In ‘The Company’ of Milo Ventimiglia and Catherine Haena Kim

(l-r) THE COMPANY YOU KEEP stars William Fichtner as Leo, Sarah Wayne Callies as Birdie, Polly Draper as Fran, Milo Ventimiglia as Charlie, Felisha Terrell as Daphne, Catherine Haena Kim as Emma, Tim Chiou as David Hill, Freda Foh Shen as Grace Hill, and James Saito as Joe Hill. ©ABC. CR: Brian Bowen Smith/ABC.


Front Row Features

PASADENA,CA-After portraying doting husband and father Jack Pearson on “This is Us” for six seasons, Milo Ventimiglia has chosen a very different role for his new series. He plays Charlie Nicoletti, a professional conman, in ABC’s  “The Company You Keep.” Based on the successful Korean show entitled “My Follow Citizens,” the drama also stars Catherine Haena Kim (“Mistresses,” “Ballers”) as Emma Hill, an undercover CIA officer.

Meeting at a bar, Charlie and Emma share a night of passion without revealing to each other their true identities, leading them professionally on a collision course.

Milo Ventimiglia and Catherine Haena Kim met with the TV Critics Association at the Langham Hotel in Pasadena, to talk about their new series which premieres on February 19, 2023 at 10 p.m. ET/PT.

Q: Milo, could you talk about the timing of this? At what point did you say, “Okay. This is what I want to do next?” And how did it happen so quickly?

Milo Ventimiglia: This one rose to the top very fast. It was an early piece of development for my company that we got on board [with.] It had a wonderfully architected pilot. As an actor, I wasn’t so concerned with what my next project was.  The right pieces were assembled, and then other pieces were brought in to enrich and make it even more full.

I think the time in between was about two weeks from when I stepped off set of “This Is Us” and stepped on set with our pilot for “The Company You Keep.” But I was ready. I was excited. I was ready to share the space with Catherine.

[We] brought over about 90 percent of the crew from “This Is Us.” so, the shorthand, the expertise, the level that which “This Is Us” operated from a production standpoint, we carried it over to ours. And everyone works well together. I believe it will show in the actual episodes and people will see what kind of show we’re enjoying making.

Q: Charlie’s clearly a very different character than Jack. How much did you want to make sure you did a 180 from what people have already been identifying you as for many years?

Ventimiglia: It wasn’t so much getting away from Jack. It was let me stretch into something new creatively. [It’s a] character that I understood, but I was also still very intrigued by. I knew how he moved. I knew how he talked. I knew how he had to fold into place as a conman. But at the same time, there was a lot that I needed to find in him through his romantic relationship with Catherine’s character Emma, through his dynamic with his family. He was born into a family of grifters. This wasn’t the life that he chose. It chose him. And he’s really great at it.

Q: Catherine, your character Emma makes fun of the notion that she was a beauty pageant queen, but you were in a beauty pageant at one point.  Is it fun to make fun of that?

Catherine Haena Kim: Oh, of course. I feel like if you can’t make fun of yourself, you’re doing it wrong.

Ventimiglia:  But you haven’t asked her about the rocket science part. She spent some time at NASA.

Kim: That’s actually my full-time job. This is just paying the bills.

Q: Can you guys talk about the lying element of the show. These characters lie and they lie very easily and naturally, especially for Milo’s character?

Ventimiglia: These two are on a collision course. Professionally they are two sides of a coin that have compartmentalized lives; her, the CIA officer who, for national security, really can’t discuss that job, and he, the criminal, for personal security, doesn’t want to land in jail.

Yet you have this undeniable connection, love and foundation of who they truly are and who they truly deserve to be with. There’s the complication where the honesty, which takes a while to get to ultimately, hopefully is something that will put them closer together.

Kim: And with lies, I feel like it brings about this question, can I trust you?  Not all of us are con artists or CIA officers, but I think we know what it’s like to fall in love.  We know it’s exciting and it’s terrifying. Can I trust you with my heart? What’s true? What’s real? What’s not? What’s a lie? What’s just your best representative being sent to me?

Q: It is a very sexy show. How does that play out through the rest of the season?

Ventimiglia: I think [it] explores real intimacy. Sure, there’s the physical, and you’ve got two people that are drawn together and pulled together like magnets. But really what makes that stick is that emotional and intellectual vulnerability. It’s the willingness to open that raw nerve and show it to somebody else and be like, “Hey, can I trust you?” And I think that’s definitely something we explore quite a bit within the parameters of who these two characters are, especially given them being completely on opposite ends professionally.

Kim: They happen to meet at the exact same moment in both their lives. It’s that moment when you look over at somebody and you think, “Oh, it’s you.  It’s going to be you.” And then it’s on.

Q: Milo, I get this real “It Takes a Thief” vibe from this character that you’re playing. I’m curious, when you’re playing somebody that suave, charming and debonair, were you channeling anybody?

Ventimiglia: I was being myself. (everyone laughs) [I understand] who this guy is and what he needs to do and truly what his wants are inside, not outwardly, not among his family, but what he really wants. And I think there’s an honesty to Charlie, even in his lie, even in his con. And for me, I couldn’t just put on a character anymore. I just had to exist and just be myself and look at my scene partner, listen to my writers, work with our production team, and just be. It’s been wonderful.