“I feel like I finally made it,” he tells Zap2it. “It’s was nice to have two suit-and-tie roles.”
In the feature film “Grace of Monaco,” set in the early 1960s (and set for release on March 14), Nicole Kidman plays actress Grace Kelly, who became Princess Grace after marrying Prince Ranier III of Monaco. Ventimiglia plays her press agent, Rupert Allan.
“So,” Ventimiglia says, “the ’60s, then you jump back into the ’40s for ‘Mob City.’ It’s hard to beat that.”
In the six-episode “Mob City,” from creator Frank Darabont (“The Walking Dead”), which concludes tonight on TNT, Ventimiglia plays lawyer Ned Stax, an outwardly respectable lawyer who works as a fixer for Los Angeles ganster Mickey Cohen (Jeremy Luke), and fought in World War II with LAPD Detective Joe Teague (Jon Bernthal), a former Marine.
“It felt right,” says Ventimiglia, 36. “It felt good to put on the suit; it felt good to put the hair back. it felt strangely good to sit and hold a Scotch and cigarette and just speak beautiful words — a grown-up role.
“I understand that I still can fit in that realm of, ‘You look younger,’ but I’m trying to get as close to my age as I can.”
When he’s not acting or producing — he’s the star and an executive producer for the Web series “Chosen,” on streaming-video service Crackle — and sometimes while he is, Ventimiglia indulges his love of photography. He did the same thing at on the set of “Mob City.”
Click here for a Bello magazine slide show of his black-and-white shots (he advises viewing them in landscape format).
“My first real conversation with Frank,” says Ventimiglia, “I’m in a fitting. I’ve got my pants off, shirt on, waiting for a hem or something. Frank’s sitting there; we’re just talking about the character. I said to him, ‘Frank, I know I’m only working two days in the pilot for 13, but do you mind if I just hang out? I want to be a part of all this.’ ‘Yeah, pal, no problem, hang out.’
“Then, the next conversation, I said, ‘Frank, I do a lot of photography. Do you mind if I, while I’m hanging out, bring my cameras and shoot the pilot?’ ‘No.’ In fact, he gave me one of his cameras, a Hasselbad XPan,, which is panoramic.
“Every day, I would show up; I would dress 1940s — fedora, suspenders, everything. I had three cameras on me all the time: two film, one digital. And [co-star] Alexa Davalos did the same thing. We would be there every day just shooting photos.”
Interestingly, Davalos’ character, Jasmine Fontaine, Teague’s enigmatic ex-wife, is also a photographer. In an interview, Davalos said that some of her black-and-white shots were in the set for Jasmine’s apartment.
Ventimiglia pulls out his iPhone and starts a slideshow of his beautiful, moody shots of backstage life and the show’s characters.
“I printed them out for Frank,” he says, “and I printed them for Jon and some other people. I would take pictures of Eddie Burns [who plays gangster Bugsy Siegel] and Jeremy Luke while we were on set. I shot the pilot.
“Back on ‘Heroes,’ I did portraits of everyone that no one’s ever seen.”
Even though he’s known for being in front of the camera, Ventimiglia seems to get much more out being behind it.
“I feel like I live my life through photography,” he says, “seeing things, hanging onto images.”
But while Ventimiglia does share some shots online, it’s only a small percentage of the total.
“Even though I take a ton of photos,” he says, “I don’t post them. This sounds horrible, but I want to do something old-fashioned, like a book. I feel like, with social media and with online content, it’s so easily disposable, that people will just cycle through things. It’s different than holding something in your hands.
“Still, I’ve got my Kindle Paperwhite; I’ve got my iPad; I’ve got my computer, my iPhone and all that. I still use it for work and business and all that, but there’s something about shooting on film and holding a print, reading a book.
“I’ve got an old typewriter that I bang out on, on occasion. I remember where I come from.”