American actor Milo Ventimiglia chats with DAMAN about his upcoming appearance in “The Art of Racing in the Rain” and shares about his experience with hit TV series “This Is Us”.
Looking back, American actor Milo Ventimiglia entered into the world of show business in what can only be described as one of the defining shows of 90s TV, Will Smith’s “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” back in 1995. Other than that, he was once best known for his work on “Gilmore Girls” where he took on the role of Jess Mariano, Rory Gilmore’s troubled love interest, then as the son of Sylvester Stallone in 2006’s Rocky Balboa and as Peter Petrelli in the sci-fi drama “Heroes.”
Nowadays, though, he’s known for his leading role as Jack Pearson opposite Mandy Moore on NBC’s hit drama series “This Is Us.” For his role as Jack Pearson, Ventimiglia has received three Primetime Emmy nominations for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series back in 2017 and 2018, as well as this year. And to top it all off, three new seasons of “This Is Us” has been confirmed, starting from 2019-2020 until the 2021-2022 season—which speaks volumes of the show’s success and the performance, not to mention the star power, of its leading performer. For more on Ventimiglia’s recent work and his upcoming projects, DAMAN sat down for a trans-continental chat.
DA MAN: Hi Milo, thanks for having us. How are you doing these days?
Milo Ventimiglia: I’m great, thank you very much.
DA: So, let’s talk about “This Is Us.” If we’re not mistaken, last year, the show scored 11 Emmy nominations. What was it like for you coming into this show?
MV: Working on an Emmy nominated show is just like working on any other show. You showed up, you got excited to be there. You work well with the crew, your writers, your casts, your pre and post-productions. You just remain present. At least that’s what I’ve done and I think as the show has going on and we stayed in the Emmy conversations, it actually makes me work even harder. Go even deeper into the characters, the stories, just kind of double down the material, not to stay in the conversation for awards, but just to do the good work.
DA: Speaking of which, NBC announced that “This Is Us” would be renewed for a fourth season. The network has also confirmed a fifth and sixth season going all the way until 2020. How do you feel about this development?
MV: I’m very excited about the three seasons pick up. I think that’s a great thing for the audience. I think it’s good that we are able to let them know that they can committed to us, that we’re going to tell more stories and get through more stories, and we’ll be around for a little while. I think that this will also let the audience know that we have an end plan, or end game, and we’re not just telling random stories, but it’s all directed into one path. And I’m looking forward to it.
DA: By the way, after three seasons, do you still remember what it was that first drew you to audition for “This Is Us”?
MV: It was just a great script. You know, I read it first as an audience member and then I found love with the story. Beautiful story about family, and then also individually, about this man who so deeply wanted this, to build this family. So, it was just really that first read of the script that really pulled me in.
DA: Between seasons one, two and three, which version of Jack do you enjoy playing the most?
MV: I enjoyed playing moustache Jack. That’s how we break down the parts when we’re talking on the set. There’s bearded Jack, moustache Jack, goatee Jack and then represents him in his 30s, 40s and 50s and then clean shaven Jack, pre-war Jack, Vietnam Jack, post-Vietnam Jack. In other words, there’s tons of facial hair. But my favorite is Jack in his 40s. He’s a little easier to laugh and having more fun with his kid and his wife. He’s not with his problems anymore in the 40s—of course the drinking. He’s a lot easier on himself in his 40s.
DA: Being part of the cast of “This Is Us,” are you still able to enjoy it as a viewer as well?
MV: Absolutely, I am still able to enjoy it as an audience. Because Jack is deceased in the present day, so I don’t get a chance to work with everybody else from the cast. So, for me, when I watch the show, for the good majority of it, I’m watching us as a member of the audience. I get to see the great work they are putting in, and the words that the writers come up with, come out of their mouths. I can absolutely enjoy it as part of the audience.
DA: Do you have any favorite moments from over the past three seasons of “This Is Us”?
MV: My favorite? There are so many of them. And If I were to think about every person on the crew, as well as every actor that I’ve shared the screen with, or my co-stars that I’ve had when we’ve just been out of the world of press, I’m going to have moments for everyone. The highlight, though, honestly, is showing up to work every day. We’ve got such amazing crew and I’m just grateful to be there.
DA: Thanks in part to its stellar case, “This Is Us” has, without doubt, a huge fanbase. Have you had any particularly interesting encounter with fans of the show?
