Table of Contents
- Who Plays Nicky on ‘This Is Us’? Griffin Dunne and Michael Angarano Portray Jack’s Brother Seamlessly
- Griffin Dunne plays present-day Nicky Pearson on ‘This Is Us’
- Michael Angarano plays young Nicky Pearson on ‘This Is Us’
- Why is Nicky played by two actors?
- Jack’s PTSD led him to cut Nicky out of his life.
- Jack is so livid about Nicky’s letter, he decides to confront him in person.
- Nicky got the young son of Jack’s Mystery Vietnamese Woman killed in the boat explosion.
- Nicky is heartbroken over Jack’s death.
- Kevin decides not to turn his back on Nicky.
- Rebecca is unraveling at the thought of Jack lying to her about his brother for years.
- ‘This Is Us’: The Real Reason Why Nicky Is Played by Two Actors
- This Is Us producers explain why two actors were needed to play Nicky
- Nicky Pearson
- ‘This Is Us’: Michael Angarano Talks Playing Two-Thirds of Nicky Pearson’s Story
- This Is Us’ Griffin Dunne Teases Nicky’s ‘Very Emotional’ Thanksgiving Reunion: He ‘Gets Closure’
- ‘This Is Us’ Upgrades Griffin Dunne to Series Regular for Season 4 — What Does This Mean for Nicky?
- Who Plays Older Nicky On ‘This Is Us’? Griffin Dunne Is No Stranger To Both The Big & Small Screen
EXCLUSIVE: Present-day Nicky is becoming a permanent member of the Pearson clan on NBC’s This Is Us. Griffin Dunne, who was introduced as an older version of Jack’s once-presumed-dead younger brother Nicky in one of Season 3’s biggest twists, has been upped to series regular for the series’ fourth season.
The expansion of contemporary Nicky Pearson’s presence on the show was hinted in the final seconds of the Season 3 finale when, in a flash-forward, Dunne was seen sitting at the bedside of elderly Rebecca (Mandy Moore). The theories about the character’s growing importance on the family drama were confirmed by tonight’s Season 4 premiere, which marked Dunne’s first as a series regular after recurring in Season 3. I’m not going to spoil the episode for those who have not seen it but Dunne’s Nicky is seen interacting with multiple This Is Us characters.
Courtesy of NBC
Created by Dan Fogelman, the multi-generational, multi-time-frame This Is Us stars Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore, Sterling K. Brown, Chrissy Metz, Justin Hartley, Chris Sullivan, Susan Kelechi Watson, Jon Huertas, Hannah Zeile, Niles Fitch, Logan Shroyer, Mackenzie Hancsicsak, Parker Bates, Faithe Herman, Eris Baker, Lyric Ross and Lonnie Chavis.
Fogelman and fellow co-showrunners Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger executive produce with John Requa, Glenn Ficarra, Ken Olin, Charlie Gogolak and Jess Rosenthal.
Dunne’s feature acting credits include David Michod’s satire War Machine, opposite Brad Pitt; Dallas Buyers Club, opposite Matthew McConaughey; Martin Scorsese’s After Hours and An American Werewolf in London. On TV, he starred in Jill Soloway’s I Love Dick, opposite Kevin Bacon and Kathryn Hahn, for Amazon and also appears in Goliath.
In 2017, the documentary Dunne directed and produced, Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold, about his “Aunt Joan,” premiered at the New York Film Festival followed by a global release by Netflix. He is repped by UTA and Industry Entertainment.
‘This Is Us’: Tim Matheson To Play Rebecca’s Father In Season 4 Of NBC Series
Who Plays Nicky on ‘This Is Us’? Griffin Dunne and Michael Angarano Portray Jack’s Brother Seamlessly
As a show that jumps around with time, This Is Us is known for transforming their actors to fit the past, present, or future-day appearance of their characters. However, it seems Nicky Pearson — aka Jack’s (Milo Ventimiglia) brother, Uncle Nicky — is portrayed by two actors instead of making use of the makeup department. Luckily, Griffin Dunne and Michael Angarano, who respectively play the older and younger Nicky, are both seasoned actors who understand how to characterize the Pearson brother with ease.
Griffin Dunne plays present-day Nicky Pearson on ‘This Is Us’
Griffin Dunne as Nicky on ‘This Is Us’ | Ron Batzdorff/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images
According to Deadline, Dunne was upped to a series regular in This Is Us Season 4 as present-day Nicky. However, the NBC series isn’t the first high profile project the 64-year-old actor has been part of.
Per Dunne’s IMDb profile, Nicky’s real-life alter ego has been in the entertainment business since 1975. And you may recognize him from After Hours as Paul Hackett, An American Werewolf in London as Jack Goodman, and Dallas Buyers Club as Dr. Vass. Then more recently, Dunne starred as Marco Pelios in House of Lies, Sylvere in I Love Dick, and Gene in Goliath.
Michael Angarano plays young Nicky Pearson on ‘This Is Us’
Michael Angarano as Nicky, Milo Ventimiglia as Jack Pearson in ‘This Is Us’ | Ron Batzdorff/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images
Meanwhile, the younger version of Nicky is portrayed by Angarano. Unfortunately, he wasn’t upped series regular status like Dunne. However, the 31-year-old actor will be making an appearance in This Is Us Season 4.
When discussing his directorial debut for the fourth episode, titled “Storybook Love,” Ventimiglia revealed Angarano will return as young Nicky. However, Ventimiglia didn’t specify exactly when Angarano will be back in the fourth season. Nevertheless, it’s still possible fans will see the actor on other projects soon.
