Milo Ventimiglia Previews Jack’s ‘Emotional Break’ in ‘This Is Us’ Final Season
How does music teacher Kate (Chrissy Metz), currently married to Toby (Chris Sullivan), end up engaged to her crusty coworker Phillip (Chris Geere)? Can her brother Kevin (Justin Hartley) and his ex-fiancée Madison (Caitlin Thompson) still get happy endings? Will mom Rebecca (Mandy Moore) find peace when she loses her battle to (presumably) Alzheimer’s? What else will late dad Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) teach us about marriage, parenting, and ourselves?
On a Saturday in December, after Ventimiglia had spent the week pulling double duty on set — “Yesterday was Day 3 in a pool with 7-year-olds, wearing a fake beard, acting and directing” — he phoned us to dish.
We have a photo of Jack and Rebecca embracing in the Season 6 premiere. They’re beaming. What’s happening?
Milo Ventimiglia: Just like we’ve explored real sadness together, that moment right there, it’s real happiness. That photo [above] makes me smile because that’s my partner. That’s my TV wife, you know? I remember our trip to New York [when the show was announced in May 2016]. We were at a party, and in a quiet moment, sitting off to the side, Mandy and I raised our glasses and made vows of a sort: “I’m not going to be happy unless you’re happy. Let’s communicate and support one another.” That hasn’t stopped.
In the episode, the Big 3 — Kate, Kevin, and sibling Randall, played by Sterling K. Brown — are celebrating their 41st birthdays. In the past, it’s 1986. Jack and Rebecca are helping the 5-year-olds process the Challenger disaster. What should we read into that?
That trauma had a great impact on all of them. I mean, in the pilot, older Kevin says that things [started going wrong for him] with the Challenger explosion. They’re different kids, and they experience it in their own unique ways. Everything is always about how it relates to their adult lives.
The season’s fourth episode will dig into Jack’s relationship with his mother (Laura Niemi). How was it to go there?
I’ll be honest, it was a very difficult episode to film. It’s an entire Jack episode — there are no other storylines in it. We haven’t known much about that relationship after Jack removed her from a bad situation [with his alcoholic father]. We get into some distance that was between them. We know how much he cared about her. I’m getting emotional thinking about it.
What made it so challenging?
I have to physicalize the stress that Jack is going through. I’ve seen Chrissy go through Kate’s breakdowns. I’ve seen Justin go through it. We’ve all seen Sterling go through it. Mandy, God bless her, she goes through it constantly in age makeup. It’s interesting to discover what Jack’s emotional break looks like, being the guy who’s the rock. In the end, it was very cathartic and satisfying. But, man, did it hurt.
When it’s not a situation you’ve experienced personally, how do you make it feel so real?
My imagination stretches really, really far, and infinitely wide. I approached this the same way I did Jack and his alcoholism. Still, to this day, one of my favorite scenes of the show was [in Season 2] when Jack tells teen Kate that he has a drinking problem. Sitting there having a very simple conversation that was just so heartbreaking to him. [Pauses.] I’m getting emotional again.
Hearing you now…will you be able to say goodbye to Jack Pearson?
Jack will probably be a part of me for a long time. But at the same time, I get to shave the mustache, shave the beard, get a haircut. [Laughs.] I’m looking forward to filming that [last episode]. I think it’s going to be one for the books.
This Is Us, Season 6 Premiere, Tuesday, January 4, 2022, 9/8c, NBC