How are viewers taking to Gilmore Girls's new rebel without an apparent cause, Jess? "Some girl on the street actually told me she hates me," laments the character's 24-year-old portrayer Milo Ventimiglia, who's being groomed as a spoiler in the Rory-Dean romance. "I've never been put in this position before — playing a character that people just don't like."

While Ventimiglia insists he's not sure if the show's writers plan on pairing him with do-gooder Rory (Alexis Bledel), the grad of the late Fox teen drama Opposite Sex has already begun to size up his formidable competition. "Jess definitely brings things out of Rory that Dean (Jared Padalecki) can't," he winks, citing Jess's "carefree attitude" as a major plus. "He really doesn't give a s---. He's going to do what he wants to do and not pay attention to any authority or parental figures. He has a certain freedom that Dean doesn't."

But given television's knack for reforming dark knights into knights-in-shining-armor, it seems only a matter of time before Jess becomes just another perky, Stars Hollow denizen. Ventimiglia confesses that although he's not looking forward to that day, he remains confident that "Jess will always have an edge to him. But he'll have to grow up at some point and stop being a child."

In real life, the Orange County, Calif., native may at some point have a difficult time dodging questions about his personal life — which he did when TV Guide Online asked him about his romantic status. "I choose not to even talk about it," he hedges. "It's nothing like, 'Oh my God, I'm freaked out because a girlfriend's going to get pissed off,' or fans are going to be like, 'I'm not going to watch him because he has a girlfriend.'

"If I can avoid it as long as possible, I will," he adds. "Let 'em keep guessing."