Milo Ventimiglia says producers wanted someone ‘completely different’ for his ‘This Is Us’ role


It's hard to picture anyone portraying the beloved Jack Pearson on "This Is Us" more perfectly than Milo Ventimiglia.

But in an interview with Freida Pinto as part of Variety's "Actors on Actors" series, he revealed that he wasn't initially who the producers and directors were looking to cast for the role.

"They wanted somebody completely different," he shared. "I walked in with my beard and my long hair and set my motorcycle helmet down and they went, 'Who is this guy?'"

Of course, Ventimiglia ended up being cast as the patriarch in NBC's breakout family drama.

"I think they just saw something different than someone who had practiced the words, and they picked me," he said.

Ventimiglia, whose previous credits include "Gilmore Girls" and "Heroes," added of the role, "I don't think it was so much me choosing it as it choosing me."

19 PHOTOS
'This Is Us' season 1
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'This Is Us' season 1
THIS IS US -- 'The Big Three' Episode 102 -- Pictured: (l-r) Mandy Moore as Rebecca, Mackenzie Hancsicsak as Kate, Milo Ventimiglia as Jack, Parker Bates as Kevin, Lonnie Chavis as Randall -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THIS IS US -- 'Kyle' Episode 103 -- Pictured: Mandy Moore as Rebecca -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THIS IS US -- 'The Trip' Episode 109 -- Pictured: (l-r) Justin Hartley as Kevin, Chrissy Metz as Kate -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THIS IS US -- 'The Game Plan' Episode 105 -- Pictured: (l-r) Mandy Moore as Rebecca, Milo Ventimiglia as Jack -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THIS IS US -- 'The Pool' Episode 104 -- Pictured: (l-r) Mandy Moore as Rebecca, Lonnie Chavis as 8 year old Randall -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THIS IS US -- 'The Best Washing Machine in the Whole World ' Episode 107 -- Pictured: (l-r) Chrissy Metz as Kate, Chris Sullivan as Toby -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THIS IS US -- 'The Game Plan' Episode 105 -- Pictured: (l-r) Mandy Moore as Rebecca, Milo Ventimiglia as Jack -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THIS IS US -- 'Career Days' Episode 106 -- Pictured: (l-r) Milo Ventimiglia as Jack, Mandy Moore as Rebecca -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THIS IS US -- 'Pilgrim Rick' Episode 108 -- Pictured: Chrissy Metz as Kate -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THIS IS US -- 'Pilgrim Rick' Episode 108 -- Pictured: (l-r) Mackenzie Hancsicsak as 8 year old Kate, Milo Ventimiglia as Jack, Mandy Moore as Rebecca, Parker Bates as 8 year old Kevin, Lonnie Chavis as 8 year old Randall -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THIS IS US -- 'The Big Day' Episode 112 -- Pictured: (l-r) Mackenzie Hancsicsak as Kate, Milo Ventimiglia as Jack -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)
THIS IS US -- 'The Big Day' Episode 112 -- Pictured: Milo Ventimiglia as Jack -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)
THIS IS US -- 'The Big Day' Episode 112 -- Pictured: (l-r) Mandy Moore as Rebecca, Milo Ventimiglia as Jack -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)
THIS IS US -- 'Last Christmas' Episode 110 -- Pictured: (l-r) Gerald McRaney as Dr. Nathan Katowsky, Milo Ventimiglia as Jack, Mandy Moore as Rebecca -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THIS IS US -- 'Last Christmas' Episode 110 -- Pictured: (l-r) Mackenzie Hancsicsak as 8 year old Kate, Milo Ventimiglia as Jack -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THIS IS US -- 'The Best Washing Machine in the Whole World ' Episode 107 -- Pictured: (l-r) Mandy Moore as Rebecca, Milo Ventimiglia as Jack -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THS IS US -- 'Pilgrim Rick' Episode 108 -- Pictured: (l-r) Parker Bates as 8 year old Kevin, Milo Ventimiglia as Jack, Lonnie Chavis as 8 year old Randall -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THIS IS US -- 'Kyle' Episode 103 -- Pictured: (l-r) Justin Hartley as Kevin, Sterling K. Brown as Randall, Chrissy Metz as Kate -- (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
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The audition came just as Ventimiglia finished the independent film "Devil's Gate." Shortly after, he had two television gigs that didn't work out.

At that point, Ventimiglia said he began to focus on his personal life rather than chasing jobs.

"It's kind of art imitating life," he said of having the "This Is Us" role pop up. "I was just trying to be just a man existing as a man, and here's this man who's just trying to provide for his wife and his family and all of that. It was so simple and beautiful that I thought, 'I'd just love to do it. I'd love to be a part of it.'"