According to Angarano’s IMDb profile, the actor is currently working on a comedy pilot called To Whom It May Concern. Fans may also recognize him as Will Stronghold in Sky High or Jason Tripitikas in The Forbidden Kingdom. He has also appeared in I’m Dying Up Here as Eddie Zeidel and Will & Grace as Elliot.
Why is Nicky played by two actors?
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As you may remember, Nicky was first introduced in This Is Us Season 3. And following the episode, showrunner Dan Fogelman explained why two actors play Nicky on the NBC drama.
“Nicky’s character isn’t really ever interacting with the same batch of characters; it’s two different worlds,” Fogelman told Variety. “When he’s younger he’s only with Jack, he never knew the family. When he’s older Jack’s not alive anymore.”
The show’s creator then shared they approached Nicky’s character similarly to William. The character is played by both Jermel Nakia and Ron Cephas Jones. “And also Michael is just so inherently boyish and so much time has passed,” Fogelman added.
Then in a separate interview with Variety, Angaran touched on the benefit of using two actors for Nicky on This Is Us.
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“I think it benefits the show and the part to have an older actor playing the older version of Nicky,” he told the publication. “You’re playing a man who’s seen a lot, who’s lived a really hard life, and I think it’s really appropriate to have an actor with the appropriate amount of life experience to play the part.”
Regardless, it seems the This Is Us crew chose the perfect pair to play Nicky. As it turns out, Dunne played Angarano’s father in 2007’s Snow Angels. And as they say, it was a twist of fate.
“It was kind of a thing where even both of us texted each other afterward saying, ‘God we kind of reminded each other of each other,’” Dunne said. “It was what we’d hoped would happen, but we didn’t really have a moment to plan it.”
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This is Us loves its road trips, and this week served up a two-for-one whopper. As the Big Three drives six hours to see their resurrected Uncle Nicky, we also go back in time, to an equally prickly visit between Nicky and Jack. Everything goes sideways.
Here’s how it all hit the fan in this week’s pearl-clutching episode.
Jack’s PTSD led him to cut Nicky out of his life.
I always thought it was a long shot theory, but the notion that Nicky didn’t die after all, and Jack purposely disconnected from him after the war, did cross my mind. We’ve never fully explored the extent of Jack’s PTSD on the show, but it apparently runs deep: He cut out everything from his pre-Rebecca life after Vietnam. Nicky constantly wrote Jack letters—not just the postcard Kevin found buried in one of his old boxes last week. Every time Jack received one, usually mailed to his job, he filed it away like he did every other symbol of his past. That is, until he received one piece of correspondence delivered right to the Pearson’s home address.
Jack is so livid about Nicky’s letter, he decides to confront him in person.
At first, it seems like Jack might finally be ready to face his issues with Nicky for the first time since Vietnam. But actually, he just wants to take the six-hour drive to Bradford, Pennsylvania (he tells Rebecca he’s going on a work trip) so he can diss Nicky in person and tell him not to write him anymore.
But Nicky, still chain-smoking and drinking, now living in a rundown trailer, brushes off Jack’s cold shoulder and invites him inside for some hot chocolate. Jack reluctantly goes inside and they bypass the small chat despite years of not speaking. Jack reiterates that he’s moved on with his life and shows Nicky a photo of Rebecca and the kids, as if to say, “I’ve got a new life now and you no longer matter to me.” It’s harsh, but it’s what Jack thinks he needs to do to make peace with himself and the brothers’ relationship. At the same time, he’s been lying to his family about Nicky being alive, hence robbing them of a relationship with him. Jack also doesn’t give Nicky chance to make peace with their relationship and everything that happened between them in Vietnam. Jack shrugs off Nicky’s own PTSD and refuses to hear a vital piece of information that could actually shift things between the brothers.
Catch Up on This Is Us hulu.com $5.99
Nicky got the young son of Jack’s Mystery Vietnamese Woman killed in the boat explosion.
Remember how we initially thought Nicky died in the boat explosion in Vietnam? What we didn’t know is that the son of Jack’s Mystery Woman was in the boat with him. (Sidebar: It is way past time that these two characters should have names.)
In a war flashback we see Nicky waking up from a nap to find the little boy standing next to him with a big smile on his face—the same little boy who needed medical help, whom Nicky turned his back on, in an earlier episode. This time, Nicky warms up to the little boy, even letting him wear his eyeglasses, and invites him out of the boat. The two seem to be getting along and start playing with spare grenades—a really, really, REALLY bad idea, of course. The boy drops one of the grenades on the floor of the boat, and they suddenly have five seconds to vacate before it goes off. Nicky tries to warn the boy about it, but he doesn’t understand and just stands there. Nicky decides to save himself and jumps into the water just as the boat explodes. That’s when Jack and the rest of the troops run toward the boat to save Nicky, and Jack sees what happened to the little boy. He immediately blames his brother.
Before Jack can really rip into him, Nicky is helicoptered away from the scene, leaving the Mystery Woman completely inconsolable. In the midst of this story of two brothers, this Vietnamese woman is inconsolably screaming as she realizes what happened to her child because of Nicky’s actions. This juxtaposition is bothersome. It’s shown in a flash and only to elevate the stakes of Jack and Nicky’s relationship. I really hope this narrative ultimately leads to more illumination about this woman and her relationship with Jack.
Nicky is heartbroken over Jack’s death.
It’s been more than two decades since Jack’s death, but for Nicky, he just died today. Nicky never got to tell his brother that the young boy’s death was an accident. The animosity Jack had for Nicky was built on false information, and he took it to the grave. Kate, Randall, and Kevin still want to ask Nicky more questions, but once they tell him about his death, he’s visibly upset and asks them to leave.
Kevin decides not to turn his back on Nicky.
