‘This Is Us’ Star on Nicky’s Life-Changing Decision in ‘Vietnam’

“Nicky has a lot to prove to himself,” Michael Angarano tells TheWrap

This Is Us - Season 3
(Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

(Warning: Spoilers ahead for “This Is Us” Season 3, Episode 4, titled “Vietnam”)

This week’s episode of “This Is Us” gave us our first good look at Jack’s little brother Nicky and his time in Vietnam — and the life-changing decision that ultimately led Jack to follow Nicky into the service.

The episode begins with Jack finding Nicky in Vietnam when they are both placed at neighboring stations. The episode unfolds backwards in time from there, showing viewers Nicky getting drafted, Jack attempting to smuggle his little brother across the Canadian border, and Nicky ultimately deciding not to dodge after all.

So what changed Nicky’s mind?

“Well, [Nicky’s] letter that he leaves for Jack says, thank you for always saving me, but it’s my turn to save the day,” Michael Angarano, who plays Nicky, told TheWrap. “So I think there’s a lot of the fact that 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.”

Angarano said that it feels like Nicky’s destiny to go to Vietnam. “I think there’s this cloud hanging over him and that he has to go and face it. He has to go and fight this monster across the ocean,” he said. 

“What was so interesting about Nicky is that it’s almost like he — he feels this pull,” he continued. “That he knows he’s getting drafted, and he knows that he’s going to Vietnam. And so the line is so blurry between staying, dodging the war, being called a coward, maybe only in your own head for the rest of your life, but having that. Or, you go and it’s the unknown.

“And who knows what’s going to happen to you?” he continued. “I think Nicky feels this strange call to this place, and it’s a very intangible but accessible decision for me to understand because he’s… it’s a very personal decision for him to go.”

Nicky’s decision to go to war is one that Milo Ventimiglia says breaks Jack’s heart.

“I think Jack was really heartbroken [when he woke up and Nicky was gone],” the star told TheWrap.

“He was honest that he didn’t have a plan. He really didn’t. And then it happened, his brother got drafted,” Ventimiglia said. “And it was like, OK, now we got to figure something out. This is the best he can do. This is the best Jack can do. And then his brother doesn’t go, you know, I think it leaves Jack heartbroken and wondering why.”

The actor is just as puzzled about the character’s choices. “Just why he would take this path as opposed to being safe and being alive, like, really alive, I mean who knows?” he said.”Nicky could have gotten in a car accident up in Canada, I’m sure Jack would feel responsible to that.”

“This Is Us” airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on NBC.