This Is Us star Milo Ventimiglia on post-war Jack in season 4: 'Grenades are still going off'
Jack Pearson redefined the concept of brotherly devotion in season 3 of This Is Us, enlisting in the Vietnam War to try to save his younger sibling, Nicky, from disintegration and the horrors of war. His extra-admirable efforts were not exactly successful, though, and he returned from the war with demons of his own. In season 4 of NBC’s period-hopping family drama, viewers will see the late Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) attempt to rebuild his life after Vietnam and embark on a relationship with eventual-wife Rebecca (Mandy Moore). And not surprisingly, the future Pearson patriarch will face challenges of reclamation and compartmentalization. “He may be past physical war, but it doesn’t mean he’s not in private war — personal war,” Ventimiglia tells EW. “Those fractures and cracks that you just never recover from. We’re going to see him going through that experience post-war, really trying to reconnect and restart. What is life after Vietnam? And of course, new exciting love with Rebecca. We all know how that goes.”
Ultimately, yes. But filling in the blanks on Jack’s rebound from the war and his early days of dating Rebecca are territories on which Ventimiglia is eager to tread. “He is one of those guys who makes a decision and he moves forward,” explains the actor, who was recently nominated for his third consecutive Lead Actor Emmy. “He doesn’t go back, he doesn’t dwell, he doesn’t let the hauntings really trap him down. I’m looking forward to seeing Jack’s moving forward and new love, new life, and understanding how he’s able to pack up and store what he experienced in Vietnam. Men of that era experience things differently. They didn’t have the resource that the women and men of the service now have to unload the PTSD, unload the traumatic brain injury, unload all that sh— that you see in war. I’m curious to see how Jack boxes it all up and stuffs it away — and I think it’s going to be a process.”
The younger version of Nicky (Michael Angarano, also nominated for an Emmy) was last seen unraveling after the grenade-related death of a Vietnamese boy. He was sent to the Walter Reed Hospital for evaluation and treatment, only to soon check himself out and retreat to an RV in remote Pennsylvania. As season 3 revealed, Jack, who also battled alcoholism, lied to his family by telling them Nicky died in the war, and viewers saw Jack sneak off to visit him a few times before cutting off all contact. Will season 4 unspool more of their tragic time in Vietnam or other aspects of their ultimately doomed relationship? “There’s conversation,” says Ventimiglia, who also soon hits the big screen in The Art of Racing in the Rain (Aug. 9). “I said to Dan [Fogelman, creator of This Is Us], ‘God, it’d be really heartbreaking if Michael Angarano and I don’t get a chance to do more.’ So if we can find a way, cool. There’s got to be something.’ Dan said, ‘I don’t think we’re going to be abandoning the Vietnam story line just yet.’”
Ventimiglia signs off with an intriguing war metaphor about what you might see from post-Vietnam Jack in the new season: “Grenades are still going off.”
NBC’s beloved era-hopping drama tells the story of the Pearson family through the years.