By Stacy Jenel Smith
At age 29, Milo Ventimiglia is finally growing up - on camera, that is.
The handsome actor best-known as Jess on "The Gilmore Girls" has moved on - to play one of the people who discover they have extraordinary powers after a total eclipse on NBC's upcoming "Heroes" series, which has already been tagged as potentially the new season's "Lost." He plays an upbeat character, a dreamer, who works as a nurse and who has dreams that he can fly. He tries to convince his politician brother (Adrian Pasdar) that he really can.
Milo doesn't mind admitting he likes the change of pace: "For years and years, I've been playing these reckless rebellious youths who didn't have direction and were just kind of aimlessly going about their lives. Now it's nice to play a character that's got a little more heart, a little more caring, a little more humanitarian view of the world, and at the same time, someone who is my age."
He looks almost relieved when he says that.
"Oh, God, it's so nice. I like playing a mature character, an adult as opposed to playing a teenager who is struggling with who he is. It's difficult to have life experience under your belt and go, 'I don't know what I want to do!'" he says, finishing the sentence in a whiny voice.
Ventimiglia (who is of Sicilian descent on his father's side and a combination of Irish, English, French, Cherokee, and Indian descent on his mother's) has been leaving more behind than roles of youthful rebellion and angst of late. His three-and-a-half-year romantic relationship with "The Girlmore Girls'" Alexis Bledel ending this past spring. His return visits to her show are also now a thing of the past. He has had only positive things to say publicly about both.
The Anaheim, California native - an alumnus of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco and of UCLA - has racked up a long list of credits since landing a breakthrough role on "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air" in 1995. His feature films include "Cursed" and "Snow Job," and his television roles range from multiple episodes of "Boston Public" and "American Dreams" to his short-lived "The Bedford Diaries" series.
Now he's in a transition time.
Not only is "Heroes" affording him the opportunity to quite literally act his age. So is MGM's December-debuting "Rocky Balboa," in which he plays the son of Sylvester Stallone's iconic boxer character.
If "Heroes" lives up to its potential - and Milo is quick to volunteer that the dailies so far look "f'ing amazing" - the show could mark a big step up for him.
He notes that series creator Tim Kring "said that what they were looking for in my character was a guy who had a big heart and was a caregiver, who thought about the well-being of others before he thought of himself. But they didn't want him to be a wuss, They didn't want him to be a pushover, they wanted him, in time of conflict, to step up and be a leader, a soldier, a fighter, a general. They said, 'You've got it all.' It's a tough balance when you have a sensitive, caring nature, to then be like a warlord. But it's really exciting to know where the character has started and to know where he will ultimately step up."