O.C.’s Milo Ventimiglia is a Big Reason “This Is Us” is a hit on NBC

Photograph by Erik Tanner

The Anaheim native plays Jack Pearson, the husband of Rebecca (Mandy Moore) and father of “the Big Three,” as Jack calls their kids—biological twins and an adopted boy—whose stories are told by weaving together past and present. In preparation for the award-winning drama’s second season finale this month, here are a few things to know about the former “Gilmore Girls” and “Heroes” star.

He made his stage debut at age 12 in a Shakespearean play. Ventimiglia played Mamillius, the young prince, in an Orange County classical troupe’s production of “The Winter’s Tale.” The same year, he had his first movie audition for the role in “Radio Flyer” that went to Elijah Wood.

Growing up in the ’80s, he had a crush on Alyssa Milano from “Who’s the Boss?” “I think everybody had a crush on (her),” he told W magazine. Years later, Milano and Ventimiglia were cast as a couple engaged to be married in “Pathology,” a twisted thriller. “So the first part of the movie, I kind of had to get past that. … You know, she became a friend—she and her husband, we’ve all been close friends. And they named their kid Milo.”

He was a triple threat at El Modena High School in Orange. Ventimiglia acted in student theatrical productions, was captain of the wrestling team, and was senior class president, Class of ’95.

As a teenager, he loved going to Disneyland and went as often as he could. He tried to get a job at the park “cleaning up trash on Main Street,” but didn’t get hired. “As I got older it became a place to escape, for all of us teenagers to go run around the park,” he told the New York Post. “(It was) 46 bucks to get in, but if you were from Southern California, they would cut you a deal.” Ventimiglia’s memory is a tad off—Disneyland prices didn’t reach that sum until the actor was in his mid-20s.

He’s a lifelong vegetarian, raised by vegetarians. Ventimiglia has said he used to frequent Rutabegorz, a popular O.C. minichain with many veggie options and locations in Fullerton, Orange, and Tustin. Was he a fan of the veggie‑stuffed mushrooms or the meat‑free chili burritos?

He sees his father, Peter, as an inspiration for his portrayal of Jack Pearson. “My father was a very fun dad; he was always coaching our soccer sports teams,” he told Interview magazine. “But at the same time, he has a lot of lessons to teach us.” In his trailer, Ventimiglia keeps an old photo of his dad that’s inscribed “Be a good father” and “Be a good husband.” He frequently looks at it before walking onto the set.

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