Milo Ventimiglia Calls His 'Gilmore Girls' Character Jess 'Trouble,' Says Fan Reaction Still 'Blows Me Away'
By Rachel McRady
Photo: W Magazine
These days he may play a loving dad on This Is Us, but back at the tender age of 24, Milo Ventimiglia was everyone’s favorite well-read bad boy, Jess Mariano, on Gilmore Girls.
The gel-haired hottie was Rory Gilmore’s second boyfriend and solidified a special place in many shippers’ hearts after several seasons on the hit mother-daughter show and a role in the recent Netflix revival, A Year in the Life.
“Still to this day, you know, it blows me away — the impact of the Jess character, how much everyone was in love with him and wanted to find a guy like Jess. He was kind of trouble, you know,” he said. “He had good hair. He had that pompadour thing going. He had dope jackets, and he always had a book in his back pocket. And I feel like, well if you’ve got that hair and you’ve got a cool jacket, and you’ve got a book in your back pocket, you must be good for a girl.”
When he got the part, Ventimiglia was still new to the business and didn’t even understand exactly what he had landed.
“I was coming off of a contract with Warner Bros., and I got Gilmore,” he explained. “I didn’t even know really what it was going to be, but... I was in the room with [Gilmore Girls creator] Amy Sherman-Palladino, and I thought it was just two episodes. And then my agent at the time said, ‘They want to make you a [series] regular.’ And I went, ‘Regular what? What does that mean?’”
As he’s progressed in his career, Ventimiglia said he’s moved past the childhood dream of being a “movie star.”
“As I got older, I started thinking about just the work. You know, I didn’t need to be a movie star to be a part of great work, to play a great character,” he said. “TV felt more readily available than the small margin of films that were being made, and how much effort it took to get into movies. And I was getting good parts, and there were great casting directors that I got to know over, you know, 20-some years who would continue to bring me in. And I always wanted to do good work for them. And then it would turn into a job, and another job and another job. Television was just steady. So nowadays it’s wild to think that every creative mind is rushing into television. And I’m like, Yeah, we’ve been here all along.”
As for his role as Jack on This Is Us, the actor knows it will be a highlight of his career.
“I knew it was special. I knew it was different from anything else that was on television,” he said of the show. “It was heartfelt without being saccharine. It was impactful without having something jammed down your throat. It was heroic without being world-saving.”
“I’m not a big crier,” he said. “It’s more like moments get me, you know? Like Interstellar, Matthew McConaughey is just trying to get back to his family, things like that. Family stuff kind of gets me. Impactful relationships like that get me; fathers and parents and children.”
Say, like in This Is Us?
“I guess if I wasn’t on my show I’d be just a wet noodle watching my show all the time,” he quipped.