'This Is Us': Milo Ventimiglia on What Jack Would Think of Rebecca & Miguel

This is Us - Season 4
Q&A
Ron Batzdorff/NBC

In tonight’s fall finale of This Is Us, we see Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) reach out to his brother Nicky (Michael Angarano) in the past while, in present day, the Pearsons gather for Thanksgiving dinner at Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and Beth’s (Susan Kelechi Watson) new home.

One of the great things about This Is Us is that even though Jack is gone, he’s always popping up in storylines and in scenes courtesy of the show time-shifting throughout the decades. This season, we’ve seen Jack attempt the comical (trying to capture a bird with a pillow case and tennis racket) and the serious – trying to impress Rebecca’s (Mandy Moore) parents and inviting Randall’s (Lonnie Chavis) teacher, Mr. Lawrence (Brandon Scott), over for dinner after sensing a bond between his son and his instructor.

TV Insider recently chatted with Ventimiglia on the NBC & Vanity Fair red carpet about Jack’s efforts to help his son and his upcoming USA project Evel, based on the life of Evel Knievel, the daredevil motorcyclist.  Plus, he talked about how the Pearson patriarch may be gone, but he’ll never be forgotten. Read on for the scoop!

(Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

Do fans of the show tell you that they hate that you’re not around in the present or in the future, even though we can see Jack every week?

Milo Ventimiglia: Yes. I know people who’ve actually stopped watching since Jack’s death, but I’ve told them I’m still on the show and we have a whole lot of stories to tell! I remind people it doesn’t matter. Jack’s always around. In the fifth episode of the first season, Kevin talks about the pain and the painting. He talks about how we were in the painting before and we’re in it after. We’re always there. We’re always present in our family’s lives. That’s a lovely thought.

How would Jack feel about Rebecca (Mandy Moore) moving not "on," but moving forward with Miguel (Jon Huertas)?

I think Jack would be perfectly happy about that. Jack loves his wife. Her being supported by someone else he loves, his best friend, wouldn’t upset Jack or bother him at all.

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Earlier this season, we saw Jack invite Randall’s (Lonnie Chavis) teacher, Cory Lawrence (Brandon Scott), to dinner because he sensed a connection between them, but then Jack got a little… jealous?

I don’t know if it was "jealousy" so much as Jack is Randall’s father and Jack is a man of an era where he feels that he’s equipped to be everything to his kids, teach them everything. With Randall, he’s finding himself, as Jack has said, out of his depth. So, when he sees his son have a connection to his teacher, who’s also African American, [he wants to help foster that]. "Jealousy" isn’t the word, but he wants to be his son’s everything even though he knows he can’t be. The most important thing he can do is teach his son to be Randall and to support his son in whatever he’s seeking or looking for. It was a struggle for Jack, but he saw that he doesn’t need to shoulder raising Randall himself. He needs to let other people impact his son in a positive way.

(Mitchell Haddad/NBC)

Any parent faces that, I would imagine.

Yes. Myself, I’m not a father, but I've seen a lot of friends of mine who have kids and they want to be their children’s everything. At a certain point, though, you gotta let them go be their own person.

Rebecca advised Jack not to ask Randall to choose between him and his teacher, but to let Randall have new experiences and other role models.

Yeah. Rebecca’s always the one to see something different than the way Jack sees it. It’s a nice balance.

What do you like about revisiting different decades?

The '80s are always fun because they’re a little more positive. In the '90s, the teenagers are growing up and going out on their own. The '70s sure are fun, but the pants are tight!

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When people are younger, they move differently, hold their bodies differently. How do you change your physicality when you’re playing Jack in different eras. Is there a coach on set?

No. You [do] carry yourself differently. I think it’s just an understanding of where your character happens to be. For me, I have the touchstones of facial hair to remind me of how old I am. When Jack’s older and has his gray hair and his goatee, I just feel different.

Earlier this season, you directed an episode of This is Us titled "Storybook Love." What was that like?

It was great. It’d been a while since I was behind the lens, jumping into a crew and cast that I knew with stories I was very familiar with and was comfortable. But at the same time, I understood that I was a guest — because I don’t work with a lot of the other actors on the show, I was a guest on their set. I had to remember and remind myself that that’s their set. The episode was a blast. It was great.

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Could the blossoming relationship turn sour soon?

Would you like to do more?

Yes. I think it’s a way to "park" the character possibly on screen. It give the character a break while still keeping me, Milo, involved in the show. From what I hear, everybody had a good time [when I directed].

Would you like to write an episode of This Is Us?

I don’t know if I’d write one. We have such talented writers who are spending every day in the [writers room]  breaking stories, writing scripts. For me, I’m more comfortable on the production end of things. Also, I’m creating my own stuff. I have two pilots coming up. We already filmed one. I have a couple of things, too, including producing Evel for USA.

(Mitchell Haddad/NBC)

What research did you do?

Extensive! There’s a whole lot of things to work out in the next five months.

Evel Knievel’s name became synonymous with doing daredevil stunts. What inspired you to want to tell his story?

I think we were all inspired by the guy and what he did on his bike. But we didn’t know who he was. I’ve watched different movies and have heard how much he’s referenced as the cultural icon that he was. You watch Armageddon and you’ll hear Ben Affleck mention Evel Knievel. You watch an interview between Jerry Seinfeld and Eddie Murphy in a Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee episode and Eddie was talking about him. These are big shoes to fill, but I’m excited.

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There aren’t many shows guaranteed to strike an emotional chord with viewers. Fans of This Is Us can almost be assured of a good cry each week.

I don’t think we’re out to make anyone cry but, rather, to feel. Even sitting in an editing room when you’re watching a performance and you look at where your music key will be, you realize this will make people feel [an] emotional. But it’s without forcing it. It starts out with the writing and turns into the directing. We have a lot of talented folks putting their best foot forward.

This Is Us, Tuesdays, 9/8c, NBC