This Is Us is known for putting its stars through some intense age progression makeup sessions, but that’s not the case for Michael Angarano. While the 31-year-old actor, who plays a 20-something Nicky Pearson in the Vietnam-set scenes on the NBC drama, underwent a slight aging process to play Nicky in his 40s, it pretty much stops there.
While This Is Us stars Milo Ventimiglia and Mandy Moore play Jack and Rebecca Pearson in time periods that range from the 1960s to the 1990s and beyond, producers for the show cast veteran actor Griffin Dunne to play present-day Nicky instead of aging Angarano up a few decades. Dunne, 63, is best known for his big-screen roles in An American Werewolf in London, After Hours, and Dallas Buyers Club.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, This Is Us executive producer Isaac Aptaker explained the surprising move to cast Griffin Dunne in the role as an elder Nicky, saying that while Michael Angarano is “an incredible actor” who gave an “amazing performance when he’s playing Nicky in his 40s,” he didn’t think the young star could pull off a 70-year-old version of the character.
“At a certain point, he has such a baby face, it just breaks, and hair and makeup can only do so much,” Aptaker said of Angarano. “We didn’t want it to feel like kids playing old characters in a high school play.”
Michael Angarano told Variety that when he was initially cast as Jack’s long lost brother Nicky Pearson, he never thought the character’s storyline would go beyond the Vietnam War time period. Angarano was later told that there was the possibility that he would go through a makeup process to see if he could play an older version of Nicky, but that he always knew producers were still going to look for an older actor to play the character in the show’s modern-day scenes and likely cast a second actor.
Angarano said the casting of Griffin Dunne as older Nicky feels “really, really right,” and he added that it really benefits the show to have a man who has had “the appropriate amount of life experience to play the part.”
While Michael Angarano and Griffin Dunne obviously won’t share scenes on This is Us, the lookalike stars have actually worked together in the past. More than a decade ago, Dunne played a then-teenaged Angarano’s father in the 2007 movie Snow Angels.
This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on NBC.