After Nicky dismisses them, Kate, Randall, and Kevin drive home thinking about how they got to this moment. But for Kevin, who literally traveled the world to get to Nicky’s trailer in his own state, meeting his uncle is monumental on his journey to get closer to his father. It’s also part of his therapy: Making amends with his past and not repeating his father’s mistakes. Instead of turning his back on Nicky, Kevin makes a U-turn. He finds his uncle sitting with a gun in front of him. Randall gently pushes it away. Can Kevin help Nicky find his way back into the Pearson family? Will that be the closure he’s looking for? I’m also curious whether his presence could help illuminate some of Jack’s mysteries for Rebecca, who deserves it.
Rebecca is unraveling at the thought of Jack lying to her about his brother for years.
After she sees off Kate, Randall, and Kevin on their road trip, Rebecca begins to realize just how much Jack hid from her—despite her encouragement that he open up. In another flashback, we see Jack return from his trip to Nicky’s and tell Rebecca he was actually visiting a fellow vet with PTSD. Rebecca asks if his visit helped him, but he says, “a little” and that he’s not sure. She suggests outside help but he quickly changes the subject, the subtle pivot signifying that this is not up for discussion. Now in the present, Rebecca tells Miguel that she feels she could have done more. This is a great moment in the series—it touches on how Jack’s PTSD affected the woman he viewed as the cure for his past and its pain.
However, the moment is between Rebecca and Miguel, and he tries to comfort her. He tells her she could only know so much, and even as Jack’s best friend, he didn’t know him as well as he thought he did. (Ok, Miguel, but Jack probably couldn’t have foreseen you marrying his wife, so you were clearly a mystery to him as well.) As for Rebecca, something tells me that Jack’s “work trip” wasn’t the only thing he hid from her. I wonder whether this will incite her to reflect on other similar moments, and whether we’ll learn if she sought counseling to learn how to handle it. There’s more to her story here, and there’s some foreshadowing when she tells Miguel that she wants to know the truth. What else will she find out?
Beth has FIVE interviews! It’s really nice to see her get back out there.
Rebecca’s lie about William continues to haunt Randall as he reflects on Nicky. We haven’t heard about this since last season, but in this episode, Randall says he’s less bothered by the fact that Jack lied about Nicky after learning that Rebecca lied to him about his biological father. The bar for expecting the truth from his parents has really fallen.
Candice Frederick Contributor Candice Frederick is a freelance TV/film critic living in New York City.
‘This Is Us’: The Real Reason Why Nicky Is Played by Two Actors
This Is Us has wowed audiences with its ability to transcend time to tell the Pearson family story.
Jack’s (Milo Ventimiglia) younger brother Nicky was first introduced as a little boy, played by Donnie Masihi, during the show’s second season in a flashback sequence. And in Season 3, the series cast I’m Dying Up Here star Michael Angarano as the young adult version of Nicky Pearson, whom viewers, along with Jack’s family, believed died in Vietnam.
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Of course, we now know Nicky survived the war and went on to live out his days in a dingy trailer. But when we were introduced to 70-year-old Nicky, it quickly became apparent that it wasn’t Angarano aged-up through the magic of makeup.
Griffin Dunne, an entirely new actor, made his debut as Uncle Nicky in “Songbird Road: Part One,” which was a change from how the show typically handles characters aging — via old-age makeup and prosthetics, as done with Rebecca (Mandy Moore), Miguel (Jon Huertas), Randall (Sterling K. Brown), and more.
The show’s executive producer Issac Aptaker explained to Entertainment Weekly it wasn’t a personal decision, but rather a visual decision when it came to casting Dunne as present-day Nicky.
Mandy Moore as Rebecca in the past and present
“Mandy is such a chameleon. We’re always amazed with what our hair and makeup department are able to do with her,” he remarked about the actress, who plays Rebecca at ages 20-something through 60-something. “Michael is an incredible actor, and I thought he gave an amazing performance when he’s playing Nicky in his 40s. But at a certain point, he has such a baby face, it just breaks, and hair and makeup can only do so much.”
For authenticity reasons, Aptaker explained, “We didn’t want it to feel like kids playing old characters in a high school play.”
‘This Is Us’: 6 Takeaways From the ‘Songbird Road: Part Two’ Promo (VIDEO)
The 30 second teaser is jam-packed with hints.
In many ways, this is the opposite of Ron Cephas Jones’ role as Randall’s birth father William, as the make-up department couldn’t reverse-age the actor. Instead, they had to hire Jermel Nakia to play the younger version of the character. But apart from William and Nicky, all of the adult actors portray their characters into old age, as well.
Despite the need to cast an older actor to play older Nicky, fellow EP Elizabeth Berger said it couldn’t have worked out better, as Dunne and Angarano look so similar.
“There was no one way to go with this,” she said, “but as we were talking about it, we did come up with Griffin Dunne as a match for Michael and we all got really excited, because they have these similar mannerisms and there’s this kind of uncanny resemblance. It just seemed to make sense to us.”
This Is Us, Season 3 Returns, Tuesday, February 12, 9/8c, NBC
Warning: Spoiler alert: Do not proceed if you have not watched Tuesday’s episode of This Is Us.
Why did Jack Pearson lie about Nicky?
On Tuesday’s episode, titled “Songbird Road Part 1,” the Big Three took a sibling road trip to Bradford, Pennsylvania, with the intention of getting answers to that looming question and the slim chance of meeting their long-lost uncle, Nicky, for the very first time. They were successful in coming face to face with their late father’s younger brother, who — they recently learned — didn’t actually die in the Vietnam War like their dad had said and like audiences had previously been led to believe. What they came to discover was that Nicky, now in his 70s (played by Griffin Dunne), was living in misery over his past.
