Today’s Guest: Milo Ventimiglia, actor, “Heroes,” “This Is Us”
Milo Ventimiglia is not your average save-the-world superhero, although he does play one, Peter Petrelli, on NBC’s hit series “Heroes.”
In real life, he’s an ambitious actor and producer whose company, Divide Pictures, just completed a series of five animated holiday shorts available exclusively on the American Eagle Outfitters website. Milo narrated the first episode, “Home for the Holidays”; others feature the voices of Kristen Bell, Lil Jon, Adrianne Palicki, and Pete Wentz, the Fall Out Boy.
BOB ANDELMAN/Mr. MEDIA: I hate to pimp for American Eagle Outfitters, but it seems appropriate here. I have to think that any fan of yours — and “Gilmore Girls” for that matter — is going to love “Home for the Holidays” because you play yourself. How much fun was that?
MILO VENTIMIGLIA: It was a lot of fun. The “Home for the Holidays” tale was kind of a combination of stories between myself and Adam Green, the writer/director of “Winter Tales.” I was just thinking about different situations I’d find myself in, or that he’d find himself in, and came up with the tale of a guy who’s taking a really miserable plane ride home.
ANDELMAN: Now, that’s never happened to you, has it?
VENTIMIGLIA: Not exactly. Like I said, it was a combination of stories between myself and Adam Green.
ANDELMAN: How weird was it, though, to find yourself playing yourself and have this kid, I don’t want to give it too much away, but the kid has a little problem with reality, I guess?
VENTIMIGLIA: Yeah, I guess, a little bit, a little problem. All he wants to do is relax, but he can’t do that.
ANDELMAN: What’s a guy like you doing in the realm of animated holiday shorts? How did that come about?
VENTIMIGLIA: It was just another opportunity to work with American Eagle Outfitters. We did one series of shorts with them earlier called “It’s a Mall World,” which I produced, and we just found a great partnership with them. And we pitched the idea of Claymation, and they’re really into it, so we developed a bunch of stories and made these classic tales our own. And what you get is five great shorts.
MILO VENTIMIGLIA podcast excerpt: “I think in a world where there are people with abilities, I’d take my character’s. He’s a sponge. He can soak up anything. But if I just had any ability, I’d want to be able to teleport. I could go have coffee in Paris if I wanted to and lunch in Italy, then be right back.”
ANDELMAN: It’s a lot of fun. How did you get people like Pete Wentz and Kristen Bell to come on board?
VENTIMIGLIA: We called up their agents, had excellent relationships, and once you pitched them the idea, they were into it. Kristen Bell, I called myself and said, “I’ve got this thing I’d love for you to work on,” and she was just like, “I’m in. Whatever you want to do, I’m in.” And then the same thing with Lil Jon, Adrianne, and we just kind of threw it out, and they were more than happy, more than excited, to be a part of it.
ANDELMAN: What do you want to do next? If you’re kind of playing with this now, I’m guessing you want to go on to bigger and better in production…
VENTIMIGLIA: I enjoy it all. I enjoy directing. I enjoy producing. I enjoy acting. And I take the opportunities that are presented to me when they come up. Of course, I’d love to direct a longer format; I’d love to produce a longer format. And there are a bunch of things that I am circling around, but anytime I’m involved in any one of those three, I can direct and you’re producing for my job, I’ll take it.
ANDELMAN: We have to talk about “Heroes,” of course, don’t we? We can’t take live calls today, so I did the next best thing, and I solicited questions from friends of mine and fans of yours.
ANDELMAN: So these are coming from a few places here. Let’s start with this question from DigDog: “Did the writers’ strike hobble the show by forcing producers to end any of the storylines prematurely?”
VENTIMIGLIA: I don’t think it hobbled us so much as it cut us short. The writers’ strike was one of those unfortunate things that stops production. Beyond the strike, you can’t write anything new. You can only produce what’s been written. We basically ran out of material. I think the producers, it was their intent to give some kind of a wrap-up to what became a very short season just so that people weren’t left with too many questions. In my opinion, it was a good thing to do to, hopefully, tie up a couple loose ends, and we leave people wanting a little bit more.
ANDELMAN: This second season got hit by some criticism early on that it was taking too long to get to the meat. And then it seemed like those last couple weeks, the critics and the fans may have come around a little bit.
