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How Milo Ventimiglia Is Shedding This Is Us' Jack Pearson With His New Show The Company You Keep

In his first big project after This Is Us, Milo Ventimiglia is trying something very different.

Lauren Piester

Jack Pearson who? Milo Ventimiglia is back on broadcast TV, but he's left his iconic This Is Us character (and mustache) behind. In ABC's The Company You Keep, which is based on the Korean drama My Fellow Citizens!, Ventimiglia plays Charlie, a con man in a family of con men, who falls for Emma (Catherine Haena Kim), an undercover CIA agent. His family tried to steal a ton of money from the exact criminals who she's currently targeting, so naturally, things get complicated and incredibly sexy at the same time. Ventimiglia had about two weeks off between wrapping This Is Us and stepping onto the set of the pilot, and all it took was a "haircut and a shave" to get him ready to jump into a whole new world. 

At the TV Critics Association press tour on January 11, Ventimiglia said that as he contemplated his next move after the hit NBC drama, The Company You Keep "rose to the top very fast," and felt "undeniable." It just so happened that Charlie is a thousand miles away from the late Jack Pearson.

"It wasn't so much getting away from Jack," Ventimiglia said. "It was let me stretch into something new creatively. What I saw—and what [executive producer Julia Cohen] had created based on a Korean format—was a character who I understood, but I was also very intrigued by. I knew how he moved. I knew how he talked. I knew how he had to fold into place as a conman." 

Charlie is a great conman, but Ventimiglia says it was not a life he chose. He was born into a family of grifters, and doesn't really know any other life. "There's an honesty to Charlie, even in this life," he explained, and while Jack involved facial hair and a pair of high-waisted '80s pants, Charlie is a lot more Milo. "For me, I just couldn't put on a character anymore. I just had to be myself and listen to our writers and listen to our production team, and just be. It's been wonderful." 

Ventimiglia didn't totally leave This Is Us behind, though. He serves as an executive producer and brought "90 percent" of the TIU crew to The Company You Keep, meaning he had a built in shorthand with everyone on set. There's also potential for Ventimiglia to be one half of yet another iconic TV couple, as Charlie and Emma are hot and heavy from the moment they meet. There's no will they/won't they here. They will. And they do. 

But Emma's not just a love interest for Charlie. She's an accomplished CIA agent and part of a prolific, wealthy DC family with major political aspirations, and Kim said that she sees this as a "story that's never been told before" in terms of Asian-American representation. Emma's father Joseph (James Saito) is first generation Korean American, while her mother Grace (Freda Foh Shen) is third generation Chinese American, and they lead a political dynasty that is compared to the Kennedys. Emma's brother David (Tim Chiou) is a senator running for re-election, meaning there's a lot riding on reputation with this family. A love affair with a conman is the last thing Emma needs, but who can resist a man like Milo Ventimiglia...er, Charlie Nicoletti? 

The Company You Keep premieres Sunday, February 19 at 10 p.m. on ABC.