“The actual storyline is something that nobody guessed,” Michael Angarano, who plays younger Nicky, told ET’s Keltie Knight on Tuesday. “They were really good at making you think the worst, but it’s actually something completely different that’s equally as terrible — but not anything anybody thought it was going to be.”
Up until this point, viewers were aware that something traumatic had happened between the Pearson brothers in Vietnam that strained their brotherhood for good. It was in Tuesday’s hour where the what of it all was finally answered. The fall finale hinted at a potential fatality following a boat explosion, and it’s revealed that it wasn’t Nicky who perished, but an innocent Vietnamese boy who died after Nicky accidentally let a grenade slip under the boat. Keyword: accidentally. Nicky’s constant screw-ups (see: his drug problems) led Jack to jump to the conclusion that he was at fault for the boy’s death and, worse yet, that he may have had the intention of doing harm.
“The first conversation I had with Isaac , he told me that I take a young Vietnamese boy grande fishing. It’s a real thing that they did,” Angarano said, explaining that war vet Tim O’Brien, co-writer of the episode, experienced a similar situation when he was in Vietnam. “When I heard that that’s what happened, I thought, I don’t know how we ever are gonna come back from that. I really don’t. I don’t know that does.”
“All of the stuff we shot between Milo and I and the young boy — all the stuff in the Vietnamese village — was really intense. It didn’t feel like we were making This Is Us, it felt like we were shooting something different. It felt like a war movie starring Milo Ventimiglia,” the In the Relationship star added.
In the immediate aftermath of the explosion, Jack sought answers from Nicky, yelling with a fury, “What did you do?!,” “He was just a kid!,” “I’m done, I’m done….” As a result, Nicky was shipped off for psychiatric reasons and eventually discharged as a medic. Years passed, with Nicky sending the occasional postcard from the state he was temporarily calling home to Jack’s office, until he sent his final one — the same one Kevin discovered decades later — to Jack’s home in 1992. That prompted Jack to pay Nicky a visit for the first time since Vietnam.
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“There’s a moral line in Jack’s heart that he’s always lived by and this just crosses that line. When he got there, he saw Nicky was having a really hard time and Nicky’s own struggles and demons were challenging for Jack because Jack is somebody who, if he can’t help you that’s a reflection of his inability to help you,” Angarano said. “So he felt really helpless with Nicky, but when it crosses that line and it involves a young boy’s life, I think that was it for Jack.”
The 31-year-old actor shed light on why he believed Nicky wasn’t more matter-of-fact with Jack when he dropped by in ’92 — that the whole thing was an accident. “I think there’s a part of him that thinks even though he didn’t intend to kill that boy, it was his fault,” Angarano said, adding that he didn’t think it would have made a difference if Jack knew the boy’s death wasn’t meant to happen. “I think Jack is more disappointed in the fact that Nicky allowed that to happen, accident or not an accident.” So much so that Jack, presented with a literal fork in the road, decided to keep Vietnam behind him and move forward with his life, choosing to head home to his family in Pittsburgh and cut all ties to Nicky in Bradford.
For Nicky and Jack’s pivotal reunion scene in the trailer, Angarano experienced This Is Us’ aging-up makeup process for the first time, playing Nicky in his 40s. From the outset, you could cut the tension with a knife. “That was really interesting,” he recalled. “Milo does something so subtle and so small that is yet powerful. You really feel the difference between older Jack and younger Jack, and he doesn’t have a ton of makeup on. There’s not a ton that he does, but it’s how he holds himself, it’s how he speaks.”
Angarano also reflected on sharing the role with Dunne, who he’s worked with before on 2007’s Snow Angels, when they played father and son.
“I knew Griffin Dunne was playing older Nicky and I’ve worked with Griffin before. He actually played my father in a movie before,” he said. “Part of me was trying to bridge that gap to Griffin Dunne while also keeping in mind the last 20 years of Nicky’s life that we don’t know what’s happened since he got back from the war…”
“We overlapped one day but we weren’t able to meet or get together or speak before then, but we met after. It was funny because Milo and a couple of the other people on set came over to me and they were like, ‘You and Griffin are doing something really similar, it’s great, like, did you guys get together? And I was like, I haven’t seen Griffin in 10 years!’ Everybody thought either Griffin had gotten some footage or I had gotten some footage, but it was just… I think it was a testament to how good the writing is that the character of Nicky was so clear and so thoroughly well-written.”
“When I knew what they wanted to do with Nicky and the Vietnam storyline, I thought that sounded really ambitious,” he admitted. “I was admittedly a little skeptical. But then I read the script and I thought, This is one of the best scripts I’ve read in my life, film or television.”
In November, Ventimiglia told ET that the Nicky twist was “very This Is Us.” “Our show doesn’t quite operate the same and we do have our family mysteries and history to discover, so I thought it fit very much with how the show usually works and at the same time, it asks so many questions of Jack,” he said at the time. “I think people at this point are really looking forward to knowing what happened.”
A month earlier, creator Dan Fogelman promised that the resolution to Jack and Nicky’s strained relationship would come to fruition sooner rather than later.
“It’s a big story. It’s surprising. It’s fair to say that clearly, something broke in Vietnam for Jack as it relates to his brother, and I think people will be satisfied with what we’re doing there even if they don’t always like it,” Fogelman told ET in October. “It takes place in a compressed period of time that was a defining period of time for Jack as it relates to his brother. I think it would be borderline impossible to guess where it’s going because it’s very specific.”
“It’s comparable to some of our biggest stuff in that it’s going to feel really massive, in terms of what it does to Jack,” he said then. “Jack buried a portion of his life when he came back from the war. What we’re going to explore this season is what he buried.”
