‘This Is Us’ actor Griffin Dunne deftly grasps PTSD in Vietnam vets
This Is Us | Tuesday, 9 p.m., NBC
The revelation that Jack Pearson’s (Milo Ventimiglia) brother Nicky did not die in Vietnam, as the family believed, has been earth-shaking on “This Is Us.” In the first half of the season, viewers came to know Nicky as a troubled young soldier (played by Michael Angarano) when Jack flew to Vietnam to try to bring him home. A land mine explosion was thought to have killed him. Years later, Jack’s children discovered that Nicky (played as an adult by Griffin Dunne) was alive and living in a beat-up trailer. Kevin Pearson (Justin Hartley) made it his mission to connect with him.
In this week’s episode, Kevin, his sister Kate (Chrissy Metz) and brother Randall (Sterling K. Brown) further ingratiate themselves into Nicky’s life, but they are not welcome.
Dunne, 63, spoke to The Post about how he was cast and his future with the show.
Where does Nicky live?
Somewhere in Pennsylvania. I imagine he’s been living hand-to-mouth and on whatever veterans’ benefits gives you. It’s been a tough, lonely life. That’s what appealed to me about the part, how solitary he was. He’s in voluntary exile. The only person you talk to is yourself.
Did you view the footage of the young Nicky before taking the role?
I saw an episode. Michael Angarano played my son in the  movie “Snow Angels.” The producers found that out after they said they were interested in me, and it helped seal the deal. Michael and I didn’t have time before I started work on the show to get together or match our mannerisms, but from what people said, they did. I commend the producers of the show for such clever casting. I was surprised in a wonderful way that they thought of me.
The Pearson children take Nicky to a veterans center and he’s not into it, saying, “I’m drunk, I can’t leave the trailer. Think doing a jigsaw puzzle is going to fix that?” Did you visit an actual veterans center?
No. but I looked at a lot of stuff. I happen to be a Vietnamophile, starting with Tim O’Brien, a writer on the show this year who also wrote “The Things They Carried,” Denis Johnson, who wrote “Tree of Smoke,” and the Ken Burns documentary. I had a draft card. I grew up watching the Vietnam War on TV. I found it just terrifying. And the body count on the news night after night. I also watched a  documentary that John Huston made called “Let There Be Light,” where he sat in with a military psychologist [who was treating] severely traumatized soldiers from WWII.
How does Nicky view his earnest relatives?
It’s overwhelming to have these people thrust on me, to have my quiet existence invaded. I had a lot of mixed emotions. That’s what I loved about this part. It was a fine line to play, to have his resentments understood but not have it seem too hostile.
Creator Dan Fogelman has spoken about having the character of Nicky come back at some point in the future. How do you feel about that?
I believe he’s going to come back. They’ve introduced a new member of the family who will be around for a bit. Life is good.
And here’s what else to watch this week:
Olivia Newton-John: Hopelessly Devoted to You | Saturday, 8 p.m., Lifetime
The Australian pop singer and movie star (“Grease”) faced her own mortality when she was diagnosed with cancer. This film takes a look at her limelight years and then the brush with death. Newton-John is played by actress Delta Goodrem.
I Am the Night | Monday, 9 p.m., TNT
A visit from Billis (Yul Vazquez) and the LAPD leaves Jay (Chris Pine) wondering how close he’s getting to the truth. Meanwhile, Fauna (India Eisley) must square Corinna’s (Connie Nielsen) revelations with her suspicion that Corinna is hiding her mother, Tamar.
61st Annual Grammy Awards | Sunday, 8 p.m., CBS
Alicia Keys hosts the liveliest of the year’s awards shows. Record of the Year nominees include Brandi Carlile (“The Joke”), Childish Gambino (“This is America”) and Drake (“God’s Plan”).
Lethal Weapon | Tuesday, 8 p.m., Fox
When Cole (Seann William Scott) and Murtaugh (Damon Wayans) investigate a case involving a father and daughter crossing the Mexican border, they end up uncovering a major issue with California border patrol.
Schooled | Wednesday, 8:30 p.m., ABC
After Mr. Mellor (Bryan Callen) tells Lainey (AJ Michalka) that sports are king at William Penn Academy, she sets out to stage the musical “Rent” to prove that the arts are just as important as athletics.
A Million Little Pieces | Thursday, 9 p.m., ABC
Katherine (Grace Park) and Eddie’s (David Giuntoli) divorce mediations become complicated. Meanwhile, Gary (James Roday) and Maggie (Allison Miller) attempt to check an item off her bucket list.
Lorena |Friday, Amazon
Season premiere. Talk about a slice of life: The notorious case of Lorena Bobbitt is the subject of this docuseries, which takes a new look at her story while proving how this controversy shaped the 24-hour news cycle.
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