Q & A: Milo Ventimiglia on His New Web Series, ‘Chosen’
Chosen is a new original web series on Sony’s Crackle that stars Milo Ventimiglia as lawyer Ian Mitchell who is forced to kill an innocent man in order to protect his family. One morning, Mitchell wakes up and finds a mysterious box on his doorstep that contains a loaded gun and a photo of a stranger he must kill within the next three days. Not a good way to start your day, I’d say!
The series is six 30-minute episodes and after watching the first one, the quality rivals anything you might see on TV. It’s fast, slick and you’re most likely to get hooked very quickly, which is good because Crackle has adopted the binge-model and already placed all the episodes online.
I talked with Ventimiglia, who is also a producer on the show, about how he got involved in the series, why he thinks a digital platform is the way to go, getting into the mindset of playing someone who is constantly paranoid and the differences between shooting a web series and TV.
Check out Chosen on Crackle!
What do you love about the viability in potential shows on the internet like Chosen and how that differs from TV?
Milo Ventimiglia: Man, I love the reach, you know, I’m just so excited about digital because of the reach, you know. The actual releases sometimes some countries don’t get movies. Sometimes, you know, they’re in and out of theaters, TV — maybe you don’t have the channel, maybe you don’t have pay cable. Maybe, you know, you live in a remote part of the world that just doesn’t have what the network is showing or studio is putting out.
Digital I kind of feel like anybody can access it, anybody can get to it. And for me being a part of projects like Chosen, you know, working with Crackle and just being a guy who’s been in the digital space for kind of a long time now.
I know it’s something that I’m going to continue to do and hopefully as it builds and the profile builds and people understand that, you know, look, you’re going to get the same quality on digital as you can in a movie theater if you actually have a bandwidth for it then great, you know. So I love digital, I’m in to digital.
How did you get involved in this project?
Milo Ventimiglia: I got involved – I got a script from Ben Ketai and it was great. It was awesome. And I was a huge fan of his and I worked with Crackle before developing stuff and I was just like, these guys are great. And I kind of – into the digital space and what it affords creative types and what we get to do and play around with space and then (unintelligible) reach.
So cool story, cool release, great character, yes, I’m in.
What attracted you to this project and what do you see for the future for short series such as Chosen?
Milo Ventimiglia: What attracted me to it was a good character with a great story, you know, something kind of interesting and original and the filmmaker, you know Ben Ketai. He’s an awesome guy. He’s a great shooter. He understand story and heart and character.
And again, the format — we actually we shot six 30 minute episodes. You kind of line those up against any TV show nowadays and, you know, tell me the difference. I think they stand up to anything on network or cable television at the moment.
Do you relate to your character, Ian, at all? Do you feel any sort of connection?
Milo Ventimiglia: You know what? I think I have to relate to every character that I play in some way or another. I mean, even the kind of sick horrible ones. But, you know, I think a guy who just goes through an everyday struggle, I mean, you know, we all have things we have to deal with in life and when a curve ball is kind of thrown at us it’s like, whoa, what do you do? How do you react? How do you respond?
You know, would I do the same thing? You know, for me I always say, you know, have to protect the ones you love. You’ve got to look out for the people you care about and it’s kind of a terrifying idea of thought like, Ian’s daughter gets kidnapped, you know, something like that were to happen in real life and what it would – or what it would or could drive you to do, you know, especially when it’s out of your control.
So, you know, I think there’s similarity to myself and Ian but of course, you know, there’s difference and he’s just a character, fictional character that I’ve got to make alive.
What unique hang ups or issues do you run across while filming a digital series as opposed to a regular TV show or movie?
Milo Ventimiglia: Actually all the typical ones, you know, sometimes the camera jams. Sometimes, you know, a scene you’ve got to do more than a couple takes. I don’t think there’s any difference though between digital production and television and feature film.
Sometimes feature films usually take a little bit longer but that’s just film making, you know, it’s all the same. It’s all the same thing. I think what we were hoping to do, particularly with Chosen was show that, you know, it wasn’t just, you know, a digital project.
Yes, it’s a cinematic release on a digital platform, you know. So, yes, you run into the same problems, the same kind of set bullshit of any set.
How did you end up becoming an executive producer of the show?
Milo Ventimiglia: What’s up Nick, first of all. I – well I produced before and I’d worked with Crackle before and so when I got the phone calls from those guys and we were kind of sitting around talking about ideas and whatnot — it just was a natural fit to bring me on to produce.
You know, and I never want to be, you know, in the way of anything. I never want to kind of be like excess baggage. So it was just a natural thing that came up and they said, “Hey would you like to produce this as well?” I said, “Yes, of course. Let’s do it all together”.
You know, and we had a great, amazing production team as well. You know, I think whatever I’ve done in the producing world was just a matter of kind of expanding the bubble of information and experience that we all had had going into this.
Did you cast yourself as Ian?
Milo Ventimiglia: No, it actually had all kind of came about right around the same time. So basically I got the script, they said, “Hey, you know, take a look, we love you.” And I said, “Great. I love this – I love it.” I had a couple thoughts on it. I love the idea of working with your guys. So it was a natural fit.