This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.
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Happy New Year everyone! We are one week away from finding out what has been going on with the Pearsons since the shocking cliffhanger during the mid-season finale. If you are not caught up, there will be spoilers so make sure you watch the latest episode! The new one will air on Jan. 15 and we’re already cooking up theories about THAT reveal!
As seen in the episode “The End is the Beginning is the End,” Kevin discovered in Vietnam that his uncle actually did not die in the war as previously believed. While he himself doesn’t know what happened to Nicky, the episode does show viewers an older Nicky living in Pennsylvania!
We have so many questions in regards to this development. One question at the top of the list is whether Jack knew his brother was alive?
Now, if you look back at old episodes, it would appear that Jack was under the belief his brother died. He told his young sons about losing his brother and he told Rebecca that it was hard to talk about his life in Vietnam. So it would make sense that suffering that kind of loss would impact him enough not to speak of it.
However, with this show, there are so many twists and turns that one has to look at it differently as well. Perhaps it was eating away at him deep down not being able to talk about where his brother was. Jack always looked out for his little brother. So could it have been harder than expected to let him go if he, in fact, knew Nicky was living?
Refinery29 pointed out the possibility of there being clues that Jack knew what happened to Nicky! They certainly did give us another thing to think about, especially that moving scene with Randall at the Vietnam Wall. He never did point out Nicky’s name, did he? So what happened?
We’re looking forward to seeing where Nicky has been this whole time! What did Jack know? How will Randall and Kate react to the news? If and when there is a reunion, how will that go? What are your thoughts about what has been going on with Nicky? Comment down below or find us on social media to discuss the show! This Is Us returns Jan. 15 and we will have a recap up for you shortly afterwards!
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This Is Us producers explain why two actors were needed to play Nicky
Ron Batzdorff/NBC; NBC type
- TV Show
Season 3 of This Is Us has focused on the other Pearson man whose death was surrounded in mystery.
Seen last season only in a photo, Jack’s little brother, Nicky — played by Michael Angarano (Will & Grace, I’m Dying Up Here) — was officially introduced to viewers early in season 3, and they watched him fearfully (and accurately) predict that he would be drafted, and subsequently saw him be destroyed by the Vietnam War as he experienced a disturbing breakdown and fell victim to addiction while serving as a medic. The fall finale ended with an enormous twist: Nicky was revealed to be alive after all, living in a trailer in Bradford, Pennsylvania. In the brief glimpse at current-day Nicky, though, the character was played by Griffin Dunne (An American Werewolf in London, Dallas Buyers Club). Last week’s episode of the NBC family drama featured two visits to Nicky’s sad trailer, one in the early 90s, and one in present day, with Angarano as fortysomething Nicky in the earlier period, and Dunne as Nicky in present day.
How did the producers arrive at the decision to have two actors — the 31-year-old Angarano and 63-year-old Dunne — assume the role of adult Nicky? After all, this is a show that hops decades and its actors play different ages of their characters (minus the child versions). Mandy Moore, 34, stars as young Rebecca as well as present-day Rebecca, who is in her late 60s, and she will play an eightysomething Rebecca in those flash-forwards set two decades into the future. (Yes, two actors play adult William, but it would have strained credibility to have 62-year-old Ron Cephas Jones play twentysomething William, so Jermel Nakia was brought in to tackle that era.) Which leads us back to the question: Was it simply too much of a stretch to have the youthful-looking Angarano play Nicky at age 70? “Exactly,” This Is Us executive producer Issac Aptaker tells EW. “Mandy is such a chameleon. We’re always amazed with what our hair and makeup department are able to do with her. Michael is an incredible actor, and I thought he gave an amazing performance when he’s playing Nicky in his 40s. But at a certain point, he has such a baby face, it just breaks, and hair and makeup can only do so much. We didn’t want it to feel like kids playing old characters in a high school play.”
The show’s producers believed that the only solution was to cast an older actor for those scenes, and TIU‘s casting department suggested Dunne, who, by the way, had even played Angarano’s father in the 2007 film Snow Angels.) “We were looking for someone who (a) had the chops and (b) felt like they could play an older Michael,” says Aptaker. “Once they said the name , we were like, ‘Let’s look at them side by side, because that’s the only way you can know.’ We saw it, and we were like, ‘Oh my god! Yeah! Amazing!’ And we all love him. He’s had such an amazing career, we’ve all loved him in so many things that we were just excited he was willing to come out to California and do it.”
“There was no one way to go with this,” seconds TIU executive producer Elizabeth Berger, “but as we were talking about it, we did come up with Griffin Dunne as a match for Michael and we all got really excited, because they have these similar mannerisms and there’s this kind of uncanny resemblance. It just seemed to make sense to us.”
How much more of both Angarano and Dunne can you expect to see in the role in the near future? TIU‘s next episode resumes the story where it left off, in the present day, with Kevin (Justin Hartley) and his siblings try to help Dunne’s Nicky, and Rebecca seeks more answers about her late husband. But don’t hold your breath for another Angarano appearance in the final batch of episodes this season. “Michael is done with Nicky for the season,” says Aptaker. “We’re not going back to young Nicky. We’re going to play out this present-day Nicky story, and I don’t want to give away exactly how much. There’s more to Nicky than just this. There’s a bigger plan for Nicky.” Adds Berger cryptically: “There’s a larger plan.”
For more from Aptaker and Berger on Jack’s haunting decision to cut off ties with Nicky, head over here.
This Is Us returns Feb. 5.
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NBC’s beloved era-hopping drama tells the story of the Pearson family through the years.
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Nicholas “Nick” or “Nicky” Pearson (born 18 October 1948) is the younger brother of Jack Pearson.
