Not too long ago, Milo Ventimiglia went on a date. Nothing elaborate, just dinner with a woman he’d known for a while, though mainly in passing. As the evening progressed and his companion began to learn more about the 30-year-old star of NBC’s hit drama Heroes, the young lady grew increasingly uncomfortable. Finally, recalls the actor, she blurted out: “So you’re polite, you don’t drink, you don’t smoke, you’re a vegetarian, you keep yourself fit, and you’re successful. What’s wrong with you?”
Of course, this being Hollywood, where male stars of the moment come in essentially two flavors—fast-moving party boys destined to flame out by the next Star magazine news cycle, or brooding angsters who wear their codependencies on their black-denim sleeves—one can understand the poor girl’s confusion. Ventimiglia defies easy categorization. Take his recent sprint to stardom in Heroes, last year’s top-rated new drama. As conflicted underachiever Peter Petrelli, Ventimiglia found himself playing the central character in one of the most successful new shows in recent TV history. Many actors would have been content to sit back and let the hero worship wash over them.
Instead, Ventimiglia threw himself headlong into a series of other horizon-broadening projects, each indulging a different facet of his personality. Milo the actor, who had already gained notice for his feature work as Sylvester Stallone’s overshadowed son in last year’s Rocky Balboa, took on the lead role in Pathology, a dark psychological thriller co-starring Alyssa Milano. (The movie opens in theaters Nov. 30.) Meanwhile Milo the entrepreneur, head of his own production company, partnered with clothingmaker American Eagle to produce and direct a series of short films for the company’s Web site. (The shorts also aired during the commercial breaks on the premiere of MTV’s The Real World: Sydney in August.) Even Milo the teen idol—who had gained legions of fans during a four-season stint as prepubescent lust object Jess Mariano on The Gilmore Girls—got into the act, shooting a steamy music video with Fergie, for which he spent most of the time shirtless.
“He’s a single guy on the hottest show on television,” says Sendhil Ramamurthy, who plays Heroes’ questing academic Mohinder Suresh. “He could have become that guy, the one who’s out every night doing whatever it is young Hollywood guys do. But that’s not Milo. He’s incredibly focused, and he knows what he wants. And I have no doubt that he’s going to get it.”
Adds Heroes executive producer Tim Kring: “Milo’s going to have one of these huge careers that is very much in the director-actor-producer category. He’ll be able to control his own projects. He’s a very impressive guy.”