This Is Us star Michael Angarano took method acting to a whole new level in the fall finale episode “The End of the Beginning Is the End.” The 30-year-old actor, who plays Jack Pearson’s troubled younger brother Nicky on the NBC drama, got so into character during a fight scene set in Vietnam that he accidentally punched co-star Milo Ventimiglia in the face while shooting the emotional scene.
In an interview with USA Today, Angarano, who lost 20 pounds and got a military-style crew cut in order to play sullen soldier Nicky Pearson, recounted the scene, which was shown early in the episode as Jack tried to help his struggling younger brother get focused as he floundered his way through the war. The confrontation culminated with Nicky taking a swing at his brother, and Angarano clearly got caught up in the intensity of the moment.
“That was intense enough that I did lose control of my distance and accidentally punched Milo in the face for real. He gave me a look in the middle of the scene and, in the back of my head, I thought, ‘He’s really in it right now.’ At the end of the scene, I was replaying it in my head and I said, ‘I punched you, didn’t I?’ He goes, ‘Oh, yeah. You punched me.’ And I’m like, ‘I’m so sorry.’ I accidentally punched him in the face.”
This Is Us viewers have seen enough of Jack and Nicky’s pre-war story to know that Jack has always been his little brother’s protector. While Jack originally cooked up a plan to sneak his drafted brother to Canada to dodge the war, Angarano told The Wrap his character made a very conscious decision to step away from his brother’s shadow when he snuck away and headed to Vietnam on his own.
“Nicky’s very aware that he’s Jack’s little brother, and that Jack has always protected him, and his relationship with his father growing up, I think Nicky has a lot to prove to himself based on, you know, a pretty codependent relationship with Jack.”
Sadly, by the time Jack caught up with Nicky overseas, it was too late to save his brother.
Of course—spoiler alert!—viewers now know that Nicky Pearson does not actually die in the Vietnam War, as This Is Us fans were previously led to believe. In future-set scenes, the present day character will be played by veteran actor Griffin Dunne (American Werewolf in London, After Hours). But there won’t be any future fight scenes between the two brothers because Jack died in 1998.
This Is Us returns to NBC on January 15.