It’s been over 40 years since the end of the conflict with Vietnam, but as many recent TV series — from Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s “The Vietnam War” documentary to OWN’s “Queen Sugar” — the legacy of that time still has lasting repercussions in America. “This Is Us” will delve into that story through its characters in the upcoming third season.
When the show picks up, it will be the Randall (Sterling K. Brown), Kate (Chrissy Metz), and Kevin’s (Justin Hartley) 38th birthday, showrunner Isaac Aptaker revealed at the NBC panel during Wednesday’s Television Critics Association press tour. And as teased in the last season finale, Kevin will be on a plane with Zoe (Melanie Liburd), bound for Vietnam.
The trip holds significance for the Pearsons since patriarch Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and his brother Nicky served in Vietnam. Jack alluded to losing Nicky in the war, but as with anything “This Is Us,” that may be misleading.
“We are going to be spending a lot of time in Vietnam,” Aptaker said, adding that the show has been working with “The Things They Carried” author and Vietnam veteran Tim O’Brien for the sensitive storylines.
“We’ve hired Tim O’Brien, one of the premier novelists and a veteran himself, to come consult in our writers’ room — because many of us weren’t actually alive during Vietnam,” he added. “We wanted that authority there to really get the story right. He’s been wonderful. He spent a week with us and just shared so much of his experience. Going back to how our show is best when it comes from someone’s life story, we took so much from Tim and his life. He’s actually co-writing, with [series creator] Dan Fogelman, an early episode that really dives into Jack’s history there.”
“It’s exciting for us. There’s something very freeing about moving past the mystery of Jack’s death and moving into this new chapter and getting to tell a whole completely different kind of story,” said showrunner Elizabeth Berger. “It’s different than anything that any of our writers have done on the first two years, so sort of to be all of a sudden immersed in the Vietnam War, we think it’s going to be really special and really different.”
The mystery of Uncle Nicky looms large of the season already. Although Jack had hinted that Nicky had died there, the show is known for a twist or two. As for who would play Nicky in flashbacks, Aptaker remained mum and said, “I can’t tell you who we’ve cast as Nicky just yet.”
Berger added that while Season 2 allowed the family to grieve and process their loss of Jack deeper, Season 3 will be more hopeful and move to “new beginnings for everybody.”
“This Is Us” returns for its third season on Sept. 25 on NBC.