Milo Ventimiglia Teased Jack's Vietnam Backstory In 'This Is Us' Season 3 & The Actor "Didn't See It Coming"
During the Season 2 finale, This Is Us provided fans with some flash-forwards of the Pearson family. One of those was Kevin traveling with Beth's cousin Zoe to Vietnam, where his father once served. In a new interview with Entertainment Weekly, Milo Ventimiglia discussed Jack's Vietnam backstory that will be a big feature of This Is Us Season 3. Because even though Kevin let out the breath he had been holding in since his father's death, the Pearson son will still be searching for some answers about Jack's past in This Is Us Season 3. And through Kevin's journey, fans will gain much more insight into Jack's life.
"I really don't want to hint because I want people to be surprised," Ventimiglia told EW about what will happen to Jack during the beginning of Season 3. Yet, the actor did admit that he was taken aback when creator Dan Fogelman and showrunner Isaac Aptaker told him what would happen during his character's Vietnam War backstory. He said,
"But what [Fogelman] laid out for me — I didn't see it coming. I really didn't see it coming. And I had a pretty good understanding of what it was going to be. As he was unfolding the story — and Isaac [Aptaker] was there, and they were explaining everything — I went, 'Oh. Holy sh*t. Holy sh*t. Holy sh*t!'"
Ventimiglia probably had an understanding of the fact that Jack's brother Nicky died while seemingly fighting beside him in the war. Nicky was introduced in the Season 2 episode "Brothers," and Jack revealed in a later episode that Nicky had died in Vietnam. But perhaps why the actor was so shocked is because This Is Us hasn't been giving viewers the whole truth about what happened to Nicky. (After all, the NBC drama has kind of made a habit of misleading fans.) Kaitlin Reilly of Refinery29 previously theorized that perhaps Nicky didn't die in Vietnam like Jack has said. That could certainly be one explanation for Ventimiglia's reaction.
One of the directors for "Brothers," Glenn Ficarra, spoke to EW after that episode aired. Ficarra said at the time, "Jack, as we're showing this season, has an ability to emotionally compartmentalize things, and his relationship with his father and brother, those are definitely related. He has a tendency to keep in a secret, which is manifesting itself in his son, Kevin." So perhaps when Kevin travels to Vietnam with his new girlfriend, he finds out a major secret about his father and uncle.
As for why Kevin is going to Vietnam, in March, EW spoke to executive producer Elizabeth Berger after the Season 2 finale, which Berger co-wrote. She explained what motivates Kevin to travel to Vietnam in the future. "Obviously Kevin still feels like there's a lot about his dad that he didn't get to know, and there was a lot that was left unsaid between the two of them, and there's definitely a curiosity that's still burning within him," Berger said.
Berger continued, "He also has his movie coming out when we come up in Season 3, which is a war movie, so he's going to be living in a world where people are asking him about what it was like to play a soldier. So I think the combination of all these things percolating is going to lead him towards this journey of discovering a bit more about his father."
Besides Jack's time in the Vietnam War, Ventimiglia discussed with EW how Season 3 will show more of Rebecca and Jack during their dating phase. "I know that's an area that Mandy and I have always enjoyed playing around with," Ventimiglia said. "It would be fun to see the discovery of these two people and past that blow-back-your-hair, first moment of sight." In a separate EW interview, Mandy Moore confirmed that in Season 3, "We are going to examine a lot more of Jack and Rebecca's origin story."
But while Rebecca and Jack dating will most likely be heartwarming, expect the Vietnam War story to be harrowing. "There is a lot to Jack’s history that shapes who he ultimately becomes," Ventimiglia said. And as Kevin retraces his father's past, he'll find that one of the things that shaped Jack Pearson is what happened between him and his brother during the war.