As we enter Emmy season — nomination voting runs June 12 to June 26 — Yahoo TV will be spotlighting performances and other contributions that we feel deserve recognition.
Milo Ventimiglia isn’t a father. But he plays a really great one on TV. And it’s beginning to rub off on him.
“Your parents are these gods getting you through life, and playing Jack, I’ve really started to understand just exactly what that commitment and that love was to raise a child. My god my parents were saints,” the This Is Us actor, who used his father as an inspiration for Jack, tells Yahoo TV. “My dad is the greatest guy. He was never not there for us kids.”
Just like a real parent, Ventimiglia beams with pride when talking about the child actors who play his faux nine-year-old offspring — Mackenzie Hancsicsak (Kate), Lonnie Chavis (Randall), and Parker Bates (Kevin). “I’m the luckiest guy in the world getting to work with all those wonderful young actors,” he says. “They’ve got such heart, such passion.”
It is also not uncommon to see him helping his young co-stars with homework, inquiring about how school’s going, bringing them gifts, or fooling around between takes. “I try to create this fun atmosphere. I’ve made myself available like one of their parents. Like, ‘Hey, if you need anything let me know,’” he says, before adding where he draws the line between fact and fiction. “I’m not going to give [them] an allowance.”
Ventimiglia even got verklempt when talking about one of his favorite scenes from Season 1, in which young Kate is body-shamed and bullied and Jack saves the day with a story and a magic shirt. “We finally [get] a chance to see Jack interact with and advise his kids; be a dad to them,” he says, explaining why he selected the scene from the episode “The Pool” to revisit for Yahoo TV’s “My Scene to Remember” Emmy series. Kate, who boldly wore a bikini without a cover-up to the community pool despite her mother’s suggestion, gets a note from the other girls saying that she embarrasses them — and it includes a picture of a pig because, as Ventimiglia succinctly puts it, “Kids can be such little sh**s. They don’t know how much their words impact fellow classmates.”
Jack gives his daughter his tee and lifts her spirits with a tall tale about how it has special powers. “It’s story time. Dad is going to make something up to get his daughter feeling confident, good, and smiling by the end of what was supposed to be a fun day. It is this big elaborate story [that] comes out of Jack’s mouth and his heart,” says Ventimiglia, who practiced the speech for a week and a half in order to nail it. And he did — it took only 45 minutes to film. “I appreciated these beautiful words, the connective speech to get her to believe in that magic a little bit,” he says. “I thought it was a beautiful moment for Jack to inspire and connect with his daughter.”
But as Kate finally starts smiling again and pulls the T-shirt on over her head, faith restored, you see Jack crack a tiny bit when her face is covered by cloth. “He’s giving his kid this magical moment where she has the confidence to be the princess, but it comes at an expense. As a parent, you can’t let it affect you like that, can’t let them see you hurt for them. [But] it is a completely soul-crushing moment at the end for him,” he says. “His daughter is already feeling that bullying from other kids and that self-conscious sensitivity of ‘I want to cover up.'”
Ventimiglia thinks it was a fantastic way to set up Kate’s weight issues later in life and also helps further explain her connection with her dad — as does a later episode in which she has a Madonna-themed birthday party that doesn’t go so well either — and why it will eventually be such a giant blow when he dies. (The mystery of Jack’s death was not resolved in the first season, but Ventimiglia did tease that it may not be too long before the audience understands what happened to his character. He doesn’t know much about Season 2 as the writers are “still in break mode,” but what he does know is “awesome.”)
Whatever the sophomore season brings, the Gilmore guy can’t wait to return to work. “Getting a job is a feat unto itself, but getting one where the words are beautiful and the characters are impactful on a deeper level than entertaining — you can’t help but smile,” he says. “We understand the impact of the work we are doing on the greater community of audience. This is really remarkable that a show can touch people. It is good to be a part of something good.”
This is Us returns this fall to NBC. Watch the latest episodes for free on Yahoo View.
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