MV: Yes, I’ve had many interesting encounters. I received a lot of hugs. Some people cry, for some people I really can tell it’s a big moment that they’re meeting a character that has impacted the way they view adoption or body issues, or family matters, anything like that. So, it’s really just a beautiful thing to know about how it impacts people the way the show “This Is Us” has.
DA: Back to your character, what does Jack Pearson really mean to you on a personal level?
MV: Jack feels like so many men that I’ve come across and known in my life of 42 years. My father, my friends; he’s just this every man. What I love about him is that he’s not perfect. But he tries to be the best version of himself that he can and he does it simply for his wife and for his kids, and I’m really enamored by him for doing that.
DA: Other than “This Is Us,” this year you’re also set to appear in “The Art of Racing in the Rain.” Other than the imaginative title, can you tell us a bit about what the movie is about and your role in it?
MV: Yeah. The film “The Art of Racing in the Rain” is about a racecar driver who has this dog and the film takes place over the course of the dog’s life, from puppy until he’s old. As he watches his owner go through auto-racing, meeting a woman, falling in love, having a family, just the trials that happened in life. It’s a beautiful film and very-very much in the same category as “This Is Us.”
DA: What would you say is the number one reason to go see this movie when it comes out?
MV: If you love great characters and dogs, as well as romance and auto-racing, then you should definitely go out and see “The Art of Racing in the Rain.”
DA: How do you feel about the character you play here?
MV: My character in this movie, Denny Swift, is simple like Jack Pearson. But that doesn’t make him uncomplicated. He’s a man who has drive and focus and wants out of life but he’s also not without his challenges. And he does the best that he can, under the circumstances that he’s put in, and he’s a character that I admire for his strengths, his perseverance, his focus and his simple determination.
DA: All in all, how would you describe your experience working on this movie?
MV: The overall work on “The Art of Racing in the Rain” was so much fun. There were moments in filming that are very heartfelt, that are emotionally testing, but there is this beautiful, hopeful thread underneath the entire film and I think that kept me going through the course of filming. When Simon Curtis, our director, and I got together, we talked about how seeing the title, everybody expected that it was about racing as in automotive racing. But the first conversation that Simon and I had were about being a father and a husband and the dog owner. And that quality of life became the center of the film and truly is the center of film.
DA: Looking ahead to the foreseeable future, are there any specific challenges—maybe certain kind of roles or certain genres—that you’d like to tackle as an actor?
MV: I’m looking forward to tackling anything that comes into my way. That’s the great part of being an actor. We, actors, as human beings are constantly evolving. So, I look forward to diving deep into whatever comes my way.
DA: On the flip side, when you’re looking back, what are some of your most memorable roles?
MV: Some of my memorable roles … well, a lot of them are memorable based on who I was working with or the circumstances of filming. Like, working with Nicole Kidman and Tim Roth on “Grace of Monaco” was an amazing experience. Working with Sylvester Stallone on “Rocky Balboa” was incredibly memorable because of how much I admired all that Sly does. Working with Adam Sandler on two back-to-back movies from “Grown Ups 2” and “That’s My Boy” was a lesson in understanding that you’re going to have the most fun while you’re working and to where it feels like summer camp. Even darker roles, like Josh in “The Divide,” working with great actors like Michael Eklund and Michael Biehn and Iván González, is a reminder that it doesn’t matter how small film may be, it can have such a deep fundamental impact on us as actors and the roles that we played.
DA: Moving to more personal matters; besides acting, what else are you passionate about now?
MV: I’m passionate about putting some good will out into the world. You know, I think right now, the frequency of the world is very erratic and I’m trying to put some positivity and calm and understanding good communication out into the world. Yeah, just trying to put some good out there … that’s what I’m passionate about.
DA: Last but not least, when you’re not busy filming, what do you usually do?
MV: When I’m not filming, I’m always working. [Chuckles] I’m running a production company, which takes up quite a bit of time. But all of it never particularly feels like work. It feels like creative problem solving and victory with your friends. You know, I’m lucky enough to work in an artistic capacity with people that I admire and respect and want to be around. And that’s both on “This Is Us” and my production company “Divide,” as well as with my team that I’ve been with for a long time. I’m a very fortunate working actor and it’s pretty good feeling.
PHOTOGRAPHY Mitchell Nguyen McCormack
STYLING Monty Jackson
Grooming Barbara Guillaume at forwardartists.com
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