Milo Ventimiglia rose to success with TV shows like Gilmore Girls and Heroes. He’s been a movie star, playing Rocky’s son in Rocky Balboa and roles in Grown Ups 2, That’s My Boy and Kiss of the Damned. All the while he’s tried out new series like Mob City, Chosen and The Whispers.
This Is Us brings Ventimiglia back to NBC as Jack, the husband of Rebecca (Mandy Moore) who gives birth in the pilot. I sat down with Ventimiglia at NBC’s Television Critics Association party to discus the series and his work in the Gilmore Girls revival on Netflix. Because I’m Franchise Fred, I also had a question about Creed. This Is Us premieres tonight at 10PM on NBC.
The last few series you dark edged either action or thriller. Were you looking for something a little softer?
Milo Ventimiglia: I don’t want to say I was looking for anything in particular. I think I was just happy that this show found me. Thank God for Dan Fogleman and John and Glen. To walk into such a friendly room with a script that I’d pretty much kill for. A character that I feel like I slightly don’t deserve, I’m deeply grateful.
Does it feel like or remind you of being on Gilmore Girls with the family stories?
Milo Ventimiglia: Hopefully I don’t have to speak as fast as Gilmore Girls. On this show I feel like Fogleman’s going to let us take our time with the moments and not rush anything. But I think there is a warm spirit to this show that maybe people can look at a show like Gilmore and be reminded of something that makes you feel good but also tugs on your heartstrings.
Audiences tend to shy away from stories about dealing with grief but I find it very healthy and cathartic to deal with that dramatically. Do you feel like This Is Us is doing that?
Milo Ventimiglia: I feel like television nowadays is a bit dour. It’s down. It leaves you a little more stressed out than when you started an episode. I think that for any tear that is shed from watching This Is Us, I almost feel like for a pound of tears, there’s pound of laughter.
How did you approach playing a father?
Milo Ventimiglia: I think as truthfully and as honestly as I could, not being a father myself. I’ve got plenty of friends that are parents. I came from good stock. My dad is one of the most amazing men I’ve ever known. When you’ve got a great roadmap, Fogleman gave a foundation of an amazing character to play with. So for me, it’s follow the pages, see where the character goes. Be honest and truthful in your performance.
Since he’s a new father, does that sort of help with the unfamiliarity of it?
Milo Ventimiglia: Yes. I think any new father is constantly behind the 8 ball. They’re trying to play catch up. They’re trying to be ahead of the curve but they’re not going to be. They’re constantly I think chasing moments and they’re chasing their toddler, chasing that moment you’ve got to tell your kids something very real, very honest. It was a newness I have yet to discover but it all felt very real.
I love that we get the sense that throughout the pregnancy, he loves his big pregnant wife. He’s attracted to her the whole way through. Isn’t that fabulous?
Milo Ventimiglia: Yeah. I mean, look. I think birth and life and new life, creating a life, I’m floored by women. Just completely blown away and inspired by. They create life. Yes, men and women together but they’re the ones really nurturing for nine months. I think there’s something in that beauty. You can wholly love someone because if your wife is bringing your life, the life of your children, that’s the most beautiful thing. It doesn’t surprise me that Jack loves his pregnant wife even more than just his wife. There’s something magical about women when they are in fact pregnant.
Did you get to shoot Gilmore Girls?
Milo Ventimiglia: I did, yeah. We’re already done.
Where is Jess when it picks up?
Milo Ventimiglia: Jess is the man of mystery. Everybody wants to know what’s happening with him. I don’t want to say he’s strayed far from where we left him, but he’s come a long way.
Do you feel you get to cover more ground in the 90 minute standalones?
Milo Ventimiglia: You know, I think there’s a lot of expectation about what’s going to happen. It almost feels like there’s more speculation that people are hoping is going to come true. I hope people take whatever they’ve built into their minds out of the moment and just enjoy four 90 minute movies in a subject and characters that they love, that they already know.
Any old sparks ignite?
Milo Ventimiglia: Look, I think there’s a lot to play with. Sparks can go in a million different directions and be a lot of different colors. There could be sparks with Jess and Luke. Those are different kinds of sparks. It could be Luke and Lorelei. There’s a lot of different fires ignited also.
Were you privy to the four final words?
Milo Ventimiglia: I was privy to the four final words before they were on paper the first go-round and I’ve sworn never to spill anything and I still won’t.
Did you see Creed or were you aware they they said Rocky Jr. moved away and started his own life?
Milo Ventimiglia: A little bit inside, I took my mom and dad to see that movie the day it came out. When that moment happened and Adonis asks Rocky, “Where’s your boy now?” Rocky said, “Oh, he’s in Vancouver. He moved on, he’s in Vancouver, got a good job.” When they filmed Creed, I myself was filming in Vancouver. Knowing Sly and knowing his savvy and how in depth he is and how smart he is and how kind he is, I’d like to believe that he might have gone, “Where’s the kid?” and somebody said, “Oh, he’s got a new show filming in Vancouver” and that was a nice tip of the hat to I was there but I wasn’t there. What a great film. Ryan Coogler is amazing, immensely talented.