He is portrayed by Michael Angarano.
Nicky was born on October 18th 1948 at 11:58pm, weighing 7.2lbs. His mother was Marilyn Pearson and his father was Stanley Pearson.
This character is…
Nicky is Jack’s younger brother. Jack protects Nicky from their father as he sees it as his duty as the older brother to look out for Nicky. They are both very close because of this.
Nicky is Kevin’s uncle.
This character appears in these episodes…
“Jesus Christ. You know it was just a nickname, man. You’re not Superman. It’s just a stupid nickname.” – Nicky to Jack in Sometimes.
“I wasn’t broken. I was sick and when you’re sick, you’ve got to let the people who care about you help you.”- Nicky to judge in Sorry.
- His birthday, October 18, was the fifth picked in the draft.
- He was charged with an Article 15 during his time in Vietnam – “reckless endangerment to myself and to my fellow soldiers”.
‘This Is Us’: Michael Angarano Talks Playing Two-Thirds of Nicky Pearson’s Story
Michael Angarano is in a unique position on “This Is Us.” Although his character, Nicky Pearson, is one of the adult characters on the show — and one of the ones who is alive in the multiple time periods the series covers — he does not portray the role at every age. Instead, Griffin Dunne portrays the present-day Nicky, in a move that Angarano feels was “really, really right.”
“I think it benefits the show and the part to have an older actor playing the older version of Nicky. You’re playing a man who’s seen a lot, who’s lived a really hard life, and I think it’s really appropriate to have an actor with the appropriate amount of life experience to play the part,” he tells Variety.
After hearing of the role, Angarano got on a call with series co-showrunner Isaac Aptaker, he says, who laid out Nicky’s storyline and how it would play out over the third season episodes, as well as the various time periods. But, Angarano says, he assumed he would only play the youngest version of Nicky, when he was drafted into and then served in the Vietnam War.
“I thought it was one extreme or the other,” he says. “The sidenote was there was potential that I would go through a makeup process to see if I could play an older version, but they were going to look for an older actor — and most likely choose the older actor.”
The show did that with Dunne, an actor with whom Angarano had actually worked before. (“He played my father in a film called ‘Snow Angels,’ which was years ago,” Angarano points out.) Angarano never ended up going through the full old-age makeup test, noting it was only a possibility if they couldn’t find anybody to take on the older version of the character.
However, there was still some middle ground in the form of Nicky in his 40s, post-Vietnam, living in a trailer and sending his brother Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) postcards as attempts to reconnect. This version of the character was introduced in the Jan. 22 episode “Songbird Road Part One,” and Angarano ended up undergoing minor aging, in addition to beard work, to portray him.
“I think it’s one of the most difficult things to accomplish: to age somebody convincingly,” Angarano says, “and this show does it so well.”
It was Ventimiglia, Angarano says, who tipped him off that they would be playing opposite each other in this way, when Angarano originally assumed Dunne would be in the scenes. It was also Ventimiglia who Angarano “took the most from” when it came to how to carry the younger Pearson in his later years.
“Milo doesn’t do a lot physically, and what he does is subtle, but you feel a big difference from him when he’s younger on the show to when he’s in his 40s or 50s. I think there’s a stillness and a sort of ownership of your voice and your physicality. It’s small, but I think the second you start hobbling around as if you have a bad back or something’s ailing you, that’s when it starts to feel inauthentic,” he says.
Because Jack kept the truth about his time, as well as his brother’s fate, in the war a secret from his family, the only “” regular with whom Angarano shared scenes was Ventimiglia. In fact, he shares, he didn’t even meet some of the other Pearsons until he was almost finished shooting. “I think it was my second to last day of shooting where I was on the Paramount lot and I see Sterling walk across the basecamp, and I was like, ‘Oh my God, that’s Sterling, I finally feel like I’m on “This Is Us”!’” he says.
But he believes being able to “work with Milo so intimately have that estrangement from the rest of it…really helped the story and our performances.”
Nicky was a reluctant soldier — one who began using pills to cope with the horrors he witnessed in Vietnam. His big brother enlisted as a way to keep an eye on him, managing to bring him into his platoon for a short stay to try to get him into fighting shape. During that time, though, Nicky took a local boy fishing, using grenades to kill and catch the fish, and an accident with one of the grenades caused the boat — and the boy — to explode while Nicky dove to safety. His older brother never learned exactly what happened on that boat, instead cutting off contact with his brother for years until Nicky sent a postcard to Jack’s house. Jack didn’t want his family to find out his brother was alive, so he visited him but basically just reiterated what was said in Vietnam: that he was done.
“Not only does he have to deal with the death of this young Vietnamese boy, but now he also has to deal with the judgement of his older brother and dealing with the love that he’s not getting from his older brother anymore,” Angarano says. “Once Nicky realizes that Jack doesn’t want to offer him that forgiveness, it’s similar to how he felt when Jack first came to Vietnam: that his presence is actually going to hurt him more.”
Angarano says he and Ventimiglia shot a few different versions of Nicky and Jack’s trailer reunion, some in which they “yelled at each other — where the characters got more upset, more emotional.” But in the end he was glad to see what made the final cut were the “quieter” versions.
“So much of the emotion is what is not said,” Angarano says. “What feeling is a lot of regret and shame and guilt, and that is something he carries with him his whole life.”
Exactly who Nicky had in his life post-Vietnam remains a mystery — something that Angarano would be interested to explore in the future, in part because of “what the culture was like and how unwelcoming it was to Vietnam vets.” But the actor would also be interested to further explore younger Nicky’s time before Vietnam more fully — “what his relationship was like with Jack before all of this, when they were just two young men and probably really happy and had a lot of love for each other.”
