How Michael Angarano Really Felt About Giving Up the Role of Nicky Pearson to Griffin Dunne

Actor Michael Angarano was a welcome addition to this season of This Is Us, joining the cast to tell the story of Jack Pearson’s brother, Nicky, when he was a young adult fighting in the Vietnam War. Fans adored the talented actor’s portrayal of Nicky during the war and later discovered he was still alive and communicating with Jack.

The character, however, exists in present-day as well, which was recently revealed in the episode “Songbird Road: Part One.” Angarano isn’t playing the role, but instead, actor Griffin Dunne took over as the older Nicky.

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Why Griffin Dunne took over the role

Many fans wondered why the show didn’t just apply makeup to Angarano to make him appear older as they do with other characters on the series. Angarano, it turns out, couldn’t be aged in the same way as others because of his youthful look.

Issac Aptaker, the show’s executive producer, explained why they cast Dunne in the role, telling Entertainment Weekly: “Mandy [Moore] is such a chameleon. We’re always amazed with what our hair and makeup department are able to do with her. Michael [Angarano] is an incredible actor, and I thought he gave an amazing performance when he’s playing Nicky in his 40s. But at a certain point, he has such a baby face, it just breaks, and hair and makeup can only do so much.”

Aptaker added: “We didn’t want it to feel like kids playing old characters in a high school play.”

This Is Us nails another casting choice

This Is Us definitely has the magic touch when it comes to casting. The younger and middle versions of the Big Three are impeccable as was the casting of Randall’s birth father William as a younger man.

While Angarano was stellar in the role of Nicky, he didn’t harbor any bad feelings about passing the torch to Griffin Dunne, telling Variety the choice to cast the older actor felt “really, really right.”

He added: “I think it benefits the show and the part to have an older actor playing the older version of Nicky. You’re playing a man who’s seen a lot, who’s lived a really hard life, and I think it’s really appropriate to have an actor with the appropriate amount of life experience to play the part.”

Angarano is happy with the choice

Angarano initially didn’t think his Nicky storyline would play out beyond the Vietnam War period of the character, sharing, “I thought it was one extreme or the other. The sidenote was there was potential that I would go through a makeup process to see if I could play an older version, but they were going to look for an older actor — and most likely choose the older actor.”

They did age Angarano for the mid-40s version of Nicky, who was trying to reconnect with his brother, as the actor explained, “I think it’s one of the most difficult things to accomplish: to age somebody convincingly and this show does it so well.”