“This character was both really specific and also ambiguous,” admits actor Michael Angarano about his recurring role as Jack Pearson’s long-lost brother Nicky on NBC’s hit family drama “This is Us.” “People don’t recognize me from the show, which I take as a huge compliment,” he says. Watch our exclusive video interview with Angarano above (or listen to the audio version below), who talks in detail about bringing his character to life in just a few episodes this season.
Angarano played Nicky Pearson, brother to Jack (Milo Ventimiglia), who audiences had for two seasons assumed had died in the Vietnam War. We discover this season that he survived the war, but suffered with crippling PTSD as he remained estranged from his brother and family for decades after his return.
“We’re meeting Nicky at this fork in the road where he and Jack are going to end up being very different men, and this fork is really the Vietnam War,” the actor explains. “The Vietnam War was such a traumatic and horrific war for these young guys, and what Nicky has seen and gone through,” he explains, “one can really only imagine what that level of trauma and fear was really like … and on top of all of that was this brother dynamic, appearing in the middle of a war. There was a lot to play with, and I would say that was the most difficult part but it was also what made it so rich and complex.”
Angarano relished the opportunity to create a portrait of a man who has been broken by his experiences at war, and is estranged from his brother who he saw as his protector and hero. “When we meet up with Nicky when he’s in Vietnam, not only is he a physical shell of himself, but we assume that he’s been taking some sort of pills that he has prescribed himself to cope with the trauma and anxiety that he’s been going through,” he says. “It was that mental head space that Nicky is in when Jack comes to see him for the first time. There’s really no amount of research and experience to match that.”
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