Why Malik & Deja’s On ‘This Is Us’ Are The Show’s OTP This Season

Spoilers ahead for This Is Us Season 4, Episode 7. When Lyric Ross was cast as Deja on This Is Us, she was only slated for two or three episodes, according to Huffington Post. Now, she’s an integral part of the cast, and the Nov. 5 This Is Us episode gave Deja and Malik the beginnings of a great Pearson love story. The men in and around this family, from Jack to Kevin to Randall and Toby have always been ones for grand romantic gestures, and Deja got her own on Tuesday.

In the episode, Malik and Deja were riding the bus to school when he learned that Deja hadn’t really explored Philly yet. He said they should skip school and see his favorite places. Deja was unsure, but when Malik just smiled, shrugged, and refused to get off the bus at their stop, she agreed to go with him. Later, when she was upset that she didn’t have a community in Philly like Malik did, he introduced her to everyone at his favorite cheesesteak place so she could start to have that community too. All of his actions throughout the day will remind viewers of Jack wooing Rebecca, Randall refusing to give up on Beth in college, Kevin doing spontaneous things with his dates, and Toby showing up for Kate unexpectedly just to surprise her.

Deja’s young but she’s already had a really hard life. As she explained to Malik, she doesn’t know what real love is. "The men that my mom dated lied to her. I only know one man that doesn’t lie," she said, likely referencing Randall. But then she paused and added Malik to that list, saying, "And now maybe I know two." This storyline is giving Deja a chance to trust her heart and experience what it’s like when a partner is truly kind to you. And if your heart melted watching this cute romance, just know that everyone’s hearts behind the scenes were melting too.

Kay Oyegun, who wrote the episode script, told AP News that it was really important for her to show a positive love story between these two black characters. "You get this lovely romance between these two kids that we rarely see, that kind of space for young black kids that’s not surrounded by violence, that’s not surrounded by hardness or pain or tragedy," Oyegun said. "It’s really the simplicity of what it means to engage with someone you like, and in the most basic sense of the word."

Lyric Ross, who plays Deja, said in the aforementioned Huffington Post article that she was really excited to get a chance to show this type of love story too. "When we started auditioning for that part, all I saw was that Deja was going to have a boyfriend … But it’s so much more. This is a whole love story between two young black people," she said. "It is so rich and amazing. I cannot wait for you to see more of what’s to come with Deja. It’s fascinating."

The inspiration behind this episode, according to AP News, was the real life chemistry between actors Ross and Asante Blackk who play Deja and Malik. Ross said in the Huffington Post interview that it’s been a blast working with Blackk. "Asante is incredible. Like, he is so good it sometimes makes me mad," Ross said. "We would have these back-to-back scenes together and I would try to be doing my part ― you know, I want to do good, too! But he would just come out and just completely destroy me. It’s like, ‘Give me a break! I’m trying hard over here.’" She added, "He’s such a natural. So natural. And incredible to work with. He’s amazing at what he does."

Ahead of the episode, show creator Dan Fogelman told The Hollywood Reporter that he couldn’t wait for viewers to see Ross and Blackk on screen together. "I’m so excited about [the relationship] just purely watching these two [actors]. We can’t get enough of them," he said.

Blackk was made a series regular in early October, according to another THR report, so it seems like fans can expect plenty more romantic Maleja/Dejik moments to come.

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