“The war changed Nicky, and part of what happened in the war was the disintegration of his relationship with his brother,” Angarano says. “And it’s sad because Nicky’s version, it doesn’t seem like he had something to cling on to give him that relief that Jack has in Rebecca and the rest of his family.”
“This Is Us” airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on NBC.
This Is Us’ Griffin Dunne Teases Nicky’s ‘Very Emotional’ Thanksgiving Reunion: He ‘Gets Closure’
From being a stubborn grouch to having a new lease on life, Nicky Pearson appears to have made a 180 on This Is Us.
In the latest episode, titled “Sorry,” Uncle Nicky (Griffin Dunne) faced his day in court after throwing a chair at a window in an act of frustration. Though he proved to Kevin (Justin Hartley), Cassidy (Jennifer Morrison) and the judge that he is a changed man, the roles reversed as Kevin became the one in need of saving after he slept with Cassidy and believed he was a “human wrecking ball.”
While Nicky and Cassidy seemingly found their happy endings, Dunne, 64, tells PEOPLE that there are “very emotional” moments ahead as Nicky and Kevin head to Philadelphia for Thanksgiving with the rest of the Pearson family.
“It ends up where they both kind of saved each other. I don’t think that’s something that Nicky had ever done before of having that kind of care about somebody else. Not since he got back from Vietnam did he invest actual feelings in another person,” the actor explains of Nicky and Kevin’s time together in Bradford. “Nicky’s a cranky old guy who, in this very episode, realizes how much he cares for Kevin and how difficult, yet how grateful, he was to accept that he needed help. That’s sort of like turning point.”
RELATED: This Is Us‘ Justin Hartley Breaks Down Kevin’s ‘Impulsive, Sometimes Catastrophic Decisions’
Image zoom Ron Batzdorff/NBC
Going forward, Nicky presumably will be focusing on his sobriety and relationship with his nephew. And this fresh start may be reflected starting at the Thanksgiving gathering in the mid-season finale.
“One of the things that Nicky is most struck with is one of the things he comes to terms with: a sea change happens in him from being so angry that his brother Jack told everybody he was dead. He was just ignored by Jack,” Dunne foreshadows. “It brings it home to go to a family that didn’t know you existed and see all their family portraits and see there’s nothing of you. And it’s as if you were invisible all these years.”
The actor adds, “He comes to terms with really understanding why Jack did that, taking responsibility for his brother doing that and kind of grateful that he’s got a family. There really is a family out there for him, which he will see on Thanksgiving.”
Image zoom Ron Batzdorff/NBC
Nicky won’t be the only new face on Thanksgiving. Randall’s daughter Deja, who was adopted, has invited her biological mother Shauna to the dinner. “I think all Thanksgivings for a family has this element of awkwardness to it,” Dunne jokes. However, Nicky “gets closure and comes to terms with why his brother portrayed him as being invisible, dead and forgotten. How that comes about is very emotional and beautifully written,” according to the star.
Also during Tuesday’s episode, Dunne shared the screen with Milo Ventimiglia’s Jack when Kevin starts to see his late dad in his uncle. “It’s such a complicated thing where you have a nephew who misses his father from a very young age now looking to his uncle as a fatherly figure when it’s his own brother that told him he was dead,” the actor explains. “It’s all a big complicated emotional mess, which Dan Fogelman specializes in.”
Though Ventimiglia’s character is dead in the present day, Dunne says Jack will be everpresent, especially in Nicky’s relationship with an aging Rebecca (Mandy Moore). “Jack took great care of us both when he was alive, when Nicky was a little boy and he was an older brother. So Rebecca and Nicky definitely share something, someone that we both miss very much,” he says.
RELATED: This Is Us‘ Chrissy Metz and Chris Sullivan Hint at ‘Secrets’ Affecting Kate and Toby’s Marriage
Image zoom Ron Batzdorff/NBC
Dunne also teases a reference from the season 3 finale’s flashforward, in which fans saw Nicky with Rebecca in hospice.
“I think Nicky ended up at that bedside presumably because Rebecca and Nicky grow very close,” he says. “I’m not quite sure how Nicky got there to that bedside. I know a little bit, but I gather that it starts with that Thanksgiving and it going well enough for him to allow himself to be part of this new family.”
This Is Us airs Tuesdays (9 p.m. ET) on NBC.
‘This Is Us’ Upgrades Griffin Dunne to Series Regular for Season 4 — What Does This Mean for Nicky?
This Is Us is spreading the Season 4 love as Griffin Dunne goes from recurring guest star to series regular.
The actor, who portrays the present-day version of Nicky Pearson, made his first appearance in Season 3 and will be sticking around, according to Deadline. As fans will remember, Nicky was present during the Season 3 finale flash-forward suggesting his deeper involvement with brother Jack’s (Milo Ventimiglia) family.
As if to tip viewers off when it comes to his new status, Dunne returned for the Season 4 premiere episode, “Strangers.” The episode featured a slew of new faces among which Dunne crossed paths with Jennifer Morrison’s Cassidy Sharp — also a struggling military veteran.
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Among the cast of regulars Dunne joins Mandy Moore, Ventimiglia, Sterling K. Brown, Chrissy Metz, Justin Hartley, Susan Kelechi Watson, Chris Sullivan, Jon Huertas, Hannah Zeile, Niles Fitch, Logan Shroyer, Mackenzie Hancsicsak, Parker Bates, Lonnie Chavis, Lyric Ross, Eris Baker and Faithe Herman.
In his Season 4 premiere appearance, Nicky made a ruckus at a veteran support group session where Cassidy was sharing her struggles. We later see Kevin (Hartley) take a call and report to the rest of the Pearsons that Nicky has been arrested.
