‘This Is Us’ Boss Debunks Wild Fan Theory About Teen Dad Malik

Asante Blackk's character will be a big part of Randall and Deja's story, but not in the way some fans think.

This Is Us actor Asante Blackk
Ron Barzdorff / NBC

Asante Blackk's character will be a big part of Randall and Deja's story, but not in the way some fans think.

This Is Us has a new cast of characters for Season 4 and viewers are trying to figure out how one new character, in particular, connects to the Pearson clan. Fans of the NBC drama have been quick to come up with theories, one of which has already been shot down by series creator Dan Fogelman.

In the Season 4 premiere episode, titled “Strangers,” Asante Blackk (When They See Us) made his debut as Malik, a teenage single dad to an infant daughter. While Malik’s parents Darnell (Omar Epps) and Kelly (Marsha Stephanie Blake) are supportive of his situation, Malik is already thinking about his daughter’s future, specifically how he will be able to afford to enroll her in a $10,000-a-year pre-k. Malik is considering a wide-range of actions, including dealing drugs, to be able to afford her education.

Last week, viewers saw Malik’s early tie-in to the Pearsons as he was introduced to Randall’s (Sterling K. Brown) daughter Deja (Lyric Ross) at a barbecue. After Deja remarked that she heard Malik makes a good burger, the teen dad said he would give it “everything he’s got” for her.

Sparks immediately flew between the two and there’s no doubt in fans’ minds they will become an item. Not only was Deja grinning from ear to ear when she returned home to her family’s new digs in Philadelphia, on the This Is Us Instagram page, the question of Malik and Deja’s “ship” name was already being discussed. (“Maja” and “Dejic” are early favorites.)

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So… what should their ship name be? #ThisIsUs

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Marie Claire posted a list of theories fans have about Malik. Some noticed the car at the garage he works at had a worn-looking “Vote for Pearson” bumper sticker on it. On social media, some thought that indicated that the scene at the garage took place a few years after Randall won the City Council election in Philadelphia.

In another theory posted on Twitter, some viewers think Deja is the mother to Malik’s son and that his scenes with the family take place after the fact.

While there’s still a lot to learn about Malik, in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Fogelman teased that Malik will play “a big part” in Randall’s family’s story and Deja’s story in particular.

The This Is Us creator also confirmed that Blackk’s character isn’t just some guy Deja meets once at a barbecue and that he was a father before he met Deja, putting that particular fan theory to rest.


Fogelman added that an upcoming episode will “combine the families” as it touches on socioeconomics, parenting, and even Randall’s origin story.

“The basic, simple fact of his daughter becoming interested in a young man who has a child and what that might do to Randall and Beth — and simultaneously painting a picture that hopefully shows something interesting about this young man and how he cares for his daughter and how supportive his family is and the type of God of Carnage-type of moment we’re building to all these great parental actors — it’s one of the things I’m most excited about for our series this season,” Fogelman said.

This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on NBC.