC drama are surprised over a line in the most recent episode, “The Most Disappointed Man in the World,” because it contained the N-word without censorship.
The line came as Jack and Rebecca (Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore) went to court to legally adopt their African-American son, Randall, just after the boy’s first birthday. In the 1981-set episode, a stern Judge Bradley (played by Delroy Lindo) refused to grant the Pearson parents permanent custody of the child, who was left abandoned at a fire station by his biological father, William. The judge stated that he felt the Pearsons were not suitable to raise the African-American child, telling them the baby they had been raising for a year “belongs with a black family.”
Later, when Jack and Rebecca dared to approach Judge Bradley outside of his chambers, the defiant judge explained his reasoning as to why baby Randall needed to be with a black family so he can “see who he is.”
“I never understood what my blackness meant until a white man called me a n—–,” the judge said. The judge added that his black father was able to talk him through the upsetting encounter “because he understood all the pain that word elicits.”
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, This Is Us executive producer Isaac Aptaker explained why the use of the N-word was important in the scene, pointing out that every scene in this episode painted the picture that transracial adoption was not a common thing in 1980 Pittsburgh. For the scene with Judge Bradley, Aptaker explained that it was important for Jack and Rebecca to hear the “ugliness” of the word so they could understand the importance of what was at stake for Randall.
“It felt like — talking about the reality of the situation — that [the judge] wouldn’t need to use a euphemism; he would probably just say the actual word to them,” Aptaker said. “And yes, conversely the impact would land on them much more if they heard him use the actual word.”
The This Is Us EP also revealed that NBC execs gave the go-ahead for the scene after “understanding the context that things are in, and not just in blindly following a set of standards and practices.”
“I think because of the way the word was used, and the importance of it in the scene and the story we were telling, they completely got what we were trying to do, and did not have a problem with it,” he said.
But after the N-word aired on the NBC drama without being censored, fans had a big (and mixed) reaction. You can see viewer reaction to the This Is Us scene below.
Several This Is Us cast members also shared their opinions on the surprising scene, as well as Jack and Rebecca’s quest to go through with the adoption. This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman even admitted he cried while watching the episode with the adult Randall, Sterling K. Brown.
While This Is Us viewers know that the Pearsons were ultimately granted an adoption for Randall, the young boy’s issues over the fact that no one in his family looks like him have been a recurring theme on the show. In addition, earlier this season, This Is Us matriarch Rebecca called out her own mother as racist for treating Randall differently than her white biological grandchildren, Kate and Kevin.
Take a look at the This Is Us scene below to see Jack and Rebecca’s final trip to the courthouse to adopt Randall.
This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.
[Featured Image by Ron Batzdorff/NBC]