Milo Ventimiglia on 'This Is Us' Nudity and His Big Summer

"I feel like I'm at the beginning," the actor tells THR of his 21-year career that next includes the NBC drama and Netflix's 'Gilmore Girls' revival.
Screenshot/This Is Us/YouTube

Call it the Summer of Milo.

From his appearance in Netflix's Gilmore Girls revival to his, ahem, asset taking front and center in the record-breaking trailer for NBC's This Is Us, Milo Ventimiglia is having another moment.

Following roles on Heroes, Gilmore Girls and, most recently, Gotham, the actor is returning to the spotlight with both highly anticipated series, and that isn't something he takes lightly.

"This is now my 21st year in front of the camera, professionally; I feel like I’m at the beginning," the 39-year-old actor tells THR with a smile and a laugh. "I feel like the last 21 years were prep for this moment right now, where I'm able to experience the moments a little more fully."

Those moments include the trailer for NBC's This Is Us catching on like wildfire. The hourlong ensemble dramedy stars Ventimiglia as Jack, a loyal and doting husband to Mandy Moore's Rebecca, with the Dan Fogelman-created entry ranking as one of the buzziest new shows of the fall.

Since its May debut, the trailer for This Is Us has continued to rewrite the record book and currently has more than 7.5 million views. Although Ventimiglia blushes at the topic, part of that success may no doubt be attributed to the fan-favorite's lack of wardrobe.

"When I read the script, it was written, 'He comes out in his birthday suit, and he's wearing nothing but a Pittsburgh Steelers dish towel' — not even a full towel!" Ventimiglia recalls. "I got it, but in the back of my mind, I thought, 'This is network television on NBC so it can't be too racy.' I assumed that the audience would assume Jack is in fact naked, but when I went to my trailer that morning and saw my wardrobe, I thought, 'Oh shit, you guys really want me naked!'"

And for those who are curious: Ventimiglia has never — including for This Is Us — used any sort of body double for scenes requiring nudity.

"I've never felt inclined to have one; it's a hard-working ass!" he says laughing before tipping his hat to his long-time trainer and friend Jason Walsh, who worked with Bradley Cooper on American Sniper and Matt Damon on the Bourne films. "It's one of those things where I heard Will Smith say, 'It's better to be ready than to have to get ready.' If me having a favorable ass on camera was any bit of a surprise, I was ready for it! And that wasn't the first time! You can go on IMDb and see I was really f—ing naked in so many movies! There was a movie I did called Kiss of the Damned and you see everything!"

While Ventimiglia completed production this summer on Netflix's Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life (due Nov. 25) in which he reprises his role as Jess Mariano, it was that same sort of family dynamic that attracted him to This Is Us — a rare family ensemble in the vein of NBC's dearly departed Jason Katims drama Parenthood.

"When I read it, I was on an airplane and stopped and sat back and had to think about it, that I was understanding what Dan had written," he says of the major twist at the end of the pilot (which we won't spoil here). "I was blown away. I got to the end of the script and immediately turned back to page one."

From that moment on, Ventimiglia knew he wanted to meet the creative team behind the project. While the veteran actor had already had a meeting on the books to audition for the role, he "just wanted to hang out" with Fogelman as well as directors Ken Olin and Glenn Ficarra, who, as it turns out, all share an attorney.

"We were already bound by such great guys, and the chemistry was already there. I put my heart into the audition," he says of the process.

And while returning to play Jess 10 years after he last played Stars Hollow's resident misunderstood bad boy is one thing, Ventimiglia says he's now old enough to appreciate the business in a different way. "I feel like when you're a younger actor, you work so hard to be impressionable," he says. "You want to be good and be the next Robert De Niro or James Dean. And then you start to become yourself. Then the older you get, I become more inspired by the actors around me, and I try to inspire them."

So is he more of a De Niro or Dean? Ventimiglia says he's neither.  

"I'm a Milo," he says with a grin. "I can't compare myself to them. Those guys are great. Somebody said it takes a lifetime to become a master; up until that point, you're only a student. I hope to always be a student — open to looking at life and taking it in whole-heartedly and just entertain and be kind, decent and cool."

This Is Us premieres Tuesday, Sept. 20 at 10 p.m. on NBC. Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life will be released in its entirety on Friday, Nov. 25 on Netflix.

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