This Is Us drew to an emotional close this week, wrapping up six seasons of the Pearson family drama.
And with the end of the smash hit NBC show, comes a turning point in the careers of its leads – Mandy Moore and Milo Ventimiglia.
The beloved TV series arrived at a point in both actor’s careers when things were stalling, a time Milo has referred to as his ‘off-cycle’. Both Mandy, 38, and Milo, 44, reside in a nostalgic nook in the hearts of Millennials thanks to her bubblegum pop years and his teen idol role on Gilmore Girls but This Is Us gave them a second shot at the fame game.
And as that career chapter comes to a close, MailOnline looks back at the parallel tracks of their lives and what’s next for the onscreen duo.
Mom and dad: This Is Us drew to an emotional close this week, wrapping up six seasons of the Pearson family drama. And with the end of the smash hit NBC show, comes a turning point in the careers of its leads – Mandy Moore and Milo Ventimiglia
Pop princess to leading lady
Growing up in a town just outside Orlando, Florida, teenage Mandy started singing The Star Spangled Banner at local sports events, earning her the nickname The National Anthem Girl.
But as the star explained during a 2016 appearance on The Tonight Show, her move from local legend to international popstar was down to that Hollywood adage of right place at the right time.
‘Two gentlemen heard me sing and said, ‘Have you ever been in a recording studio before? We have some original songs we’ve written. If you want to come and record them to eventually send off as a demo tape, we’d love to have you.’
Career beginnings: Both Mandy, 38, and Milo, 44, reside in a nostalgic nook in the hearts of Millennials thanks to her bubblegum pop years and his teen idol years on Gilmore Girls (Mandy pictured aged 16 performing in NYC)
‘I was recording in the studio a couple weeks later, and a man who worked for FedEx heard me sing, and somehow some convoluted thing, he had a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend who knew an A&R guy here in New York at Epic Records…and sent the guy my demo. Somehow he heard something he liked. The guy heard something he liked and flew down to Orlando. I sang live for him, and then I signed a record deal at 15.’
Three albums in just 18 months and tours with boybands NSYNC and Backstreet Boys swiftly followed and Mandy soon became a household name thanks to chart hits like Candy.
Comparisons to the other pop princesses of the era Britney, Christina and Jessica were inevitable and in the critics’ eyes at least Mandy didn’t quite have the same punch as her chart rivals.
Screen roles: Mandy branched out into acting in the early noughties, landing a support part as a cheerleader in the smash hit Anne Hathaway movie The Princess Diaries in 2001 (pictured with Heather Matarazzo and Hathaway)
The still-teenage star decided to take a step off the bubblegum pop conveyor belt and for her second studio album in 2001 went with a more instrumental sound. It was also around this time that Mandy branched out into acting roles, landing a support part as a cheerleader in the smash hit Anne Hathaway movie The Princess Diaries.
Soon her box office success eclipsed her singing career, with Mandy landing her first starring role a year after The Princess Diaries – as Jamie in an adaption of Nicholas Sparks’ book A Walk To Remember.
The teen movie may have bombed with the critics but it was a huge commercial success, and gained a fan following thanks to its sugary sweet love story between Mandy’s character and Shane West’s leading man. Mandy has over the years hit back the pot shots taken at the film, gushing: ‘It was my first movie and I know people say it may be cliché and it’s a tearjerker or it’s cheesy, but for me, it’s the thing I’m most proud of.’
Another attempt at chart hits followed on the back of her movie success, but Mandy never quite got the momentum to propel to her a-list heights.
Teen favourite: Soon her box office success eclipsed her singing career, with Mandy landing her first starring role a year after The Princess Diaries – as Jamie in an adaption of Nicholas Sparks’ book A Walk To Remember
Teen idol to superhero
The son of a teacher, Milo grew up in an artistic household just outside of Anaheim, California. ‘When I was a kid it went from being a pediatric surgeon, to being a fighter pilot, to being an actor,’ the actor said of his childhood career aspirations.
‘I wanted to help kids, I wanted to fly jets, or I wanted to just be an actor. And acting kind of took over,’ he told W Magazine. He went on his first audition at the age of 12 and after a string of commercials, scored his first television gig, playing ‘Party Guest 1’ on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
Bit parts in other teen TV favourites of the day followed, including Saved By The Bell and Sabrina The Teenage Witch, but he admitted his boyish good looks held him back from meatier, lead roles.
His youthful looks didn’t hold him back for too long though as at the age of 24 in 2001 he landed the role of teen bad boy Jess Mariano in Gilmore Girls.
Heatthrob:Milo’s early roles included bit parts in Saved By The Bell and Sabrina The Teenage Witch before in 2001 at the age of 24 he landed the role of teen bad boy Jess Mariano in Gilmore Girls (pictured with co-star Alexis Bledel)
‘Still to this day, you know, it blows me away — the impact of the Jess character, how much everyone was in love with him and wanted to find a guy like Jess. He was kind of trouble, you know,’ the actor later recalled of the role that would launch his career and heartthrob status.
