This Is Us star Griffin Dunne opens up about the 'incredible' parallels between his father and his character

Virgin Radio

3 Jul 2024, 11:54

Griffin Dunne at Virgin Radio, and in This Is Us.

Credit: Virgin Radio / NBC

Griffin Dunne has spoken to Chris Evans about channelling his father when working on This Is Us. 

The American actor, producer and director - known for starring in the likes of An American Werewolf in London and After Hours - portrayed Nicky Pearson in This Is Us from 2018 to 2022. 

Joining the Chris Evans Breakfast Show with webuyanycar following the release of his new memoir, The Friday Afternoon Club, Griffin said of his role in the hit series: “It was such a great part that I was able to channel my father.”



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Speaking about his dad, the actor said: “As a young father and a husband, he was all about social life and parties, and ‘Are we going to go to that?’. My mother really wasn't like that. She grew up on a cattle ranch in Arizona, and she kind of just got sick of it, and she didn't like the superficiality of it. And as I say in the book, my father led a secret life. He was bisexual, and kept that very much a secret from the time of his childhood.” 

He added: “She was the one who actually told me… maybe oversharing with some Pinot Grigio. She told me about a lovely memory I had of going to Hawaii with my father and this other guy, and we had so much fun, the three of us. And my mum went, ‘That guy was your father's lover.’”

He explained: "At around nine or 10, my parents got a divorce."

Fast-forward to Griffin, decades later, being offered a role of Nicky in drama series This Is Us. When Chris asked if he saw it coming, the actor said: “Not at all. I get a phone call from the creator of the show, and he's telling me about the part that they’d like me to play, and they say he's mid 70s, and he fought in the Vietnam War. And he's very damaged, and he's an alcoholic and a touch suicidal. 

“I went, ‘This all sounds great. I was too young to be in Vietnam, and I'm nowhere near 76!’ but they sent me the script. It was such a great part that I was able to channel my father, quite honestly, I was telling you earlier how he, you know, just lost everything.”

Griffin continued: “He had a transformation, just the way Uncle Nicky did, but he was also, even when he was down and grumpy, he was grumpy-funny, and very wry. But when he was living in a little cabin in Oregon, lost all of his friends, his money, he was suicidal, and Uncle Nicky was living in a trailer, and he was suicidal. And I was struck by the parallels. It was incredible. And then, as he's brought back into the family, he has a rebirth, and he and I just loved doing that.”

He added: “It was such a well-written part. And the cast, I loved the cast… We all loved each other making it.”

When it came to creating the right look for his character, who was older than the actual Griffin, the actor said not much was done. He told Chris: “They didn't use much makeup on me to age me. I went, ‘Are you sure you don't want to?’, ‘No, no, you're good to go.’”

Griffin’s new book was released earlier this month. Telling tales of his coming-of-age in Hollywood and Manhattan, it centres around a tragic event which took place in his life; the death of his sister Dominique, who was killed by a violent ex-boyfriend at the age of 22. 

On the reception the book has received, he said: “I've gotten so much love for this book, and you know, from friends I haven't heard from in years, and just the public, and I've had all these appearances. I'm old enough to really enjoy this. 

“I've had success when I was younger, and I sort of took it for granted. And you know, there's nothing like having the stuffing kicked out of you at some points in your life and then coming back with something you're really proud of. And so I'm just loving every minute.”

Read what Griffin told Chris about how a big movie star saved him from drowning as a kid here.

The Friday Afternoon Club is out now.

For more great interviews listen to The Chris Evans Breakfast Show with webuyanycar weekdays from 6:30am on Virgin Radio, or catch up on-demand here.