Close your eyes for a moment and imagine a world where This Is Us, Gilmore Girls, and Heroes looked different. Scary, huh?
Well, according to Milo Ventimiglia, the beloved shows almost didn't star him. In an interview with Jess Cagle, People and Entertainment Weekly Editorial Director, Ventimiglia admitted that he's almost given up on his acting career three times.
"I was just fed up," he said during The Jess Cagle Interview. "I couldn't catch a break to lock on to some work and be creative."
So what was Ventimiglia going to do instead?
"I was going to go be an auto mechanic," he told Cagle. "In Southern California there's this auto school and it's advertised 'Everybody needs mechanics, because they need those cars fixed' and I'm like, 'That's a job that’s going to be in demand, so why don't I learn more than I already know about cars and professionally fix cars.'"
Though picturing Ventimiglia working on a car isn't necessarily an unpleasant image, it's definitely not as gratifying as seeing his performance in Gilmore Girls, which according to EW almost didn't happen because, surprise, he nearly gave up on acting before he had gotten his big break. But while Gilmore Girls is now a cult classic with a massive following, he said that at the time, he felt that he "wasn't there yet in other people's eyes."
Thankfully, Ventimiglia was wrong, and he was later cast in Heroes on NBC, which he said "kind of sent me on the next six, seven years."
Okay, so that covers the first two times Ventimiglia nearly called it quits. What about the (hopefully) final time?
"The third time I was gonna quit I was like, 'You know what, I gotta leave the country, because this is just killing me, this business," he said. "I have dual citizenship with Italy. I was like, 'I'm gonna sell everything, I'm going to fly to Rome, I'm gonna buy a motorcycle, I'm going to ride around until I can find a farm I can work on…just lead a very different life very far away."
According to EW, the cancelation of Heroes left Ventimiglia feeling discouraged. Not only did he lose a stable gig, but he also felt as if both fans and those in the entertainment business would only ever see him as his Heroes character, Peter Petrelli.
"It broke my spirit," he said. "Because that show itself, toward the end, it felt like the world-ending engine was more important than the human experience of it, which is what the show started as."
Ventimiglia's dedication to the "human experience" in a show could not be more well-suited than for his current project, This Is Us, which details the lives — pains, joys, sorrows, and all — of complex characters. We can only (somewhat selfishly) hope that the show's dedication to telling realistic stories keeps Ventimiglia feeling confident in his career choice.