That Tragic This Is Us Storyline Was Based On Real Life

Photo: courtesy of NBC.
If you thought that Jack Pearson's (Milo Ventimiglia) hospital death following that slow cooker-related fire was the saddest This Is Us had to offer, the truth behind the demise of Jack's relationship with brother Nicky (Michael Angarano) is here to remind you that yes, This Is Us can always get more upsetting.
In season 2's "Songbird Road: Part One," it was revealed that the boat explosion in Vietnam that we saw in flashback did claim someone's life — just not Nicky's. Instead, it was the little boy from the village, Lanh (Tan Ly), whom Nicky had taken on the boat to go fishing. Given that Nicky once held deep resentments for the people of Vietnam, this was a particularly sweet moment. Unfortunately, this sweet moment ends in terrible tragedy: Nicky accidentally launches a grenade that kills Lanh, and Jack assumes that Nicky murdered the child on purpose.
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In a new interview with Entertainment Tonight, This Is Us actor Angarano explained that this particular storyline was partially inspired by the episode co-writer Tim O'Brien's real experience in Vietnam.
"The first conversation I had with [co-showrunner] Isaac [Aptaker], he told me that I take a young Vietnamese boy grenade fishing. It's a real thing that they did," Angarano explained to ET.
According to Deadline, O'Brien came onboard as a consultant for season 3 last year. He is the author of The Things They Carried, a collection of semi-autobiographical stories inspired by his experiences in the Vietnam War. This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman told Deadline that "it was incredibly intimidating bringing [O'Brien] into [the This Is Us writer's room] to discuss a Vietnam plot line – and it was even more rewarding."
As sad as Nicky's Vietnam storyline ended, Angarano told ET that he was excited by the material.
"When I knew what they wanted to do with Nicky and the Vietnam storyline, I thought that sounded really ambitious," Angarano admitted to the outlet. "I was admittedly a little skeptical. But then I read the script and I thought, 'This is one of the best scripts I've read in my life, film or television.'"
Given that This Is Us attempts to be as true-to-life as possible, it's not surprising that some stories are ripped from the lives of the people writing it. Let's hope that some happier memories from the writing staff also make their way into season 3 — after all, we only have so many tears left.
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