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This Is Us star Milo Ventimiglia on the finale, the fight, and death-obsessed fans

The man who plays Jack goes deep on the events of ‘Moonshadow’

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Speaking of that fight, you watch that, and both sides have good reason to be frustrated and angry. I’m wondering if you automatically side with Jack, or you’re able to get a more macro view of the situation. And were people on the set debating who was more in the right?
I don’t know if there was any conversation or debate on set, but I know in the moment, I had to back up Jack. I have to. I have to believe in what he’s feeling, I have to believe in his rationale in the situation. But it might have been the toughest work that I’ve done on the show as of yet because his position on Rebecca going [off] and performing, I personally didn’t agree with, you know? (Laughs.) If my wife wanted to go perform onstage, I’d be like, “That’s great! Hey, have fun! Tell me where the shows are! I will be there.”

But it was tough finding that angle that I needed to play and that I back him up. But in the moments of the actual argument, 100 percent from action to cut, Jack wins from my perspective.

Do you think fans will be pretty evenly split on this fight?
Here’s a couple that you’re rooting for. I don’t know if people are going to attack Jack or attack Rebecca. I just believe that the audience is probably going to be heartbroken. Why did Jack have to go off, get drunk, and punch the guy, you know? Why did Rebecca…? I don’t know if anyone’s going to pick a side, other than just be heartbroken for this couple that everybody wants to see happy and together.

Jack calls Rebecca a “40-year-old woman singing covers in pubs”, and says “That is not a career —that is ridiculous.” Too far?
Jack is very protective of his family, and the possible perception of that as a career, that seems like in his heart of hearts, something that’s more of a hobby or a pastime than an actual career. Career is clocking in and clocking out, punching the timecard, and that’s what Jack knows. But for Rebecca, she’s as passionate about that work as she is her family, and she’s been away from it for so long. So, for her to call it a career, it’s heartbreaking that he doesn’t support it, but he [sees] a difference. He does punch the clock, and he has to make the money so that the family can have a home, and go to private school, and have everything that they want. Jack is the one in the career. It’s not apples and oranges, it’s apples to hammers; they’re completely different things. Maybe he could have softened the blow, but at that point, he’s getting attacked by her.

She’s after him, and he’s going into that scene almost like a wounded puppy who s—the carpet. He knows he made the biggest mistake ever. So, he’s going to hang his head, but the second that she digs in on him — what right does she have to dig in when he’s been carrying the load, and she just wants to go off and sing? It’s a precarious situation, you know? It’s a heated conversation that didn’t have to be heated, but it got there, because they’re both passionate about their positions, and also one another.

On the flip side, Rebecca dismisses this drinking problem as “this alcoholism of yours,” and then she questions the timing of it, saying it’s convenient. Too far? I think it’s a little lopsided, her view on that. She’s looking for a reason why he’s doing that, and she’s believing that it’s because of her finding this newfound passion. She’s looking at it from her perspective. He’s looking at it from his perspective, and the two just are not eye-and-eye. And I think they are individually thinking about themselves in the situation, so how can they actually hear the other person?

What was the line from either one of them that just totally gutted you — and made you think that a line had been crossed that would be hard to walk back over?
The fact that she walks away from the conversation in the kitchen, when he’s just saying, “So, what happened with Ben?” and it kind of blows her lid, but it also opens the door to her saying to him that she’s a ghost… In a way, he’s sacrificed everything for her, and the culmination of that, where they’re both yelling at each other at the end, from Jack’s perspective, in Jack’s eyes, it sounds like she’s ungrateful for his effort into the family — his hard work, the things that he’s had to sacrifice.

There was a line — I don’t know if it’s something that was crossed, but to be heard is a very important thing in a relationship. And when Jack says, “You don’t know the things I’ve had to do, the crap I’ve had to eat,” she doesn’t know that he took money from his father when they were having kids. She knows that he sold his car, but there are certain sacrifices that I think go unmentioned by him, that he doesn’t ever need to tell her, because he may not want her to consider it, or feel bad about it. That’s just not Jack. He doesn’t need someone to pat him on the back for him making a sacrifice for his family. But when his wife is pushing him, the elephant in the room to him is like, “You have no idea what I’ve been through.”

And she feels that same way on the opposite side. The marriage has worn down the lines of communication over time, and it’s sad to watch.
Exactly. Exactly.

Is Jack an alcoholic?
I don’t think he is, but it’s definitely in his blood, and I think it’s something that probably scares him a little bit. I know people that don’t have a drink of alcohol, and a lot of it comes from how they were raised. They saw their mother or their father captured by alcohol and what it turns them into, and they just don’t do it. So I think the idea that it’s in his blood is a fear that he has of himself. He doesn’t want to become his father.

I know that we still haven’t even really seen the extent of his father’s drinking. We kind of touched on it a little bit in episode 18, and then again a little bit previous to that, but I still don’t think we’ve seen the worst of it, and Jack doesn’t ever want to see the worst of it in himself.

NEXT PAGE: Ventimiglia on how much hope you should have in that dark ending