Hollywood has long had a tradition of casting older men opposite younger women, especially in films of the romantic variety, but in recent years we’ve seen a shift the other way.
From Julianne Moore and Michael Angarano in 2013’s The English Teacher to Sandra Bullock and Trevante Rhodes in last year’s Bird Box – even Book Club had Diane Keaton and Jane Fonda being romanced by younger actors Andy Garcia and Don Johnson – because the film industry is finally catching up to the fact that a) viewers want to see older women in the leading roles, and, b) they are just as desirable to younger people as older men seem to be.
Second Act is the latest movie to position an actress opposite a younger male lead, though, when it comes to Jennifer Lopez, one can hardly believe she is eight years older than Milo Ventimiglia and the film certainly doesn’t make a point of it.
That’s one of the reasons Ventimiglia, 41, said yes to appearing in the film after Lopez’s team contacted his agent to ffer him the part of her baseball coach boyfriend Trey.
“Personally, I’ve never really seen age or thought about it,” he tells Yahoo Movies UK. “If you’re attracted to someone you’re attracted to someone. If you get on with someone you get on with someone.
“I think it’s a good story to show and to know that age doesn’t really play into romance – that makes it more inspiring.”
The film follows Lopez’s Maya, an assistant manager at a value store, without a college degree, who after being overlooked for a promotion ends up getting hired by a pharmaceutical firm because they believe she has a Harvard degree.
Ventimiglia says it’s the type of uplifting story that audiences might take a lot away from. “It’s lighter fare, more hopeful fare which might inspire people to do something good with their lives,” he says. “It’s nice to be part of something like that as opposed to war and crime and stories of that ilk.”
Fans of This Is Us will be happy to see the actor’s full Jack Pearson look intact though he says his choice of facial hair wasn’t because of contractual obligations he just happened to shoot the movie right in the middle of production of season two.
“While I was filming Second Act I was also at the same time filming This Is Us and it is right when Jack Pearson’s home burned down in the second season so we’re just lucky I didn’t have a goatee,” he explained though he could probably pull that off too.
It’s because of the TV series, as well as past roles in Gilmore Girls and Heroes, that the actor has become one of the Internet’s boyfriends of sorts; there are memes upon Tumblr posts dedicated to him and the characters he plays.
“Things pop up on my radar, of course, just being out in the world,” Ventimiglia says of the attention. “I can’t take the mask of my character off so people see me, recognise me, they know me, so I’m usually greeted with a lot of smiles a lot of excitement, a lot of hugs, so it’s nice.
“I’m very flattered,” he adds. “I try to be the best version of how my mother and father raised me. I understand that life is already difficult enough, why not be kind and courteous and responsible and respectful?”
That’s the kind of attitude the cast and crew exhibited during the production of the New York City-set movie, explains the actor, which made it a great place to work. “It was a light, fun set and everyone was enjoying being there,” he says, “but it didn’t feel downtrodden or feel like we were slugging our way through the day.”
Ventimiglia had a similarly happy experience filming Rocky Balboa with Sylvester Stallone, and returning for a cameo in last year’s Creed II, saying he would jump at the chance to appear in another movie as Rocky’s son.
“Would I want to [return]? Of course. Is it going to happen? Who knows,” he says. “If he called me up and said he’d want to do it again, of course, I would be there. Working with Sly has been a very big gift. He’s a guy who writes, he produces, he directs, he acts – I admire that and look up to that.
“A lot of the time on set, I would watch and study how he was able to manage and handle everything.”
Observing is clearly part of what the actor enjoys about making movies; whether it’s watching Stallone helm a project or enjoying the camaraderie between his co-stars like Lopez and Leah Remini.
“The best part is the dynamic of their friendship on screen,” he said of filming with the two actresses who have been best pals since 2004. “We were allowed to smile at [their jokes], see the humour in that and, honestly, when the two of them were on set and they were around I was just quietly watching and enjoying because they are incredible.”
They weren’t the only incredible thing on set if the movie is anything to go by; there are several references to his butt which is funny considering it is usually Jennifer Lopez’s derriere that gets the most attention.
So was this the intention of writers Justin Zackham and Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas, to gender-swap the objectification to make a point?
“I’m not sure,” Ventimiglia laughs, “but I was more than happy to take it.”
Second Act is out on Friday 25 January