Warning: This story contains action details from "Vietnam," the episode of This Is Us .
Little Brother has just made a large entrance. The episode of Tuesday This Is Us eventually ushered in the adult version of Jack's younger sibling Nicky, of whom the viewers (and the Pearson family) hardly knew any details except that he was killed during the Vietnam War. It became clear from the opening frame of "Vietnam" that the Nicky Pearson – the boy Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) had always promised to protect – had become a man on the sidelines.
Dreading was drafted into service (but feeling that it was inevitable, despite the "happy" assurances of Jack and his mother, that Nicky was watching with the downfall as his birthday was picked early in the lottery draft.) Jack drove Nicky from Pittsburgh the Canadian border so he could cross countries and avoid serving, but as he told Jack in the overnight note he left ̵
What did Nicky's face look like? Why did Nicky change his mind and follow the call to fight? What hell awaits him in future episodes? EW asked Michael Angarano, the actor who plays Nicky, to join the interview service. The Newest Actor – Under I Die Here The Kink and Will & Grace – leads you through the minefields waiting for you Nicky and Jack
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You get a call and ask if you want to play Jack Pearson's brother, and your first answer is …?
MICHAEL ANGARANO: Did you see? my work? Laughs .] I was really shocked because I had no idea it was in progress or that I was talking about it. I got a call from my agent, and the next day I talked to Isaac TIU executive producer on the phone about this very ambitious story, and he told me that Tim O & # 39; Brien was a consultant in the writer's room. I started to read Tim O'Brien's work, The Things She Carried and I was both impressed and curious as to how this show would handle this story because this was a much darker and sadder one and violent war. To authentically demonstrate this on network television is a big challenge. Not to mention that I doubted it when I was talking to Isaac on the phone, but when I got the first script and saw that it was written by [creator] Dan Fogelman and Tim O'Brien, I thought, " Oh, that's they really do! "I thought," That's ambitious, but that's exactly . "There's nothing that feels wrong or forced. It felt like it was strangely part of the show from day one. This was an important part of Jack's story to tell.
In this recording by Nicky in Vietnam, which opens the episode, you can see that this man is in great pain. It is not the same man who went to war to make something of himself. How bad is this situation?
It's terrible. It's something that I and Milo and Dan and [executive producer] Ken Olin and Tim O'Brien talked about a lot: how far is Nicky and where is he from? He's been at war for a year, and he sends letters back to his family and says, "I may not come out alive here, but I'll do it on my own terms." He sends suicidal letters back to his family, and I do not think he's paying attention. I think Nicky is on course when Jack finds him.
What exactly is this expression on his face? There seems to be anger and vulnerability, and maybe, "Here comes Jack to save the day."
Yes, I think it's complicated. There is a part of him that is happy. I think there is also a part of him who is angry that he is here. Part of him is surprised that he is there. And I think that in an instant, even though he is in a completely foreign land, he will get a totally different headspace and a shell of his physical self, probably 21 years of sibling dynamics in about three seconds. I think it's the whole bandwidth.
Jack read his letters and saw how the war changed Nicky, but does he even realize how broken Nicky is?
No. I do not think so. One of the nice things about this story is that even though these two are brothers and they know so much about each other and understand and respect each other as men, because they grew up in the same household and know what they have. But how Nicky reacts to this war has is unfathomable. Even to Jack.
I thought a lot about this line: "I will not come out alive, but I will not die on other terms." How prophetic will that be? As you said, there are implications of suicide, but it may also be possible to go into a glorious time and play the hero.
Nicky has this inclination to feel these blows of fate, and he has done it with the lottery; He knew he would go to Vietnam. He did it with Jack in Canada; He said, "I have to do that on my terms." And he sends these letters back. There is something for him that hangs over his head. It's this very abstract idea, but I think it's something that's very much influenced by his past and the fact that he's Jack's little brother, and he comes from the household he comes from. It's something that may even be beyond your own understanding, but something you can learn from Nicky as a human being is that he is very much the watcher. While Jack is serious and present, Nicky thinks abstractly of the time. And it's this meta-talk that's the concept of the episode, but it's also the concept of the show. When you see something in the end and you try to understand it backwards – I do not think you would ever hear Jack say that. It is this reverse mindset and it is this psychological and intellectual mindset where Nicky is already at the end and he tries to see and understand the steps when he notices them.
Dan said we did that to solve the Nicky mystery until the end of the season. How close are we to the end of his life?
He is on course, and it may be too late when Jack is already here. One thing is certain: the man whom [Jack] sees at the end of this episode is not his brother.
Nicky is literally 120 seconds away from being drafted because he was born at 11:58. Jack is confident that he will not be drafted, and his mother says, "You were born happy." But Nicky is convinced that he will be. He also says that Jack is like Superman and he is Lois Lane, who always has to be saved. Is there a hint of doom that surrounds this figure?
I would not call it downfall, but it almost looks like he's seeing a picture of his life and there's a lot of negative space and he has to fill it in. There's something about fate or his fate, that ask him to do so. There is a big void in Nicky's life because he grew up in the household he grew up in, with an abusive, alcoholic father. His brother was always looking after him. I do not think Nicky knows who he is. And his decision to go to Vietnam and feeling that he is with her is, in his opinion, the only way to confront many of his demons.
Everyone always says he was born so happy on the 18th, and then you see that the clock is ticking, and if there were just a few more contractions, his whole life would have been different. How much of a bowel twist was that, especially with the episode developing in reverse chronological order?
It's kind of confirmation that Nicky's idea that this might be his fate – he might actually be right. It is this feeling that he saved his life 120 seconds later. I do not think he knows, but he feels it. These 120 seconds hang over his head.
next page: Angarano on what to expect in the next Vietnam episode