How did the other cast members of the show get involved?
Milo Ventimiglia: That was just finding the right people for the job, you know. Of course with any project, you know, a lot of names get thrown around. You know, who’s available? Who can do what? Who fits the roll? But when it comes down to it, you know, I think Dan Ryan, Crackle and I we sat down and we were like, “Hey, Diedrich Bader. Awesome.”
You know, I’ve been a fan of his work for years and years and years and when we heard he was interested, you know, I was like, great, let’s lock it down. And Nicky Whelan, the same thing, you know. Nicky was somebody that I’d worked with before and when we were talking about Laura and Ian’s wife and everything I’m like, look, here’s a girl who’s – who is an amazing actress, beautiful gal and by the way, one of the coolest people you’ve had – you’ll ever have on a set.
So, you know, it was just this natural build of cast. I mean, you look at everybody across the board. I mean, you’ve got some very recognizable, very talented, talented people who work in feature film, television, you know, the biggest projects to, you know, even the digital stuff that we’re putting out.
What sticks out in your mind about shooting your first Chosen episode?
Milo Ventimiglia: You know it’s so funny man. We didn’t shoot episode by episode in chronological order. We actually kind of boarded the whole thing, almost like we would a movie.
It took about five weeks of five days a week, me all the time, time, time. And we just kind of like, we’re mixing and matching, you know, there were scenes when I went back and watched the final edits that I was like, there in the very beginning, I’m like, “Oh wow. We shot that at the very end.”
You know, so many for me so many things standout, you know, different – different scenes, you know, let’s say, you know, the diner scene with Diedrich or the desperation scene with Nicky. You know, I really have to tell her that our daughter is missing – and Caitlin – -my daughter, I mean, just so many, so many great scenes with her. She’s such a pro. I’m so excited to see where she goes in the future.
You know, and (Noel G) and kind of all that gangster stuff, you know, helping his attorney out and (Patrick San Espry). My god is that dude evil on camera. Sweetest guy on the planet though.
You know, for me it’s a lot of moments with actors or moments with my crew or moments with Ben, the director that kind of – man I could just bend your ear all day on them.
What were some of the initial acting challenges steeping into the Ian role?
Milo Ventimiglia: Wow. The initial challenges? I mean, first being a father. Like I’m not a dad myself yet, you know, I’ve got a lot of good friends with kids and a nephew and, you know, that’s all cool and exciting but I think that kind of real life – that weight of real life of having a daughter, having somebody you care about so much like they’re you’re blood. You and a woman created them and that fear of if they are gone, if they are taken, if they are missing.
You know, I think that was kind of the – the very first and foremost in my mind was Ian’s connection to his daughter and how strong that is and how much that propels him through the situation that – of the game of what he has to go through.
As well as, you know, here’s a guy who works in a an office and he’s told to kill someone for sport, for a game. And it’s like how do you – you know, it’s a question that kind of comes up throughout the course of the show, you know, I know Deidrch’s character asks it, Ian asks it. It’s like how can someone expect you to do that, you know.
So I think that – really connecting to that idea of the reality of it, you know, just how much, you know, human beings really don’t have that instinct or want to do. That was something that, you know, I was trying to tap into like the reality of the situation and believe it and live it as much as I can.
How does working on a web series different from working on a TV show?
Milo Ventimiglia: You know in terms of the work the work is kind of the same, you know. Work is work is work, you know, you have different sets you’re on, you know, some big, huge ones with – you know, maybe craft service. Maybe craft service and catering. Sometimes you, you know, bigger wider spread and sometimes you’re working with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
You know, I think there’s this idea that digital’s like small and kind of gorilla and we’re all running around but, you know, this was a good sized production with a great, talented crew and making it was no different than, you know, working on a Frank Derabont set or working on a Nicole Kidman set or working on a DeNiro or, you know, Adam Sandler set.
Well, I don’t know Adam Sandler, like those things are pretty big, those are pretty big. But it’s all the same when it comes down to production, you know, but again, I go back to excitement of digital. I’m super fired up about digital because I think the reach is huge and doing projects like this and with the quality of, I think what Ben shot and what our DP and production team put together.
It’s just – I personally think it stands up against anything else that’s on TV or in films right now. And I’m very proud of it.
What attracted you to Crackle?
Milo Ventimiglia: You know, Crackle just seemed like a place that they’re looking for projects like Chosen and I developed with them before a Web series that kind of – stuff that I would like. Stuff like, that I would watch, you know? That was what attracted me to them.
I’ve known the guys over there for some time now and it was just one of those places that was doing it, you know? And even now too, you know, they’re saying, “Hey. We’ve got money to do projects like this and we want to continue doing – do more and branch out from hopefully the successes that Chosen has had.”
So, you know, me personally I hope to be a part of it but as kind of like a viewer, an audience I’m just stoked to see it – somebody doing it. You know, and then there’s a ton of those houses out there – digital houses out there that have the reach but, you know, for me I love the idea that it’s backed by Sony and it’s just another avenue to get creative out there.
