Following the This Is Us post-Super Bowl episode, the 40-year-old actor opened up about the emotional and intense hour, which definitively revealed how Jack died. While it appeared at first that Jack would fall victim to the house fire after deciding to re-enter to save Kate's beloved dog and prized family possessions, the Pearson patriarch suffered a fatal heart attack in the hospital hours later due to complications suffered from smoke inhalation.
“He sacrificed himself without even knowing that he was doing it,” Ventimiglia told Esquire of Jack's heroic moment, which would ultimately play into his demise.
This Is Us also did not directly show Jack's body immediately after his death, something Ventimiglia felt passionate about and that doing so would hinder the intimate relationship audiences have had over the past season and a half with his character.
“I truly believe that nobody wants to see this man laid out in front of them,” he said of the heartbreaking scene when Rebecca, in disbelief over her husband's sudden death, runs to Jack's hospital room to see his lifeless body in the bed through the glass window. "And seeing Mandy [Moore]’s reaction, slowly understanding that her husband is gone, is such a powerful moment, without needing to get into the gore and darkness of what death is.”
He called out a small moment in the hospital after Rebecca learns of Jack's passing that viewers may have missed. "When she’s at the vending machine, you hear Jack say 'Bec?'" Ventimiglia said. "I had recorded a lot of different versions of that, some that were a little more ethereal like I was whispering. You’ll have to ask [creator] Dan [Fogelman], but my belief is that it’s a presence. That was Jack saying 'Bec?'"
Because the cause of the fire was caused by none other than a malfunctioning Crock-Pot (and a battery-less smoke detector), Ventimiglia commented on whether Jack's death could have been prevented.
"One thing that was important to me -- Mandy and I talked about this a lot -- was that it was nothing that anyone did wrong, and it was nothing that anyone could have stopped," Ventimiglia reasoned. "In episode 13 [titled "That'll Be the Day"], when Jack is cleaning up the house at the end of the night and he turns the slow cooker off, it was important to me personally that I threw the switch, that I turned it off, that it wasn’t left on by one of the kids."
But filming the house fire was a whole other "beast." Ventimiglia revealed that the fiery opening sequence in the Super Bowl episode and Jack's death scene were so secret that they went to "Fort Knox"-level security lengths to ensure that nothing leaked. The Gilmore Girls alum shared that they filmed the fire in the middle of nowhere outside of Los Angeles and that the experience was "intense."
"I remember the moment before I leave Kate’s room with her while I’m holding the mattress, I was about to open the door and I look down at one of our camera guys. He’s in full head to toe fire suit, goggles and everything, and I’m in my costume, which of course was fire-treated and I had Nomex underneath and everything, but I looked at him and we sort of locked eyes, because he felt that same beast of fire," he said. "It was terrifying, in the most controlled of ways."
Looking ahead to Tuesday's hour, which will show what's sure to be an emotional funeral, Ventimiglia warned that Moore "really goes through it in the next episode" and praised his co-star and frequent scene partner. “Any love that anyone wants to give for my playing of Jack, I just want to move it over to her," he humbly said.
As for what the future holds, Ventimiglia pointed out that there are still "many questions" when it comes to Jack's breadth of history that leave the door open for infinite storytelling possibilities.
"His upbringing, what happened to him in Vietnam, what happened to him after Vietnam before he met Rebecca? And those early days of Jack and Rebecca, I know is an era that Dan is excited to explore," he shared. "His brother [Nicky], I think is something that’s going to come up relatively quickly, and play out over the next season or so. There's still so much to know about this man, from all the eras, so I'm excited to focus on how Jack lived as opposed to worrying about how he died."
And don't worry, This Is Us fans, Ventimiglia isn't going anywhere.
“I’ve been dead from the get-go, and though we’re now showing the death, we’re still gonna be bouncing around in different timelines,” he said, making one promise he's definitely going to keep: "This is not the end of Jack.”
This Is Us returns with a new episode Tuesday, Feb. 6 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.