Milo Ventimiglia

Milo Ventimiglia on the cover of emmy

John Russo
Milo Ventimiglia

Milo Ventimiglia

John Russo
Fill 1
Fill 1
February 16, 2023

Milo Ventimiglia Is in Good Company

Less than a year after wrapping This Is Us, the actor returns with a new onscreen family in ABC's The Company You Keep — but he's still working with most of his old behind-the-scenes TV family. "When you can work with your friends ... that's the best recipe."

On the last-ever day of production on this is us NBC's wildly popular family drama, Milo Ventimiglia recorded a story called "This Was Us" for his Instagram feed. Most of the footage is dedicated to him wandering around the Paramount lot, where he'd spent the past six seasons. In one trailer, he introduces the head of the makeup department: "Ladies and gentlemen, this is Zoe Hay." He calls out to a driver: "What up, Dom?" to the man who mics him: "Thank you, Tim." Beckoning to a lanky man in a baseball cap, he says, "Hey Seany, come here. This is the man who makes sure everything is in focus."

Last May, shooting began on The Company You Keep, the glossy new ABC heist series that Ventimiglia stars in and produces. As it happens, he didn't use social media to document his first day as Charlie Nicoletti, a gifted swindler who falls in love with Emma Hill, an undercover CIA agent played by Catherine Haena Kim.

But if he had? It would have looked almost identical to his curtain-call video for This Is Us. For his first series since that zeitgeist-y show about the bonds of family, Ventimiglia wanted his own behind-the-camera family back, so he rehired what he estimates is 90 percent of the This Is Us crew. "I've got my grips, my electric, my costume designer," he says. "I've got my cinematographer, my production coordinator. I got one of my location managers on. I got my craft service. I got our gal who cleans up on set, Maria. I got just about everybody, short of writers, actors and, sadly, the art department."

Watch our Under the Cover video with Milo Ventimiglia.

Moreover, once The Company You Keep acquired a full season order (ten episodes) and the conversation turned to moving the production out of state, Ventimiglia says he insisted they film on the same lot in Hollywood where This Is Us was made. "They'd say, 'Hey, Mi, how do you feel about Atlanta?' 'No, let's stay in California.' 'Hey, Mi, how do you feel about Vancouver?' 'Nope, let's stay in California.' I wanted to film it at Paramount because that's where we did This Is Us. It works for my crew. The crew knows the lot — and the lot knows the crew."

If you're guessing Ventimiglia is slightly obsessed with trying to recreate aspects of his This Is Us experience, you'd be right. And who can blame him? "This Is Us was such a wonderful set to be on," he says. "How could I not try to put that magic into a new endeavor that we have? So far, it has really saved us, helped us."

But there are also things Ventimiglia is not sad to leave behind — specifically, Jack Pearson, the big-hearted but alcoholic dad he played on the Emmy-winning show. "When you do a show for six years, you know what the parameters are, what the challenges are," he says. "You know the moments when you're operating off of instinct. You don't have to discover anything with the character. With Charlie, I'm still discovering."

No one can say Charlie doesn't offer more than enough for Ventimiglia to investigate. Though his character is being positioned as James Bond-like, the slicked hair and stylish black tux he sports in the ads is just one of Charlie's ever-changing looks. Sometimes he pawns himself off as a hotel maintenance man; in another situation, he's a hot-headed card shark. In one episode, his disguise as a valet involves a detachable man bun.

As a cover for his misdeeds, he runs a no-frills bar with his beloved parents (played by William Fichtner and Polly Draper) and single-mom sister (Sarah Wayne Callies), all of whom are chameleonic grifters. His young niece (Shaylee Mansfield), who is deaf, might be a fraudster-in-training thanks to grandpa, who has taught her how to pick pockets.

When pulling off scams, the Nicoletti grownups function like a roving troupe of performers, reeling in marks with tall tales, high-tech tools and tradecraft. What Draper remembers about her first day was realizing that every episode would involve the cast speed-cycling through accents and personalities and untold numbers of crazy get-ups. "It's so fun — we get to wear different costumes and wigs," she says. "The first scene we were all doing a con and I'm trying to distract so that Milo can steal something or put a phone on someone. Milo was a homeless guy, Sarah was playing a Southern Baptist Christian girl, Bill was an asshole businessman and I was a Karen character."

Back in the '80s, Draper was on thirtysomething, a show as beloved then as This Is Us is now. She can relate to Ventimiglia's feelings about moving on from an era-defining hit. "It's like being part of a World Series team and then just trying to find that World Series again." As a writer-producer-director herself, she's a good judge of how Ventimiglia is doing as both number one on the call sheet and a hands-on executive producer. "He looks at every single thing," she says. "He's got 90 percent of the dialogue. He looks at every cut, every outline. He's doing an amazing job — and I know from experience how not easy it is."

In fact, Ventimiglia seems ubiquitous on set, never one to hole up in his trailer. He shows up early and can be the last actor to leave. Between scenes, he's swapping stories with Fichtner, a fellow vintage muscle-car enthusiast. (For the record, Ventimiglia's pride and joy is a classic 1967 Chevrolet Chevelle SS named Evelyn; Fichtner's crown jewel is a burnt orange 1970 Plymouth Roadrunner.) Or maybe he's strolling around with his Leica or boxy Hasselblad camera, snapping photos of the cast and crew. "He's like the host of the party," Draper says.

"Sarah Wayne Callies says it best," Kim adds. "She says, 'He's the mayor when he's on set.' He doesn't just know every person's name — he knows their families and the things they like to do."

"Milo likes production," explains Russ Cundiff, who, along with Ventimiglia, runs their production company, DiVide Pictures. "He likes being on set. That's where his passion lies."

To read the rest of the story, pick up a copy of emmy magazine HERE.

This article originally appeared in its entirety in emmy magazine, Issue No. 01, under the title, "Good Company."

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