Milo Ventimiglia stars as Jack Pearson in the beloved family drama, This Is Us. The show is currently on its sixth and final season. New episodes of the final chapter premiere Tuesdays at 9 PM ET on NBC.
Everyone has a family. And every family has a story. This Is Us chronicles the Pearson family across the decades: from Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca (Mandy Moore) as young parents in the 1980s to their kids (the big three), Kevin (Justin Hartley), Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Randall (Sterling K. Brown) searching for love and fulfillment in the present day along with Toby (Chris Sullivan) and Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson). This grounded, life-affirming dramedy reveals how the tiniest events in our lives impact who we become, and how the connections we share with each other can transcend time, distance and even death.
I had the opportunity to chat with the actor over zoom about his performance in episode 6×04, creating Jack and Rebecca’s relationship with Mandy Moore, how all generations can enjoy This Is Us, what he hopes the show and Jack’s legacy are, all of the lingering questions, and much more! Keep reading for everything he shared with me.
Before we get started, I want to congratulate you on receiving your star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It’s well deserved.
Milo Ventimiglia: Yeah, it’s pretty crazy. Thank you very much. It’s pretty wild. I’m happy to be right there next to my TV wife, that’s pretty wonderful. But ultimately, I hope it just kind of inspires a bunch of younger artists to get out and go do something great, then inspire the next generation, and on and on and on.
Before I spoke to you, I rewatched the pilot, so I wanted to ask if you ever think of all the stuff you’ve done on This Is Us, see where you are now in the story, and look back at how far you’ve come?
It’s been a moment since I’ve gone back to watch, like actually sit there and really watch some episodes. I think I’d probably seen the pilot or a few that may be tied to a storyline as of recent, but I still remember it all. I remember just about every moment and if someone were to tell me, “Hey, what about this?” Boom, I’d be right there in that moment. Mandy and I, we kind of have a lot of laughs, a lot of times just thinking back when the kids were younger, when we shot this tough day, when we were laughing our heads off. So we have all those things, we have them in spades. We have so many of them and yeah, we’ve covered a lot of ground. I think it’s been pretty great that the show has kind of inspired in people that conversation, that connectivity as a family, close friends or anything, just try and be a little more responsible with what we’re putting out there in the world. So I hope it continues even though the show is coming up to an end.
You delivered such an outstanding performance in 6×04, I felt so moved. Did you do any sort of specific preparation for that episode to get in that mindset? I know the show deals with heavy and emotional topics all the time, but this episode was really centered on your character.
Thank you. I don’t think there was much preparation that I needed to do or could do so much as just kinda be present, and let my mind kind of go wander and expand. I, fortunately, still have my mother, still have my father, so I don’t understand the loss of a parent yet, but Elan Mastai, who wrote the episode, had lost his mother. We had a lot of conversations about that and Jack being a product of being born in the forties but grew up in the fifties and sixties, went to war in the seventies. He holds his emotion and his vulnerability a lot differently than men in the present day. So understanding all of that and knowing that he’s still as vulnerable as anybody else experiencing the loss of a parent, there wasn’t a lot of preparation, but I think I just really needed to be present. I needed to be there and let my imagination really wander.
There’s some actors that have to experience something in order to play it. I think my imagination can go as far and wide and much further than an experience itself. So I just kind of let it go. It was really painful. I mean, I remember when we were filming it, I was telling some close friends of mine, “Hey, I’m going to be in a hole for like the next two weeks and I’ll see guys when I come out.” And I remember coming out of it and I didn’t really talk to my parents, and I talked to my parents pretty frequently. I remember having a meal with them, sitting there, just watching my mom, and watching her eat. She at one point looks up and she’s like, “What’s going on, buddy? What are you looking at?” And I’m like, “Nothing, nothing.” So yeah, from action to cut, those moments are real. They’re really real, you know? So when Jack loses his mom, it’s like, that’s real. I had to physicalize the experience.
You and Mandy Moore are just magic together on screen. The relationship you’ve brought to life is so beautiful and you also have such a great relationship off screen. What has it been like to create that bond and bring this amazing love story to life as well as see the fan response to it?
I mean, it’s one, a commitment to the story that you’re playing, and in addition to that, it’s a commitment to your scene partner. I know that I feel very much as an actor that I’m there to serve my scene partners, my crew first. Then beyond that, of course, is what the performance is. So for me, I feel like I’m always giving and Mandy’s exactly the same. So the fact that our individual views on the work happen to be exactly the same turned into this beautiful display of a husband and wife for the show, for the audience, but for us, it was just the best working experience with one of my greatest friends. There’s a lot of trust you have to have with your scene partner, especially playing something as intimate as husband and wife.
And I remember early on, Mandy and I just kind of agreeing that for all intents and purposes from action to cut, I’m her husband and she’s my wife. So I think that trust to know that we could experience those things for the characters and really not feel held back by really anything created a very safe place for both of us to do our work, knowing that we were going to be doing it together. There’s no emotion I can’t get into without just looking her in the eye and that’s been a wonderful reminder as an actor that your scene partner is your everything. You really have to invest in that and make sure that you’re there for that person as much as they’re there for you, and you can create something like Jack and Rebecca.
They’re iconic. Jack and Rebecca are going to live on, even after the show ends.
Yeah, I think so.
This Is Us is a show that generations can enjoy together, which is rare on television right now. My mom and grandparents were the ones that introduced me to the show and now we watch it together weekly. What does it mean to you that your work, character, and the show itself can bring families together in this way and is something everyone can enjoy?
