Like many stars, Milo Ventimiglia had a lot of doors closed in his face before he made it big in Hollywood.
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 dished on his days as a young actor auditioning in Los Angeles. So what was the No. 1 criticism he would get?
” ‘No, no, no, no, no — your mouth is too crooked,’ ” he recalls. “They said: ‘You look too young,’ and I was like: ‘Yeah, but I’m 24.’ ”
“They’d be like: ‘Kid, you look like you’re 17,’ ” he adds with a laugh. “I mean, even now — I’m 40 this year, and they’re like: ‘No, you’re not.’ ”
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According to Ventimiglia, who was born with “dead nerves” in his lip, he was regularly asked to correct his “crooked mouth” — a.k.a. the fact that one side of his mouth turned slightly upwards.
“They’d be like: ‘Could you stop doing that thing with your mouth where your lip is going down?’ ” he recalls. “And I’d be like: ‘Hey, I was born that way.’ … I mean, look, I can’t get away from it now. It’s who I am, you know? I’ve got a crooked mouth.”
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“When I was young, I used to really talk out of the side of my face — it was that pronounced,” he adds. “I saw an interview when I was a kid on the local news channel, and I remember saying to my mom: ‘Mom, what’s going on? That’s how I talk? That’s what I look like when I talk?’ ”
From that moment on, the actor made a conscious decision to fix the slant, spending hours reading a book to himself out loud in front of the mirror.
“Every time I’d catch myself getting this slanted, really pronounced mouth, I would figure out a way to straighten the word out — straighten my mouth out through the word and kind of correct that so it wasn’t as pronounced,” he says. “Now, it only pops out if I’m running and yelling. If I’m running and yelling in a scene, I can’t control it. It gets so crooked!”
—With AURELIE CORINTHIOS
This article originally appeared on People.com