'This Is Us' - Griffin Dunne on Uncle Nicky's and Kevin's Relationship - Interview

Photo: Martina Tolot

As an actor, Griffin Dunne has had an accomplished career, starring in acclaimed feature films including "War Machine," "Dallas Buyers Club," "After Hours," and "An American Werewolf in London." Little did he know that a television role could introduce him to a whole new audience. 

As Nicky Pearson, Jack's younger brother on NBC's "This Is Us, Dunne has gained a family and an audience of millions every week.  TVMusic Network caught up with the actor to get his thoughts on the show's success, Nicky and Kevin's bond, and what he's doing at Rebecca's bedside in the flashforward that everyone's talking about.

Check out our interview below.   

TVMusic Network: Congratulations on being on the show and still being alive.

Griffin Dunne: Thank you. (laughs)

TVMusic Network: It has been great to see Jack and Nicky's relationship and to get a glimpse of Jack's life before he met Rebecca and before the kids. We got these wonderful flashbacks. Little did we know Nicky was still alive. So when that reveal happened, it was even better than we could have imagined.

Griffin Dunne: I know. He's such a rich and complicated and touching character. I'm so glad to be able to play him.

TVMusic Network: I like that Nicky's having this relationship with Kevin now.  Kevin needs a father figure the most out of the Big Three than Kate, Randall. It's great that you guys are able to like get to know each other.

Griffin Dunne: It's an interesting dynamic of, you know. One person wanting to reach out, to help someone and then uncle Nicky not wanting any help. But in fact, they both need help. And, and you know, I think Nicky arrives at the thing where is he lets himself be helped. He admits he needs help. And uh, you know, which is what Kevin struggle has been too with alcoholism and with alcohol. So, it's, it's very complicated and rich, and I, I only hope, it's so good. I always kind of jokingly say, let's not make Nicky too healthy. I kind of have to have somewhere to go. Yeah. Let me fall off the wagon.​

TVMusic Network: Knowing [show creator and executive producer] Dan [Fogelman], Nicky's still got some stuff coming up. With Nicky, I think this has all caught him off guard.  And it caught the audience off guard too. With the ice cream scene, you've got this whole different side to Nicky. When he started cutting the ice cream and telling the story behind it. It got you at the end. You think, wow, he's opening up. 

Griffin Dunne: You know, and I think that's a personal, experience for Dan. He says," I, I don't ever do that." He said, "I don't really ever cry "when I say you'd think I would cry, but this one really got to me.

TVMusic Network: Now, where do you see, I know you probably can't tell too much and plus with that show, be being him that back and forth. You don't know what's up. Yeah, that's for sure. How far do you see Nicky's opening up to Kevin? He thinks he's going to open more. I was it hard to say.

Griffin Dunne: think it's very, very hard to say. I there are certain things, where [the writers] just sort of needle drop things that give you an indication of something.  Nothing is wasted here. So, you saw me sitting around the bed of Rebecca last season. In the distant future,  near future, I'm not sure which. And uh, and then also I seem to be talking about at one point about a girl named Sally. So, I mean I'm just being an armchair fan. If I say I have a feeling.

TVMusic Network: Most of Nicky's scenes have been with Kevin but there have also been scenes with Cassidy (Jennifer Morrison). The three of you, will there anything about the relationship and about the three you that you can touch upon?   

Griffin Dunne: I think that they'll probably, I think it's going to resolve itself and then you know, I think he'll go on to whatever his is, and then I'll go onto whatever mine is. I think there's a certain kind of closure.  

TVMusic Network: When you mentioned the scene at the end of last season, of you sitting at Rebecca’s bedside, many people thought that it was Miguel.

Griffin Dunne: Yeah? They thought it was Miguel? When they were doing the makeup, they spent a lot of time getting it right. And I think they went too far, and they're looking and said well, wait a minute “Now I can't even tell you are.” Ken Olin, who directs a lot of the shows and he directs that one, I walked into his office, unannounced, the door was open, and I just sort of walked in, He's like, “this old guy is in my office and he says “can I help you?? And I went, “Really? Are you serious?” And he said, “Oh, this is too much. I did not even know you.” And I was maybe 5 feet from him.

TVMusic Network: Now how do you watch the show? Do you watch on Tuesdays with the audience? Or do you watch it back later?

Griffin Dunne: I have one of those demand things on my TV and I'll go and I'll watch it. I have a girlfriend and we like to watch it at the end of the night or something. We’ll have dinner and I don't watch it live. I scroll through those commercials.

TVMusic Network: What has the fan reaction been like for you? Because you've done so much, movies, etc. and now you’re doing this tv show.

Griffin Dunne: Yeah, no complaints, but in the past I've always, it's always been more sort of acknowledgement by film people, who are into film and like to talk about films and are glued in film, that kind of things. But this is… I think this is my first audience experience. People who just like the show and they’re genuine which is great. You know my dry cleaner. For example, I live in New York and she's a Korean lady across the street and I've been going to her for 10 years or whatever. And I walked in after…I come back after the first episode aired and she just lost it. I lost it. She didn't have any clue what I did for a living.   

TVMusic Network: Well this season I know that Kevin has something big thing coming up in the Winter Finale? What can we expect for the rest of the season for Nicky?  

Griffin Dunne: Dan and the writers are infinitely patient. [They say] “we, we, we, we laid it down, we'll get to it when we're ready, whatever it is.” I’ve never been involved with a show where people want to know all these things either. I can't tell them because I don't know, or I can't tell because I can't. I've never been involved with something that elicits such curiosity.  

TVMusic Network: Is there anything maybe in Nicky’s past that relates to Jack, they've been showing a lot of flashbacks, Jack and like Nicky as kids. Is there anything in Nicky’s past that he might know about Jack that no one else does?  

Griffin Dunne: I don't know the answer to that, but as a normal person who watches it, I thought of that. I think, because I was sitting around Rebecca's bed, I think that I ended up there for a reason. I think that there's something and because I'm the closest thing she has to Jack, I think that will be something that plays into it. But I'm just guessing. Just don't worry Dan, I'm not giving anything away.

 TVMusic Network: Today’s Veteran's Day. Are you getting a lot of responses from people from veterans watching the show and the Vietnam storyline? It’s opened a lot of discussion about it. 

Griffin Dunne: The interview I had before was with a woman from the veterans’ organization and I was grateful to be able to talk to her. Some of the most real, most gratifying reactions I've had had been from Vietnam veterans and people who have been in battle and are suffering from PTSD. And I hear this not just from them, but I hear from Tim O'Brian who wrote, created this character and wrote some of the finest books about Vietnam, which I happened to read before. That war, I just dodged a bullet. They, they ended the draft a couple of weeks after I got my draft cards. Then I’m thinking about it a lot, because my dad was a war hero at the Battle of the Bulge and got the bronze star. And there's nothing about them that reads war hero. So many of the people that came out of that war, they didn't talk about that war. It wasn't until ”Saving Private Ryan.” It just unleashed and people said “I got to tell you some stuff.

TVMusic Network: A friend whose Dad fought in the war would never talk about Vietnam, he just couldn’t do it but after the episodes with Jack and Nicky aired, it opened a dialogue for them to talk about it.

Griffin Dunne: Oh, great That’s so good to hear. The power of television.

“This Is Us” airs Tuesdays on NBC.

_Additional reporting by Belinda Thomas

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