A few days ago, I watched Milo Ventimiglia walk through fire and out of a burning house. But today, the actor—whose character Jack serves as the glue that holds everyone together on the Golden Globe-nominated NBC hit This Is Us—is safe and sound in California, where he’ll be working on other projects until he starts filming for the show’s next season. (Only time will tell if the new episodes will also make grown men cry in their own living rooms, but chances are pretty good.) We briefly caught up with Ventimiglia to ask him about his love of Harleys, how he’s staying fit, that time he went back in for the dog on This Is Us, and if he’d ever return to Stars Hollow (a.k.a. Gilmore Girls).
So how long have you been riding? How did you get into bikes?
Actually, I got my license on a job called American Dreams when I was 26 for about almost 15 years ago, and it took a second before I finally got my own bike—maybe a couple years. A lot of people were nervous about me hopping on a motorcycle but I always had this curiosity and desire. I grew up around cars, and motorcycles were always something that I—it was a world I wanted to be in. I wanted to be on a motorcycle, it kinda felt like riding as fast as you can on your BMX when you were a kid but way different. So when I finally got my license, and I took a proper training and what not, now I’m several years into riding and I’m on my bike pretty much every day.
What’s your ultimate motorcycle trip that you’ve done or you still want to do?
I still have not gone cross country. The longest I’ve been so far is Portland to Los Angeles that I did last June with a group of friends: a bunch of friends from Japan, a bunch of friends from Oregon, and we rode from Portland all the way down south of L.A. to Orange County. It was about a four-day trip. Everybody on that ride was on a Harley-Davidson, so it was kind of the most exciting thing to where I’m like, oh we’re all a pack of Harley fans who love riding and enjoy each other’s company.
But for me, the ultimate would be to go cross country or fly to another country—you know, go from the tip of Japan to the bottom of Japan, or travel around India. I don’t know, there’s a great freedom that comes with being on a motorcycle. There’s a focus that it takes. When I’m on my bike I’m not really thinking about much anything else but being on a motorcycle, and I like that kind of attention to the sport. So for me, if I’m able to be on my bike as much as I am, on my own, then also I can hop on my bike with a group of friends on their bikes, it’s kind of like an all-around sport.
What are you riding these days?
I’ve got a couple of bikes: I’ve got a 2016 Harley-Davidson Low Rider S that I’ve had a lot of custom work done to. And I also have a 2014 Harley-Davidson Fat Bob that I’ve also had a lot of work done to. And then I just picked up a 2018 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Special, which is a touring bike. I’ve never had one of those before … tell you what, 5 in the morning going to work, it was just cutting through the cold. A really, really nice bike to be on. So now I’m gonna make it my own.
What else can everyone expect from you this year? What are you working on right now?
I’m going back to the third season of This is Us in July, spending a lot of time in my production office lining up for next TV development season. So we got a pretty active roster and projects we’re trying to get made into TV shows, so it’s kind of a full-time job.
I recently caught up on the last few episodes of This is Us, and I gotta say, I really wish you hadn’t gone back in for the dog…
But, you know, that’s who Jack is, man. He is someone who is thinking of others as opposed to thinking of himself. And he’s very selfless. He was thinking about his daughter. He was thinking about his family, grabbing all the other things he could for them to still enjoy while the house is going up in flames.
What else can you tell us about what’s coming from your character for the next season?
If you really think about it, we’ve only known Jack for 36 hours. That’s the amount of time we’ve spent with him, even though we’ve covered a lot of his life… So given that, I think there’s still a lot of life left to understand of who he is, how he related to his kids, and the marriage with Rebecca, and even Jack before he had a family. I know that was one kind of leave behind that we had before the show ended for the season, to understand Jack and his much younger days and his Vietnam-era days. I think that’s going to be a world that we’ll be getting into and exploring.
I’ve read a little bit about how some guys think your character is really raising the bar for husbands and dads. So how do you feel about all those reactions?
I think it’s good. I think men and who we are and the world we live in today, I think we do need to elevate ourselves. I think we need to be compassionate, I think we need to be kind. I think we also need to show strength for those around us and of our own character. So I don’t mind that people are looking at Jack and saying, “Hey, I need to do better.” By seeing this fictionalized character and who he is and how he carries himself, I think it’s a great thing in this moment that we’re in today.
What’s the best advice that you’ve heard or the biggest lessons you’ve learned from playing your character on the show?
Oh man. There’s been nothing specific in playing Jack, but I think, if anything, it definitely was an affirmation of a way of life, and that’s: Love very deeply, and live very simply. Try and live an uncomplicated life, and give as much of yourself as you can to the ones you love.
I know you recently had your arm in a sling, and you were talking about recovering from that. How are you staying in shape right now? What’s your training schedule like?
I spend a lot of time in the gym. I just actually started picking up running again. I know a lot of people find excuses not to run, but a friend of mine who’s a very athletic guy said, “If you’re going to be in running shape, that’ll always serve you pretty well.” So I try and keep regular with a lot of different activities, anything from traditional weight lifting to hopping into a Rise Nation class in Los Angeles. To running, skipping rope, to boxing when I’m out of town. There’s a lot of different things—even, you know, hop on a Harley-Davidson, ride up to the beach and go for a swim—a lot of different things you can do.
A while back we also saw you on the Gilmore Girls reboot on Netflix. Do you know if there are any plans for more episodes? Or would you ever do that? Has anyone contacted you about that?
I’m gonna say I’m the worst person to ask only because I’m not the one in charge. Amy Sherman-Palladino and Dan Palladino, they are on a pretty successful, decorated show right now called The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel for Amazon, so I would imagine that they’re pretty focused on that show. But listen, that was one of those great jobs and great experiences that if they were doing more, of course I would probably go back, given I was available or not.