(Credit: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)
Fans will have to wait and see where his story goes as Season 4 progresses, but as we all saw in the Season 3 finale and in this news about his new status, Dunne isn’t going anywhere.
Considering his involvement in their future based on what we know, Season 4 is likely to bring the estranged uncle some peace and strengthen bonds. Sure, there’s sure to be some drama, but when it comes to Dunne’s upgraded role it can be assumed that things are looking up for Nicky’s sad state. Don’t miss what’s next when This Is Us returns Tuesday.
This Is Us, Tuesdays, 9/8c, NBC
Beloved actor Griffin Dunne, who was featured on This Is Us for one season, has been promoted to a series regular, one season after he made his debut on the prime-time series.
TV Line confirmed that Griffin Dunne has been made a full-time member of the Pearson clan. Dunne, who portrays the adult version of Jack’s younger brother Nicky, was seen in the Season 4 premiere in a striking moment where he threw a chair through a window at a Veterans Affairs office. In the scene, several members, including new character Cassidy Sharp, portrayed by Jennifer Morrison, were having a support meeting. Nicky, drunk and belligerent, was arrested and called his nephew Kevin (Justin Hartley) for help after he was arrested.
Dunne joined the show in Season 3 as a recurring guest star and added a shocking twist to the backstory of Jack Pearson, who stated to his wife and family that his brother had died in Vietnam. Fans would later learn that Nicky did not die. Rather, he had left his service in Vietnam even more broken than before he arrived, and Jack took care of him until he had his own family, where he then left his younger brother to battle his demons on his own.
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“Yeah, you are Jack Pearson’s kids.” #ThisIsUs | ????: @justinhartley
During his inaugural season on the show, Nicky was discovered by Kevin and his siblings Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and Kate (Chrissy Metz) living in a filthy trailer, drinking heavily, and quite lonely. Nicky was introduced to Rebecca by her son, who had some questions as to why Jack would keep information that his brother, whom she always believed to be dead, was very much alive.
Fans of the show already know that Dunne will be seen throughout the following three seasons of the show, which will conclude with Season 6. He was one of the few people gathered in Kevin’s apartment as an older and ailing Rebecca Pearson (Mandy Moore) lie dying in her bed.
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When someone tries to act like Jack Pearson isn’t the whole package. #ThisIsUs
The first episode of Season 4 led viewers on a roller coaster journey, where the focus of the episode is on the new characters introduced into the mix.
These included the aforementioned Cassidy as well as Rebecca’s parents (played by Tim Matheson and Elizabeth Perkins), Malik (Asante Blackk), Marsha (Stephanie Blake), and Malik’s dad Darnell (played by Omar Epps). Also introduced is Jack Damon (Blake Stadnik), the adult version of Toby (Chris Sullivan) and Kate’s son, whom we also learned in the episode is blind. Rumor has it that some of these people will heavily impact the characters of Deja and Kevin specifically, and others will eventually affect each member of the extended Pearson family.
The Inquisitr previously reported that Stadnik’s appearance on the show was a closely guarded secret.
This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. EST on NBC.
Who Plays Older Nicky On ‘This Is Us’? Griffin Dunne Is No Stranger To Both The Big & Small Screen
This Is Us never shies away from incorporating some shocking twists into its storylines, but the biggest jaw-dropping moment in Season 3 thus far was when it was revealed that Jack’s brother, Nicky, was still alive. But when he came face-to-face with the Big Three, fans couldn’t help but notice he was being portrayed by an entirely different actor. So who plays Older Nicky on This Is Us? Underneath his scruffy appearance, the man himself is someone who should look very familiar. That’s because he’s popped up in many different movies and TV shows throughout the years.
The actor’s name is Griffin Dunne and to his list of acting credits is impressive would be somewhat of an understatement. Dunne has appeared in widely popular shows throughout his career, including memorable guest spots on Frasier, Alias, The Good Wife, White Collar, Damages, House of Lies, and many more. Meanwhile, on the movie front, he’s been in the likes of Ocean’s Eight, Dallas Buyers Club, 40 Days and 40 Nights, as well as the Dolly Parton-led film Straight Talk where he played her boss. All in all, Dunne has proven to have a top notch resume, so it’s no wonder This Is Us cast him in such a pivotal role.
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Many fans may have been surprised to see someone other than Michael Angarano playing an older version of Nicky, especially since Mandy Moore has been transformed into a very convincing Older Rebecca numerous times on the show. So what was it exactly that made Dunne’s involvement necessary? “Michael is an incredible actor, and I thought he gave an amazing performance when he’s playing Nicky in his 40s,” executive producer Issac Aptaker told Entertainment Weekly in an interview back in January regarding their decision to recast Older Nicky. “But at a certain point, he has such a baby face, it just breaks, and hair and makeup can only do so much. We didn’t want it to feel like kids playing old characters in a high school play.”
Hence how Dunne came to acquire the role since he seemed like such a perfect fit, not only because he’s a great actor, but he’d also actually played Angarano’s father in the 2007 film Snow Angels. So the resemblance was undeniable. “We were looking for someone who (a) had the chops and (b) felt like they could play an older Michael,” Aptaker added. “Once they said the name , we were like, ‘Let’s look at them side by side, because that’s the only way you can know.’ We saw it, and we were like, ‘Oh my god! Yeah! Amazing!’ And we all love him.”
It’s difficult to say how long Dunne will be sticking around for, but considering Kevin just brought Nicky back home with him, this story arc could go on for quite a while. There’s a lot the Pearson family can learn about Jack through him and vice-versa. Nicky may not have gotten a chance to make amends with his brother, but hopefully he can do so through Jack’s family.