VENTIMIGLIA: Yeah, they did. We had some problems early on, still working out problems toward the end, but I know the show started to get back to that same feeling, that same sentiment that we all worked very hard for. But it’s one of those things. You just gotta understand that a season is long. You’re making usually 24 episodes, so I think when there’s a little bit of a delay, there’s not that instant, rewarding scene or moment or episode, and people get impatient. So it’s finding that balance between giving and getting.
ANDELMAN: It must be hard for both the writers and the actors to be on a show where the expectations are so high. You almost reach a point where, no matter what you do, you’re going to let people down. Is that the case?
VENTIMIGLIA: Yeah. You’re damned if you do, you’re damned if you don’t. You just gotta know that, ultimately, the work that you’re doing, the work that you’re putting in, it’s your best efforts, and it’s everybody’s best effort. That being said, though, all those best efforts have to come together in sync. Otherwise, the show doesn’t have a heart.
ANDELMAN: Before the writers’ strike set in, how much did you know of plot lines for your character going in? And how much do you think that may change going forward with the delay in getting back into production?
VENTIMIGLIA: I knew quite a bit. I knew where we were headed, but I also had the luxury of not really having to follow too closely because Peter had amnesia. I went in for a meeting with Tim Kring before we started filming, and he said, “Peter can’t remember anything.” I said, “Okay, great. Let me know as I need to know stuff.” I just kind of waited around. Usually, you’re pretty eager to know where you’re headed. I had no idea where Peter was going to go, and it didn’t really matter at that point. Where we’re going to be going after, again, that’s all up in the air. I think the production team was taking into consideration the criticism we got and hopefully, wanting to get back on track to the same feel we had the first season. So I think things are going to switch up a little bit.
ANDELMAN: Is there any question whether you’ll stay with the show? Eric, who wrote in, said that he had heard rumors that you didn’t necessarily want to continue.
VENTIMIGLIA: Who said that?
ANDELMAN: Eric. He’s one of the people who sent in some questions for you.
VENTIMIGLIA: Really? I’m a real guy, and I also have a contract that I hope to honor. So I’ll be on the show, I think, as long as they would have me and as long as I’m obligated to it and put my best work forward, and I’ll leave everything else up to time. I’ve got other ambitions, but when it comes to the show, and when we’re in production, that’s what I’m doing.
ANDELMAN: Dr. Blogstein, who has a show on BlogTalkRadio, wanted to know this: “Are there considerations in taking a few episodes this coming season or next to go deeper into the back story and focus on your character’s parents as well as George Takei’s character and some of the older heroes?”
VENTIMIGLIA: I think that was our intent — to understand a little bit more. That’s always been the question. People want to know how did these abilities come about? The way the show’s been going — the storyline — it seems that there was a greater mystery as to why these people, how these people have these abilities. Again, that’s a lot up to the writers about what they’re looking to explore. And, of course, the actors, we can give our two cents in what we’d like to see, what we’d like to get into, but it’s ultimately up to the writers.
MILO VENTIMIGLIA podcast excerpt: “I went in for a meeting with Tim Kring before we started filming, and he said, ‘Peter can’t remember anything.’ I said, ‘Okay, great. Let me know as I need to know stuff.’ I just kind of waited around. Usually, you’re pretty eager to know where you’re headed. I had no idea where Peter was going to go, and it didn’t really matter at that point.”
ANDELMAN: Sharon wants to know — and remember, I didn’t write these questions — if you’re not dating Hayden Panettiere, who are you dating?
VENTIMIGLIA: Is my what?
ANDELMAN: If you’re not dating Hayden…
VENTIMIGLIA: My phone broke up.
ANDELMAN: I’m sorry?
VENTIMIGLIA: I said my phone had a little glitch for a second.
ANDELMAN: Oh. Okay. Sharon’s question is, “If you’re not dating Hayden Panettiere, who are you dating?”
VENTIMIGLIA: It’s one of those funny questions that…
ANDELMAN: I’m glad I didn’t ask.
VENTIMIGLIA: I think when you’re young and in this industry, and you work as much as I do, you try to spend time with people that want to spend time with you. That’s about all you can do.
ANDELMAN: Alright. Last question: Mimi asks, “What powers would you want in real life?”
VENTIMIGLIA: I think in a world where there are people with abilities, I’d take my character’s. He’s a sponge. He can soak up anything. But if I just had any ability, I’d want to be able to teleport. I could go have coffee in Paris if I wanted to and lunch in Italy, then be right back.