After flying in today from his Minneapolis appearance on The Tonight Show, we caught up with This Is Us star Milo Ventimiglia to discuss what was one of the most defining episodes for his character, super every-man father Jack Pearson.
And while we finally know how Jack’s fate is wrapped up, it doesn’t mean the character is gone for good. With its time jumps, This Is Us makes it impossible for characters to be killed off. And our knowledge of Jack’s death (a cardiac arrest at the hospital brought on by smoke inhalation after saving his family from the Pearson homestead fire) doesn’t really change his comings and goings on the NBC/Fox series. Currently, Ventimiglia is in production on episode 17 of 18, and will soon wrap season 2 of This Is Us before the show goes on a five-month hiatus.
DEADLINE: Were there other options on the table at one point for how Jack would meet his end? At one point we thought it would be related to his drunk-driving.
VENTIMIGLIA: (This Is Us creator) Dan Fogelman has been very good about keeping us in the know of what’s happening, and it was always this version. There were not other possibilities in regards to how Jack would meet his end.
DEADLINE: How long have you known about the details regarding Jack’s death?
VENTIMIGLIA: For a while. When I’m trying to keep episodes in my head, I lose track. Definitely since last year, maybe as early as the middle of last year.
DEADLINE: One can never ever keep Jack down and the way he dies is so heroic.
VENTIMIGLIA: Jack is constantly in service of his family. He doesn’t need a plan to jump into action. He adapts and he responds immediately. That’s inherently who Jack is. He’s a man who doesn’t need inspiration when it comes to looking out for his family or to save his family, even if it means putting himself in harm’s way.
DEADLINE: Now that this big mystery is solved, what is next in regards to Jack? Are there big secrets we still don’t know about him or are there enigmatic people who will enter his life?
VENTIMIGLIA: There are always secrets. We have only known this man for 32 hours and truly haven’t known him all that long. What I can say is that there is still an exploration of Jack. There is a lot that we’ve grown to understand about him and his upbringing. There’s still a lot to come in regards to understanding his younger days in Vietnam and with Rebecca. And even with that, there’s dream sequences that Fogelman has become so famous for when it comes to putting characters together. There’s that possibility of seeing a different version of Jack where he is still around.
DEADLINE: Knowing what you know now about Jack’s death, does it impact the way you’ll portray him going forward?
VENTIMIGLIA: No, not at all. The way I saw Jack from the very beginning. Jack doesn’t know that time is so precious to him. Jack as a man has this inherent desire to soak up everything about the people he loves. He does this without knowing his expiration will come. Jack focuses on living and being in the present.
DEADLINE: One of the beautiful takeaways in last night’s episode was seeing how Randall is as a father, how he goes out of his way to comfort his daughter. A lot of that has to do with how Jack raised Randall.
VENTIMIGLIA: It does. When someone pays me a compliment, I attribute it to my mom, my dad and my upbringing. My mom and dad would always argue; that’s how I was born. I’ve felt that there’s a version of that with Randall. He was born to be strong and protective. It’s a learned behavior from his amazing set of parents in how they’ve loved him and cared for him and raised him to the best of their ability.
DEADLINE: Tell us about shooting that epic fire scene. How long did it take? Did you do your own stunts?
VENTIMIGLIA: That took three days and we worked through the night. I was absolutely in the fire, making sure that I was always between it and Mandy (Moore), Niles (Fitch) and Hannah (Zeile). It was a scene that was very safe and collaborative. There was an amazing stuntman who was used for one moment, but a lot of it I did myself. I asked kindly, ‘if you don’t oppose it, I don’t mind being close to the fire.’ We shot 50 miles, deep outside of Los Angeles. What the production put together and held together for six months of planning was amazing. Our producers Steve Beers and Cathy Mickel Gibson made sure everything was lined up. The Pearson home was basically recreated, but a little bit wider so we could maneuver and move by foot in the hallways; we recreated the interiors and the kids’ bedrooms. We didn’t quite burn the whole house down, but it wasn’t in good shape in the end. Let’s just say it was easy for the construction team to dismantle.
DEADLINE: You’ve directed in the past. Do you have any plans to direct any future episodes?
VENTIMIGLIA: There’s been some conversations. We have a lot of creative actors on set. All of my bosses know that I want to direct. When it happens, it will happen.