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It’s no secret that Milo Ventimiglia is one of the biggest heartthrobs in Hollywood, but he’s also an incredibly private person — and he intends to keep it that way.
The This Is Us star recently sat down with PEOPLE and Entertainment Weekly Editorial Director Jess Cagle for the latest episode of The Jess Cagle Interview, and he revealed the real reason why he works so hard to keep his personal life under wraps.
“It isn’t easy, but I go back to the work,” says Ventimiglia, 39. “It would upset me if someone watching a show was thinking about me, Milo, as an individual at the supermarket or at a concert, wherever, and they’re not thinking about what the character is experiencing.”
From Gilmore Girls to Heroes, fans have watched the actor grow up on screen over the years — and date two of his costars, Alexis Bledel and Hayden Panettiere, along the way. But Ventimiglia has learned to navigate fame in order to stay out of the spotlight as much as possible.
“I feel like there’s a currency to your personal life and your performance — your acting, your work,” he says. “If that personal life starts to outweigh what the work is, then your work suffers. Your actual performance suffers because the audience won’t see the character, they’ll see you. And then you’re just playing yourself, but you’re playing a version of yourself that’s not yourself.”
“So what I always try to do is minimize my personal life,” he says. “Listen, I go to the store, I go get my car fixed, I have friends, I have a life, but nobody needs to know about it. Because I’m just the same as anyone else.”
And while Ventimiglia accepts that he’s a public figure, he insists he doesn’t think of himself as a celebrity.
“I don’t think of myself as anything more than a person who sits in the living room with you telling you a story,” he says. “I just happen to be in 16 million living rooms. So for me, I never want to ruin that experience so I try and keep my private life private and let the characters and the work be the experience for an audience.”
That being said, he did reveal one thing: He’s doing just fine.
“I’m very happy — incredibly happy,” he says. “Haven’t been happier!”
This Is Us returns for season 2 this fall on NBC.
—With AURELIE CORINTHIOS