Milo Ventimiglia tells PEOPLE and Editorial Director Jess Cagle he took inspiration from his own Vietnam vet dad while creating the character of Jack Pearson on This Is Us


It’s no secret fans are hoping to see more of Jack Pearson’s life in season 2 of This Is Us, but they’re not the only ones.

Midway through the first season, it was revealed that Milo Ventimiglia’s beloved character fought in the Vietnam War. But Ventimiglia, 39, revealed to PEOPLE and Entertainment Weekly Editorial Director Jess Cagle, in the latest episode of The Jess Cagle Interview that he’s hoping to see more of that storyline in the upcoming seasons.

“I would love to explore that era of Jack when he was a young man in Vietnam,” Ventimiglia says. “I feel like there’s 50-some years of this man’s life and we’ve only seen 18 hours of it.”

This Is Us - Season 1
Credit: Ron Batzdorff/NBC
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His character’s life has provided plenty of unanswered questions for fans, most notably the time and circumstances of Jack’s death, which remained unanswered as of the heartbreaking season 1 finale. But Ventimiglia has long insisted fans would do better to focus on Jack’s life rather than the end of it.

And for Ventimiglia, one very important part of that life is his time in the service — a topic that has very personal resonance for the actor.

“Before the conversation even came up about Jack’s real history — even outside of his bad childhood with his father — in my mind, I’d always seen Jack as a Vietnam vet,” Ventimiglia says, who’s real-life father served in the Vietnam War and became a source of inspiration for Jack’s past.

“My dad is such a great man … I know even though he presented himself as put-together, I know that war impacted him and affected him,” Ventimiglia admitted. “I would start to pull those feelings I saw from my own father into Jack.”

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Since the beginning of the show, the Pearson patriarch has endeared fans as a relatable, inspirational father and husband. And Ventimiglia says he already sees a transformation in “the depth that this man has” and how he “gets deeper into the sense of responsibility that I need to raise this family, support this family, maybe even die for this family.”

  • For more on Milo Ventimiglia, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now

But while fans anxiously await the day that they learn Jack’s fate, they can breathe a sigh of relief for now because Ventimiglia, who has claimed those answers will be satisfying, has some other plans in mind first. And, naturally, those plans involve seeing more of his sparky on-screen chemistry with costar Mandy Moore, who plays Jack’s wife Rebecca, as well as delving into the mystery of Rebecca’s second husband — not to mention Jack’s best friend — Miguel (Jon Huertas)

“I’m wanting to get back to Jack in his 50s, having walked out the door stepping away from his marriage for a second to go sleep on Miguel’s couch,” Ventimiglia says. “Just to know how he can get his family back on track. Seeing Jack and Rebecca in disrepair breaks my heart, too, and so I’m looking forward to getting back to the ’90s.”

This Is Us returns September 26 on NBC.