Mandy had regular work throughout the late noughties, appearing in a string of romcoms on the back of A Walk To Remember’s success as well as bit parts in TV series like Scrubs and How I Met Your Mother, alongside releasing further albums.
After turning 30 though, she felt ‘lost’. She recalled that she considered returning to education, having been pulled out of high school when pop came calling. She also debated whether to move home to Florida to be with her family, telling The Washington Post in a 2020 interview:‘ I felt so crushed by any sort of lack of momentum.’
‘[It] had me questioning, am I cut out for any of this? Not like in a ‘woe is me’ sort of fashion, but has that chapter of my life really passed me by? Have I experienced this success and these thrilling moments, and now am I left to look for what I’m going to do with the rest of my life?’
Another major role: Milo went on to find success on another TV hit Heroes after his five years playing Jess on Gilmore Girls but after four seasons he too found himself chasing auditions
The slowdown in her career came during her ‘unhealthy’ 2009-2016 marriage to musician Ryan Adams. Following their split, Adams was the subject of a 2019 New York Times article detailing numerous sexual misconduct allegations against him.
‘I was living my life for him,’ Moore told Marc Maron’s WTF podcast days after the NYT expose, adding: ‘It [was] an entirely unhealthy dynamic. I had no sense of self…I felt like I was drowning.’
Milo meanwhile went on to find success on another TV hit Heroes after his five years playing Jess on Gilmore Girls but after four seasons he too found himself chasing auditions.
‘I’ve had moments where I’ve had to pick myself up. Probably in my early 30s, I couldn’t get hired in town. I really couldn’t.’ Ventimiglia has recalled of that time, ‘That was back in the ‘Heroes’ days. I did not work for one calendar year. One entire year, I couldn’t get a job.’
‘I was gonna cash in and move to Italy on my European passport and find a farm to work on and buzz my head, and grow a beard and ride a motorcycle, and just live a quiet life.’
We are family: As Mandy and Milo were both losing faith in the acting world, a new script was sent their way, for Dan Fogelman’s TV drama This Is Us
This Is Us
As Mandy and Milo were both losing faith in the acting world, a new script was sent their way. Mandy has admitted she was caught up in the disappointment and fragility of pilot season, landing roles in series only for them to fall through.
‘I just don’t know if I have it in my bones anymore to go through this kind of rejection and heartbreak of being a part of a show and it not moving forward,’ she explained. But something changed when she read Dan Fogelman’s script.
‘Then I read this and I was like, ‘Regardless of whether this moves forward, it’s so special. If I’m lucky enough to be a part of it, I know I’ll be a part of something I’m really proud of…. [Plus] I get to wear a 35-pound prosthetic belly. Like, how many times in my life am I going to play a pregnant-with-triplets mother?’ she told Entertainment Weekly.
After auditioning along with a stream of other actresses, it was her chemistry read with Milo that sealed the deal.
Close: Both actors have raved about their first chemistry read together, citing an ‘instantaneous’ relationship between them, that won over Fogelman and his team
Like Mandy, Milo had an immediate connection with the script, telling EW: ‘I read it, I loved it… the kind of roles that [I’d] played in the last couple of years, they were very, very heavy. There was no hope, there was no smiling… This one felt hopeful. It felt exciting. It felt like going from real life to real life, going from being just Milo in real life to being Jack in real life.’
While Mandy had a prior working relationship with Fogelman thanks to the 2010 animated film Tangled, Milo was an unknown entity to the This Is Us team, but after just one audition Fogelman said he knew that he’d not only found his Jack, put also the pivot for the whole show.
‘He was not at all what I had in my brain,’ admitted Fogelman. ‘I was picturing a much more normal, schlubbier guy like me. Milo came in with long hair, beard, and a motorcycle, and a leather jacket. He met with us and did a scene. I was like, ‘That’s him. Let’s base the family off of that.’
Critically acclaimed: Expect plenty more nominations in the 2023 awards show cycle, especially for Mandy’s final season performance
Both actors have raved about their first chemistry read together, citing an ‘instantaneous’ relationship between them, that won over Fogelman and his team.
Six seasons, two Hollywood Stars, one Emmy nomination, a Golden Globe nod and a peak of 14 million viewers worldwide, and Mandy and Milo’s chapter as the Pearsons came to a close this week.
Life after the Pearsons
As for what’s next? Expect plenty more nominations in the 2023 awards show cycle, especially for Mandy’s final season performance.
Mandy has revealed she’s returning to music, with ‘a very intentional plan to finish the show and have some new music out and be able to go on the road immediately,’ with her new album In Real Life.
Milo meanwhile is throwing himself into new TV projects, working both behind and in front of the camera. He has signed on to star in and executive produce a new project called The Company You Keep, which Deadline reports has received a pilot order from ABC, while he also serves as an executive producer on new NBC sports drama series Hometown Saints.
The end: Six seasons, two Hollywood Stars, one Emmy nomination, a Golden Globe nod and a peak of 14 million viewers worldwide, and Mandy and Milo’s chapter as the Pearsons came to a close this week (pictured in February 2022)