This Is Us fans know Jack Pearson is a hero—he saved his entire family and their pet dog from a house fire before he succumbed to the after-effects of smoke inhalation— but it looks like he may not be able to save his brother Nicky from himself.
In a new interview with Entertainment Weekly, This Is Us star Michael Angarano, who plays Nicky Pearson on the hit NBC drama, teased an unhappy ending for his character during the Pearson brothers’ Vietnam days in the early 1970s.
In the Season 3 episode “Vietnam,” This Is Us viewers got an inside look at Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) as a sergeant leading a battalion in the Vietnam war. But flashback scenes showed how he got there. While Jack’s pre-existing heart condition made him ineligible to enlist in the military, he fudged his medical test to serve in the war with his brother after receiving a series of disturbing letters from him that revealed he had been demoted to the lowest rank and implying he had thoughts of suicide. Angarano told EW Nicky is in a very bad place when his big brother shows up in Vietnam.
“It’s dire. It’s something that I and Milo and Dan and [executive producer] Ken Olin and Tim O’Brien all spoke a lot about: How far gone is Nicky, and where is he? He’s been at war for a year, and he’s sending back letters to his family saying, ‘I might not make it out of here alive, but I’m going to do it on my own terms.’ He’s sending suicidal letters back to his family, and I don’t think he’s doing it for attention. I think Nicky is on a course when Jack finds him.”
Angarano revealed that while the war has clearly changed Nicky, Jack has no idea how broken his brother is, even when he says things like, “I’m not getting out of here alive, but I’m not going to be dying on anyone else’s terms.”
“He’s on a course, and it might be too late by the time Jack has gotten there already. There’s one thing for sure — the man that [Jack] sees at the end of [the ‘Vietnam’] episode is not his brother.”
When This Is Us returns to the Vietnam storyline next month, viewers will learn much more about how Jack and his brother handled their time in the war.
“We already know that Jack’s a great soldier and Nicky’s not a great soldier,” Angarano said. “He’s actually a terrible soldier. So much so that he’s been Article 15’d [stripped of his duties] which is shame. It’s essentially a step above being dishonorably discharged. So, you have a huge spectrum between the two of them, and they’re both kind of anchors on either side. You’ll start to understand pretty immediately how differently Jack and Nicky have handled the war, and the effect it’s had on Nicky.”
Jack Pearson previously told his sons Kevin and Randall that his brother did not make it out of Vietnam alive. But now it appears that Nicky Pearson may not have died in the way viewers expected. In a separate interview with Entertainment Weekly, Milo Ventimiglia said viewers should be prepared for an ominous turn in the 1970s-set storyline.
“I think people know something ominous is coming,” the This Is Us star said. “And of course, we all know the result: Jack lost his brother. I think people should be prepared for the casualty that happens in war, the emotional innocence that’s lost, the physical family that’s lost, all of that.”
This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on NBC.