This Is Us producers took a chance—and it paid off. After a series of episodes that focused on the life and death of main character Jack Pearson (Milo Ventimiglia), the penultimate Season 2 episode went in an entirely unexpected direction by detailing the backstory of Randall and Beth Pearson’s former foster child, Deja (Lyric Ross).
Because the main characters in the Pearson family are so beloved by This Is Us fans, the move was a risky one for NBC. But after the episode aired, This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman commended the network’s approval of the unconventional episode.
“Must acknowledge what NBC let us do last night,” the This Is Us executive producer shared on Twitter.
“Our 2nd-to-last episode of the season featured little of our superstar cast and instead told the important story of a little girl’s life. Anyone writing the obituary for network TV may want to put down their pen for a second.”
The Deja-centric This Is Us episode was heavily promoted by Fogelman and several This Is Us stars, including Sterling K. Brown, who plays Deja’s foster dad Randall Pearson on the hit drama series.
“Extremely proud of tonight’s Deja episode,” Fogelman wrote shortly before “This Big, Amazing, Beautiful Life” aired. “A star was born when young Lyric Ross joined our cast. That star becomes its own planet tonight.”
After all of the Jack Pearson death drama in recent weeks, the episode about Deja’s life before she met the Pearsons was a stark departure for the series. According to TV Line, “This Big, Amazing, Beautiful Life” attracted 8.8 million total viewers and a 2.2 demo rating. While that marks This Is Us’ second-lowest numbers ever, it is still a respectable showing and a victory for a production team that thinks outside the box.
The episode, which consisted of flashbacks of the life of Deja and her troubled mom, Shauna (Joy Brunson), was a hit with diehard This Is Us viewers. Many fans took to Twitter to praise 14-year-old Lyric Ross for acting skills that are beyond her years.
This is not the first time This Is Us devoted extra time to the backstory of a relatively minor character. In the first season of the show, the episode “The Big Day” focused on Dr. Nathan Katowski (Gerald McRaney) and the fireman, Joe (Brian Oblak), who found baby Randall on the fire station’s doorstep in 1980. In that episode, fans learned that Dr. K was still grieving the death of his wife, Caroline, while it was also revealed that the fireman considered adopting the abandoned baby as a way to save his marriage.
You can see a memorable scene from the This Is Us episode “This Big, Amazing Beautiful Life” below.