How is it to be a producer on this?
Milo Ventimiglia: You know what? Being a producer on this, same as anything else, I think I’ve done. You know, being a part of the process, being a part of the casting, you know, kind of like brining some friends in. Brining – kind of like shining some light on some really talented people, you know.
So I never – like as a producer I never want to be in the way of things. I always want to add and contribute and for me, you know, I think there’s always relationships that I’ve had outside of whatever anybody else on production has had. So, you know, for this I was just able to bring in people, talented people, amazing, amazing people to be around that I knew and yes, that was pretty much it.
Are the tactics any different for this format and medium versus network or cable?
Milo Ventimiglia: You know, I don’t think so. I mean, and if by tactics you mean the way it’s shot, the way it’s released, the way it’s promoted, the way the stories unfold — no. You know, we looked at it just the same.
We had six episodes, we had an arch. We had characters that are popping in and out, you know. And too, it’s one of those things that look, with success with probably continue – will most likely continue and will hopefully continue.
You know, the great thing about this story that Ben and Ryan created was – it’s not just Ian’s story that’s interesting. What if they happened to somebody else, you know? This is a concept that could happen to anybody and it could take a different direction.
So, you know, take myself, Milo Ventimiglia and my character Ian Mitchell out of the equation. Wouldn’t it be cool to see somebody else dealing with the same kind of struggle in a different way, you know? And what kind of curve balls are thrown at them.
So, you know, I think that hopefully that answered the question but it’s very similar to anything else in television now. It’s supposed to be ongoing.
How did you get into the mindset of the paranoia?
Milo Ventimiglia: You know, a few years ago my mother asked me – I did this movie where I played a really, really deplorable person. The movie’s called The Divide. And afterwards my mother asked me if something happened to me as a kid that she didn’t know about.
I said, “What do you mean Mom?” She said, “Well you were such an evil, horrible person, you know, how – did something happen to you that we don’t know about?” I’m like, no, not at all Mom, I’m an actor, like that’s what we do. We just, you know, we act.
So I think the paranoia is it’s just kind of a like a matching your worst fears and playing to them. You know, I like to say let the wheels come off, see what happens, just go for it, you know, I think at times it’s – actors are standing a bit naked with our emotions and we have to. We have to be able to stand there and deliver anything, you know, happiness, sadness, paranoia, fear, victory, you know, you have to be able to allow those things to just kind of flow out of you.
And, you know, for me it was no different. The paranoia, I think is just like, all right, I don’t want to act paranoid. I’m just going to be paranoid, how’s that?
So, yes, I don’t know that that directly answers the question but, yes.
This character was a regular guy presented in a very realistic way. He’s not immediately heroic, the ordinary characters are generally presented in film. He cries, he, he doesn’t know how to use a gun, etcetera, can you talk about playing the part in this way?
Milo Ventimiglia: I’m so happy that you took notice of that because that was something that it was very apparent in the script when I read it but then Ian was talking about and talked about while we were shooting with Ben, just over and over again.
Like, the majority of people don’t know how to handle a weapon, you know, majority of people, you know, they’re not in control of their emotions. Yes, I think there’s a bit of a wish fulfillment with, you know, actors and even actresses kind of wanting to look cool on screen, you know. And sometimes it doesn’t really fit with the character and not everybody’s an action hero right off the bat.
So I think that was something that, you know, I personally try to be very mindful of. You know, I mean I’ve done a lot of different jobs with a lot of action, like tons of action — stunt work and all this and, you know, can throw a punch and, you know, can take a hit and all that kind of stuff.
But like I said, I go back to Ian Mitchell — a suit and a tie and, you know, he’s holding the fountain pen, you know, most of his life. He’s in court. The dude’s weapons are his words.
So, I really personally embraced this idea that he’s a guy that doesn’t know how to do any of the stuff that’s coming his way and he’s got to figure it out. He has to learn. I mean, even, you know, going onto YouTube to learn how to arm a weapon, you know, things like that.
So, you know, for me I embrace it as much as I could and I loved the fact that he was just an every man.
Are you on social media? Do you want to – how do you plan and engage or grow the audience through your social media or do you plan to?
Milo Ventimiglia: Yes I am on social media. I have @miloventimiglia on Twitter. I have my production company, @dividepictures has a Twitter account. All my good friends have it. I have – oh man what else qualifies as social media? Like, there’s ,you know, there’s Facebook accounts out there and Instagram which has nothing to do with my acting. That’s just me taking photos that I find beautiful or cool or interesting or sometimes ugly.
Just kind of like in my random. You know, I think the idea of social media kind of like connecting a bigger, broader sense of how we relate to one another and how we share ideas. I think that’s exciting but also at the same time I can’t ever forget about human contact and human, you know, face to face relations and maybe I sound a bit old school or maybe it just shows my age, you know, and how the time I was raised.
But, you know, I think, you know, social media’s an incredible tool that hopefully brings people together, really, really truthfully as opposed to keeping them separated, you know, when you think you have 1,200 friends but really you’ve never met 1,100 of those people, you know?