The scruffy look Ventimiglia sported in his audition was born during this in-between period. Following in the footsteps of actors like Robert De Niro, he decided to grow out his hair between jobs, adding that an actor never knows what his next role will be.

"You don't know if you're going to be swinging a sword in ancient Egypt or if you're going to be playing a cop walking the streets of New York," he said.

His look ended up working for the role of Pearson.

"You're in the right place at the right time as you're supposed to be," he said.

The interview will air in its entirety on Variety's "Actors on Actors" Season 6, presented by Shutterstock, which premieres June 13 on PBS SoCal.

26 PHOTOS
Milo Ventimiglia through the years
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Milo Ventimiglia through the years
CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 23: Actors Milo Ventimiglia attends Wizard World Comic Con Chicago 2015 - Day 4 at Donald E. Stephens Convention Center on August 23, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/WireImage)
Milo Ventimiglia (Gilmore Girls) (Photo by Barry King/WireImage)
Milo Ventimiglia at the Academy Theatre in Beverly Hills, California (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/WireImage)
Presenters Jared Padalecki, Alexis Bledel and Milo Ventimiglia for Choice TV Reality Scariest Moment (Photo by Ray Mickshaw/WireImage)
Milo Ventimiglia during 20th Century Fox Emmy After Party At Morton's at Morton's Restaurant in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by J. Merritt/FilmMagic)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - MARCH 1: Actor Milo Ventimiglia and actress Alexis Bledel speak during the EIF's Women's Cancer Research Fund honoring Melissa Etheridge at Saks Fifth Avenue's Unforgettable Evening on March 1, 2006 at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Milo Ventimiglia during 5th Annual Tribeca Film Festival - 'Civic Duty' Premiere - After Party at BED Nightclub in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Jason Kempin/FilmMagic)
HEROES -- Pilot -- Pictured: Milo Ventimiglia as Peter Petrelli (Photo by Mitch Haaseth/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Milo Ventimiglia (Photo by Mark Sullivan/WireImage)
Antonio Tarver and Milo Ventimiglia during MGM Pictures, Columbia Pictures and Revolution Studios present the World Premiere of 'Rocky Balboa' at Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood, California, United States. (Photo by E. Charbonneau/WireImage for MGM)
Milo Ventimiglia during 64th Annual Golden Globe Awards - Arrivals at Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, CA, United States. (Photo by SGranitz/WireImage)
HEROES -- 'Five Years Gone' Episode 20 -- Aired 4/30/07 --Pictured: (l-r) Milo Ventimiglia as Peter Petrelli, Ali Larter as Niki/Jessica Sanders (Photo by Chris Haston/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Milo Ventimiglia at the Cabana Club in Burbank, California (Photo by Albert L. Ortega/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 19: Actor Milo Ventimiglia arrives at the party to celebrate 'The Circle' and 'Welcome To Your Crisis' author Laura Day at ONE Sunset restaurant on June 19, 2007 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - JULY 23: (U.S. TABLOIDS OUT) Actor Milo Ventimiglia makes an appearance on MTV's Total Request Live on July 23, 2007 in New York City. (Photo by Peter Kramer/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 16: Actor Milo Ventimiglia arrives at the 59th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at the Shrine Auditorium on September 16, 2007 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Emmys/Getty Images for FOX)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 14: Actor Milo Ventimiglia attends the Race To Fight Epilepsy event which started off at the Skirball Centre by celebrities driving off in Lamborghini's on November 14, 2007 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - APRIL 15: (U.S. TABS OUT) Actor Milo Ventimiglia appears onstage during MTV's Total Request Live at the MTV Times Square Studios April 15, 2008 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD - AUGUST 10: Actor Milo Ventimiglia attends the Whaleman Foundation Benefit Dinner at Beso on August 10, 2008 in Hollywood, CA. (Photo by Charley Gallay/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 19: Milo Ventimiglia arrives at the Heroes For Autism Event at the Avalon Hollywood on April 19, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jean Baptiste Lacroix/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 17: Actor Milo Ventimiglia arrives at the One Club's 2nd Annual One Show Entertainment Awards on February 17, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Valerie Macon/Getty Images)
WESTWOOD, CA - JUNE 04: Actor Milo Ventimiglia arrives at the Los Angeles premiere of 'That's My Boy' held at Regency Village Theatre Westwood on June 4, 2012 in Westwood, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 21: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Milo Ventimiglia Visits 'What's Trending' on February 21, 2013 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Michael Bezjian/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 03: Actor Milo Ventimiglia attends the Crackle's season 2 premiere of original digital series 'Chosen' held at the Pacific Theaters at the Grove on December 3, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Tommaso Boddi/WireImage)
CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 21: Actor Milo Ventimiglia attends Wizard World Comic Con Chicago 2015 - Day 2 at Donald E. Stephens Convention Center on August 21, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/WireImage)
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