"My manager makes fun of me," says Milo Ventimiglia. "He's like, 'Since you started in the business, you've aged eight years, but on television, you've only aged two or three.' It's a frustrating thing.
"It's hard when you're trying to present yourself as a man, a businessman, and people are looking at you, patting you on the head like, 'Oh, what a cute little 18-year-old.' 'No, I'm 26. Let's talk business.'"
Ventimiglia is currently in the middle of a three-episode stint on Fox's high-school drama "Boston Public," which began on Friday, Sept. 26, and continues on Oct. 17th and 24th. He plays Jake Provesserio, a 23-year-old narcotics officer posing as a student, who winds up catching the eyes of both a student (Lyndsy Fonseca) and teacher Carmen Torres (new series regular Natalia Baron).
"I don't think he causes as much trouble as everyone's been talking about," Ventimiglia says. "I've seen a couple of articles just randomly about my being on the show, saying, 'This bad boy gets the chicks.' I'm like, 'What?'
"There's a story with the teenage girl, Jenn, played by Lyndsy Fonseca, I'm hanging out with her. Then there's the teacher, Carmen, he's attracted to her. He's kind of back and forth. At the same time, he's a kid, so what can you really say about that?"
With Ventimiglia's teen-heartthrob status well established during his stint as the moody Jess Mariano on The WB Network's "Gilmore Girls," Baron may find herself the envy of many teen girls -- but she doesn't see it that way.
"Well, I think he's the envy of many young boys," Baron says, taking a break on the set in a sleek red top and black slacks with red embroidery. "That's my take on the situation. But he's very sweet. He's a very nice guy. It certainly made it easier that he's been around for a while, and this is my first acting job."
"Natalia was great to work with," Ventimiglia says, "very professional, very prepared. She was like, 'This is my first job.' I was like, 'What?' She was asking all these questions about the camera, this and that. I felt like the old Jedi Master."
As for the other girl in Jake's life, Ventimiglia says, "Lyndsy really is 16 years old, and I'm 26. Here I am in a scene where she's two inches away from me. You're in character and all that, but at the same time, you're going, 'Oh, my God!' It's a strange business."
Although he's still in a high-school setting, Ventimiglia's stint on "Boston Public," produced by 20th Century Fox, offers the actor a fresh perspective. After his "Gilmore Girls" spin-off failed to materialize on The WB, Ventimiglia is now a free agent.
"Just a change of scenery," Ventimiglia says. "I've been at Warner Bros. for several years. This is the first time in six years, seven years, that I haven't had a contract."
He even sees playing yet another "bad boy" -- he prefers the term "troubled teen" -- as a challenge. "That is the opportunity for the actor to take something that's so boxed into one area and make it larger than life, give it more of a range. I'm all for playing the bad kid, but not everybody is completely evil. When there are the moments of vulnerability with a character, that's the fun stuff.
"On 'Gilmore' for two years, I was such a punk, saying all these sardonic, wry, very humorous things, but it was at the expense of other characters. It wasn't until the last episode where this kid broke down -- and it wasn't even that huge of a breakdown -- but it was so good to finally do that."
A native of Orange, Calif., Ventimiglia does have some issues with the portrayal of his native Orange County in Fox's summer teen-drama hit "The O.C.," which films at the same studios in Manhattan Beach, Calif., as "Boston Public."
"I can't watch a show that openly rips on where I come from and over-dramatizes it," he says. "I can't get into it. At the same time, there's my personal conflict as well, being friends with Adam [series star Adam Brody], and having met Josh [series creator Josh Schwartz], who is very nice. I've met this kid, [series star] Ben McKenzie, and I want the show to do well -- I just don't know how much I can watch it.
"Adam came by the set two weeks ago. I hadn't seen him in a long time. Man, you should have seen the girls swoon, all over. Lyndsy, after Adam left, was like, 'You didn't tell me he was coming!' She was smiling all day, little dance steps. I'm like, 'Wow, everything tastes a little better today, doesn't it?'"
In his campaign to leave both "bad boys" and high school behind, Ventimiglia wants Hollywood to know that he's more than willing to put on grownup clothes. "God, I'd love to have a suit and tie. My friends that wear suits to work every day -- jealous. I could play a politician, play a doctor, who knows? Definitely, for my own personal sanity, that needs to come soon."
He has also stepped behind the camera, directing some spots for The WB's "Images" ad campaign, which feature the network's stars, including "Angel" lead David Boreanaz.
"Such a nice guy," Ventimiglia says. "He was on my set, had a bunch of ideas, really nice, had his son with him. It was cool. I went through 24 actors: David Boreanaz, Tom Welling, Reba, Kristin Kreuk, Jamie Kennedy.
"It was cool being on the other side, bumping into actors I knew from different shows. They're like, 'Are you on this set next after me?' And I'm like, 'No, actually, you're on my set.' People were pretty surprised. It was a good experience."
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