Milo Ventimiglia in "This is Us." Photo by NBC
NEW YORK, May 11 (UPI) -- This Is Us star Milo Ventimiglia said even he is surprised at how rich and complicated a character Jack Pearson has turned out to be, considering his story has been unfolding via flashback scenes over the course of five seasons.
"Alcoholism, fatherhood, marriage, war, the excitement of falling in love -- we've been a lot of different places with Jack," Ventimiglia told reporters in a recent Zoom interview. "I'm still just amazed that we have room to explore him further, [with him] being deceased in the present day."
The actor's favorite scenes occurred when Jack is a young father, but Ventimiglia doesn't flinch when asked to depict his uglier side, too.
"I don't think there is one part of Jack that I don't like playing, even though there have been moments when I disagreed with his decisions or judgments, but, beyond that, I am grateful for the time I get to spend in his shoes," Ventimiglia said.
Co-starring Mandy Moore, Sterling K. Brown, Chrissy Metz, Justin Hartley, Chris Sullivan and Susan Kelechi Watson, This Is Us airs Tuesday nights on NBC.
The show follows adult twins Kate and Kevin, adopted brother Randall, parents Jack and Rebecca, and their various partners and kids. It crisscrosses between the past, present and future to chronicle the family's history for numerous decades with child and teen actors playing younger versions of the trio of siblings in flashback episodes.
Five seasons in, the show continues to resonate with viewers, especially as they are living through the coronavirus pandemic and an era of tremendous political division.
"I remember hearing early on [in the season] people saying: 'You're not going to talk about COVID, you're not going to talk about racial injustice, you're not going to talk about this stuff [are you?]' And I was like, 'Well, yeah, absolutely we are,'" Ventimiglia said. "I don't think there is any tiptoeing you can do around any of that because it is all happening right now."
The show's cast and creative team use characters audiences know and love to tell relatable stories, aiming to offer comfort to ease them through their own real-life troubles.
"If people can understand that they are not alone in their feelings and their struggles and their desire to be understood, well, I think that's always going to resonate, given the difficult year we've had, but also in joyous times," Ventimiglia said.
The 43-year-old actor said that the show speaks to everyone.
"That's always been the strength of the show: how it connects [people] and universally relates to the human experience no matter where you're from or who you are or where you are going," he said.
Ventimiglia said he enjoyed Jack's beyond-the-grave, imaginary conversations with Kevin and Randall, and is up for an intimate chat with Kate, as well, should the occasion arise.
"I don't get to work with Justin, Sterling and Chrissy -- and even further heartbreak -- I don't get to work with Sully or Susan or Randall's family, the kids," the actor said.
Since Jack died when his children were 17, most of Ventimiglia's scenes are with Moore, who played his wife, Rebecca, and the younger actors who play Kate, Kevin and Randall.
"It's tough, but if there was an opportunity for Jack and adult Kate to share some time, of course, I'd embrace it. It would be wonderful," Ventimiglia said.
"Just like the time I got with Sterling and Justin, I would absolutely want that with Chrissy, and I think the dynamic between Jack and Kate has always been so strong that maybe people are wanting to see that."
If it happens, it would have to be a natural development in the writers' room, though, Ventimiglia emphasized.
"There's nothing that ever feels forced or intentionally put on us," he said.
The actor laughed when asked what he thinks about fan theories that Rebecca will marry Jack's brother Nicky (Griffin Dunne,) since they were seen together as senior citizens in a flashforward scene.
In the present-day timeline, she is married to Jack's best friend, Miguel (Jon Huertas.)
"Nicky's had a tough life. Rebecca knows how to pick them," Ventimiglia said. "Griffin Dunne is a handsome man and beautiful soul, so if that's what happened after her second husband's passing, I guess, good for them."
Knowing when and how Jack dies doesn't impact how Ventimiglia plays the now iconic TV dad.
"If anything, it puts some bookends to where I understand where I need to go with Jack trajectory wise. Where I get to play him as a younger man, I get to form him and shape him," he explained.
The actor said that when he plays the role a little older, he tries not to let the character's impending death creep in too much.
"I don't know if I play him a little more reverent when I get older, fighting for time and love with his kids," he said.
"I get the road map from the scripts, and the scripts are always so beautiful and inspiring, and I am always just trying to be honest with Jack and who he is. "