I think it’s wonderful. As artists, I think what we try and do is entertain, but when we can have a greater reach than one targeted audience, it just makes it that much more satisfying. When I have people of different everything — I mean, male, female, young, older, every nationality from every part of the globe, speaking every language, can understand the dynamic of family, can understand that service that you have as a parent, that duty and responsibility as a spouse, the support you give as a friend, even when we are all struggling with something personally; some people’s lives may look greater than others, but we all have our struggles. I think if you can do that, if you can be a part of that as an actor, as a crew, as a show, it’s a very rewarding experience and it’s something that I know a lot of us don’t take lightly. We understand just how impactful this show has been, and I think we all kind of lean into it. Us actors — we’re out there in the world, we can’t quite take our character masks off. We are representatives of this show that is giving people the voice to communicate and hopefully, find common bonds where maybe otherwise they would not have. I just think it’s wonderful. I think it’s incredibly satisfying and very, very wonderful to be able to do.
Is there a fan experience that really stands out to you or moved you?
I don’t know if there was one, in particular, that was the penultimate. I’ve had quite a few. I’ve definitely, without having a professional license, counseled people who have lost a family member, who have adopted a child, who have had a hard time with drinking alcohol or drug abuse. In a way, I think this character of Jack has become everyone’s father and everyone’s husband, and I may not be completely equipped to offer any point of view or advice, but I also know that I can’t shy away from that. The best thing that I could probably do for anyone wanting to tell me their stories is just listen, which has actually been a wonderful gift for me is I get to communicate and connect with people that I might not have and I get to learn about them.
I think maybe a lot of times as an actor, maybe someone who’s recognizable, people want to talk to you about you and it’s like, “not really, I’m sick of myself. Tell me about yourself. Tell me about you. Where are you from? Tell me about your life.” So that’s what the show has kind of given all of us actors on it and particularly, I can say firsthand, I get a lot of people telling me their stories from the show that I’m a part of. Again, it’s just really satisfying and really wonderful to know that that happens.
With this being your final season, is there something you want to take with you from set?
No, it’s so funny, everybody asks that question. I’m like, I might’ve like stolen a pair of sunglasses from a pharmacy when I was a kid and I felt horrible for it. I’m not one to take. I think there’s a lot of memories and a lot of crew, a lot of people that I’ve worked with over the last six years. For me, it’s more like phone numbers. I don’t think I need one of Jack’s plaid shirts, I don’t think I need his boots, I don’t think I need his fake beard, hairpieces, or any of that kind of stuff. I’m good leaving it all for a museum or a movie exhibit somewhere, but yeah, it’s just the memories of the people, things like that. That’s what I probably carry with me, bring with me.
Is there something that playing Jack has taught you personally, that you feel like you’re going to carry with you going forward?
I don’t know if it’s a lesson learned, but it’s just more of an affirmation. I myself have really great parents, parents who were always there, parents who were always supportive, and I see Jack and Rebecca really giving so much of that to their children. So it wasn’t a lesson learned as much as it was just an affirmation of what I already knew growing up the way that I did with my mom and dad and my older sisters too. Family’s always been very important. I also realized too, even if you’re not born into a family, the family that you create yourself is also very important — your close friends, things like that, kind of just finding people that you can look out for, they can look out for you, and just knowing that is something that is possible is a pretty special thing.
There’s obviously still a ton of questions that fans have and want answers to. Do you have one that you were most excited for them to find out the answer to in this final season? [Yes.] Can you tell me what the question is?
No. [Laughs] You asked me if I have one, I said yes. Then it was like, no, I cannot tell you. [I mean, you did keep Jack dying a secret, you had to keep that locked in.] Yeah, I mean, listen, I think if there are gold stars in Hollywood, I should hopefully receive a couple, all of us should for keeping that a secret of how Jack died.
There are still a lot of storylines that I think we need to wrap up this season. I mean, only four of the 18 episodes have aired, so we’ve got 14 more to go. And even though we’re in the middle of filming them, I think also we’re moving along and there’s still a lot of story to lay out. So as I’m reading the script and seeing what’s coming, it’s all very satisfactory, even to me. It’s like, “Oh, wow, that finally cleared. Oh, hey, that wrapped up. Oh, wow, that’s wonderful.” So, it’s all pretty cool. I think all the questions are gonna get answered.
I spoke with Chris Sullivan last year and he compared keeping This Is Us secrets to Marvel secrets.
Yeah, you know what though, it’s one of those things that it doesn’t come from, “just wait and see.” I feel like we want the audience experience to be real and true. We don’t want to give anything away because that’s just going to ruin that whole first experience. Like, what if everybody knew that the Pearsons were all a family when they watched the pilot episode, not discover it at the end with a cigarette in the hospital, the babies, and the fireman? All of that, it’s like, “Woah, wait a minute,” that was mind-blowing how nobody knew. It just wasn’t revealed, and that experience, I think a lot of people felt that where it was just so honest. So I think that’s why we’re really hesitant to say anything is because we just don’t want to ruin the experience of someone enjoying an hour of television.
Exactly, the story itself is a journey. The best part is going through the journey, not the destination. Lastly, I know that this show is going to stick with fans and eventually, be passed down. So do you have a legacy that you hope either the show or your character leaves behind for those who watch it when it comes to an end?
For Jack, I think what I’d like people to remember is everyone is flawed, but if we put our best intentions forward, then I think those flaws would not be looked at too heavily and we can kind of forgive ourselves of those flaws. And the show, I think just communication. Everyone knows where the state of the world is, and if we can continue to really try and communicate, even when we’re on opposite sides of something and fundamentally disagree with, let’s just say the other side, at least talk, communicate, find a way to work together, work with people, you know? So I think that’s the biggest legacy that I think the show could do is that inclusion of everyone’s ideas and thoughts, and really trying to come together as a community of people than stay so apart. We communicate, all that, and remember.