Milo Ventimiglia says he wasn’t what producers were looking for when they started the audition process for the role of Jack Pearson on This Is Us. In a candid new interview with Variety, Ventimiglia revealed that producers of the hit NBC drama were looking for a more clean-cut actor for the role of the Pearson patriarch.
“They wanted somebody completely different,” Milo told Variety.
“I walked in with my beard and my long hair and set my motorcycle helmet down and they went, ‘Who is this guy?'”
Milo explained that he thinks it was more his personality than his looks that got him the part on the breakout drama series.
“I think they just saw something different than someone who had practiced the words, and they picked me,” Milo said. “I don’t think it was so much me choosing it as it choosing me.”
At the time of his This Is Us audition, Ventimiglia was rebounding from two other TV gigs that didn’t come to fruition. The audition came at a carefree time in Milo’s life when he decided to grow his hair out because he had no idea if his next role would have him “swinging a sword in ancient Egypt’ or “playing a cop walking the streets of New York.”
Milo Ventimiglia said he was just living his life when the role of a lifetime came to him.
“You’re in the right place at the right time as you’re supposed to be,” Ventimiglia said of the This Is Us role. “It’s kind of art imitating life. was just trying to be just a man existing as a man, and here’s this man who’s just trying to provide for his wife and his family and all of that. It was so simple and beautiful that I thought, ‘I’d just love to do it. I’d love to be a part of it.'”
This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman previously told NPR he originally envisioned a more average-looking actor in the role of Jack Pearson, a character that is based on himself. Still, when he paired Milo with Mandy Moore and the equally unlikely Ron Cephas Jones, he knew he had a winning combination.
“I knew the cast was going to kill before we shot a frame [of film],” Fogelman said. “The actors are so truthful, it feels real.”
Of course, casting the buff, hunky Milo Ventimiglia as the father of three living in the 1980s had its challenges. During an appearance on The Talk, Milo revealed that he was told he needed more of a 1980s dadbod for the show’s pilot twist.
“This was the first time in my career, in 21 years, where the producers said, ‘Stop working out,'” Milo admitted to the CBS chatfest.
“They didn’t want me to work out because they wanted to make sure I didn’t look too modern of a man so when the reveal does happen you understand that Rebecca and Jack are from the past and they look of their time.”
Still, the role of Jack Pearson came at exactly the right time for Ventimiglia. Just ahead of the This Is Us premiere last fall, Milo who had just turned 39, told E! News that over the past few years his perspective about life—and acting—has changed. It’s almost as if Ventimiglia, who was previously known as a Gilmore Girls boyfriend, had grown into the role just in time.
“I think at about 35 or 36, the work became easier because I had years on this earth and my perspective on life kind of grew and I was able to connect on a deeper level to my characters,” Ventimiglia told E!. “Understanding where Jack is as a man who’s starting a family and loves his wife is something I can understand. I feel my heart pounding a little more talking to you about those things—even just saying them. It’s an exciting thing, an exciting time right now to play a character like Jack.”
Milo Ventimiglia returns for This Is Us Season 2 in September on NBC.
[Featured Image by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images]