There’s a lot Milo Ventimiglia likes about Jack Pearson, the character he plays on NBC’s emotional rollercoaster of a TV program This is Us, but what he loves most is how Jack’s heart is always in the right place.
“Jack is a good man. He’s a very simple, straight-forward man. He leads with his heart” Ventimiglia, 40, said in an interview with Jess Cagle for PEOPLE. “He is a guy who, very simply, loves his wife and he loves his kids, and that is [his] whole existence.”
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“And I think for any complications he’d had when he was a younger man, as he’s gotten older and he’s gotten more years under his belt, everything kind of gets simplified down to ‘I’m [going to] keep myself in line for my family,’ ” the actor continued.
“But there are those challenges as a man, as a human being, where sometimes you’re going to cross over a line, or step outside of that line, of that path that you walk,” he added, pointing out that for all of Jack’s virtues, “he’s human.”
“What I love about him is, his intention is always good. It’s always honorable,” Ventimiglia said. “It’s just sometimes misdirected, given feelings of hurt, or feelings of separation from his wife, or things he can’t control.”
“There’s so many things I could say about Jack, but it’s also, like I jump around so much,” he added. “Even the last episode, going from 28 to 52. It’s like, wait, which version do I pick to talk about?”
When asked how his character had evolved from the first time Ventimiglia read the script until he shot the season 1 finale, the actor said, “I think the greatest change that I noticed as just the depth that this man has.”
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“In the beginning, when you meet him, [he’s got] this youthful optimism about having one of the scariest things possible: three kids at the same time,” Ventimiglia continued. “He was cool with it.”
“He doesn’t want to hear about the doctor saying there’s risk. No, no, no. Three kids. One healthy wife. That’s it, but then to see him evolve and come to understand the real meaning of his life,” he added. “It’s beyond the optimism, and it gets deeper into the sense of responsibility that I need to raise this family, support this family, maybe even die for this family, and it’s been a beautiful journey that is finite in time.”
Although fans of This is Us may be worried about what the future holds for Jack (who is dead in the show’s present day scenes), earlier this month, Ventimiglia’s co-star Mandy Moore told PEOPLE not to worry.
“Milo is No. 1 on the call sheet — he isn’t going anywhere,” said Moore, 33. “He is our leader. We call him our actor department head. If you want to know what’s going on in the show or have a question about something, Milo, without fail, has the answer.”
Asked what fans should expect, Moore said season 2 is “better than ever.”
“We just watched the first three episodes with the cast the other night together and I think I was really struck by how it’s equal parts touching and laugh-out-loud funny,” she added. “I think it’s better than ever. I’m really proud of it. Everybody just did such remarkable work across the board again, and I hope people are going to be happy with it.”
“We’re all having so much fun and it’s very emotional,” she continued. “It’s sort of our signature. If they’re looking for a good weep, they won’t be disappointed.”
Season 2 of This is Us returns to NBC on Sept. 26 at 9 p.m. ET.