Milo Ventimiglia Reveals How His New Role Differs From Jack Pearson: He’s Not ‘America’s Father’ (Exclusive)

Milo Ventimiglia is going from playing 'America's father' to a con man in 'The Company You Keep,' and he was more than ready to embrace the challenge.

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Milo Ventimiglia stars as a con man named Charlie in ABC’s new drama The Company You Keep, which premieres February 19 on ABC. After playing the beloved Jack Pearson on This Is Us for 6 seasons, the actor was game for a radically different project. HollywoodLife spoke EXCLUSIVELY with Milo about his journey to The Company You Keep.

Milo Ventimiglia
Milo Ventimiglia as Charlie in ‘The Company You Keep.’ (ABC)

“It was more than just the role,” Milo told HollywoodLife during the Television Critics Association winter press tour. “It was the entirety of the project. It was the scope. It was the subject matter. It was something that felt like entertainment in kind of the heaviness of the world and everything. It felt exciting. It felt fun. In the center of that, Charlie Nicoletti and his family and what they’re going through as grifters, as con artists, to be matched with Catherine Haena Kim, who is a CIA officer… there was just something light and fun and exciting, but yet still very human about who this guy is. I think for the years that I had spent playing America’s father, playing Jack Pearson, it was like, okay, no kids. God bless ‘em. Let’s just get back to a guy trying to figure things out for himself, for his family, and gets caught up in some heat.”

Being a con artist isn’t just a solo gig for Charlie, it’s a family affair. Milo pointed out that Charlie is the “architect of a lot of the cons.” He was born into the business with his sister, Birdie. “He’s really talented at being a con man. He’s really gifted,” Milo added.

Having been born into the con world, Charlie hasn’t known any other way of life. However, he yearns for something different. “That’s Charlie’s struggle through the first season. He had plans to get out. He had wanted to get out. He had tried to get out, but ultimately he found himself still in this life, in this world, by crossing paths with the wrong criminals,” Milo explained. “Charlie’s talented at it, but I don’t think this is who he wants to be exactly.”

Fans rallied around Jack and Rebecca, the golden couple of This Is Us. In The Company You Keep, Charlie crosses paths with Emma, who just happens to be an undercover CIA officer. Milo explained how the two couples differ from one another.

Milo Ventimiglia
Catherine Haena Kim and Milo Ventimiglia as Emma and Charlie. (ABC)

“Jack and Rebecca, I feel like that was a couple that there wasn’t much between them that they didn’t already know, even though they were a couple of a particular generation,” he said. Charlie and Emma, they’ve got different parameters. They have different obstacles. She’s in the CIA. That’s not a job you talk about. He’s a criminal. That, too, is a job you don’t talk about.”

He added, “So if you kind of already set them up in opposition with a massive wall between them, how do they come together? So I think that was the excitement with Charlie and Emma. From the moment they meet, you’re rooting for them. You truly are rooting for them because who they are fundamentally is very right in a partnership. But who they have become because of their jobs, because of their worlds, because of what they’re born of — Emma of DC politics, Charlie from neighborhood bar grifting family, on paper it really doesn’t ring true. But if you strip everything away, you take the worlds out of it, it works. So then the question is: does it work? Does it actually work? Can it work? I think that’s the exploration. That’s the fun part about Charlie and Emma because we come in hot and heavy with who they are and they’re meeting and everything, but then at the same time, we are putting them on opposite ends of the law and we put them on this collision course to basically one of them could go down. The other one could fail. It gets sticky. In terms of relationships, romantic or other, it gets really sticky.”