Griffin Dunne is still getting used to the recognition he receives for his role as Nicky Pearson on “This Is Us.” As a veteran who served in Vietnam, Nicky is a character who resonates with the audience, especially in his struggle to find a sense of family again after years of isolation. “I don’t think I’ve been involved in a permanent way with something that has such broad appeal, which I’ve always wanted, quite honestly,” Dunne says in an exclusive new interview with Gold Derby. “Each of these characters seem to represent something for everyone to identify with. I just have never had an experience where people come up to me so moved about my character’s journey.” Watch the full webchat interview above.
Dunne was bumped up to series regular ahead of Season 4 after being first introduced as Jack’s (Milo Ventimiglia) brother in the third season. The new season found Dunne working extensively with Justin Hartley as Nicky’s nephew, Kevin, who has been on a continuous process of helping him through recovery. Even as they deal in heavy material, there is a level of humor as they spar with each other that reflects his own relationship with Hartley. “We find ourselves very amusing,” Dunne admits. “We locked into bringing that to the parts, the way we give each other a hard time and look at each other like the other one’s crazy, not me.” He adds that even during difficult times, people like Nicky who have that sense of humor don’t lose it. “They still have a wry way of expressing themselves.”
What appealed to Dunne most for this role was getting the chance to play a war veteran. The actor got his draft card as the Vietnam War was dying down and while he did not ultimately serve, “I was old enough to really live through all of that and the prospect of being sent there was quite terrifying to me,” he recalls. Dunne researched the mindset of men with PTSD who had just come home from war, particularly John Huston‘s seminal 1946 documentary “Let Their Be Light” about returning soldiers suffering from what was then termed shell shock. “Nicky also struggled with alcohol and depression and that’s not unfamiliar to me either in my family and friends,” adds Dunne.
Eagle-eyed fans noticed in the Season 4 finale of “This Is Us” that Nicky was sporting a ring on his finger during the flash forward. What this means for the future of Nicky’s character remains a mystery, though that hasn’t stopped fans from speculating. Could he be married to Sally, who was mentioned earlier in the season as the one that got away? “There’s very little backstory that Dan [Fogelman] and the writers mention without it showing its head later, so stay tuned,” Dunne offers.
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