Milo Ventimiglia Shows Shady Side in ‘The Company You Keep’

Milo Ventimiglia and Sarah Wayne Callies in 'The Company You Keep' on ABC
Milo Ventimiglia and Sarah Wayne Callies in ‘The Company You Keep.‘ (Image credit: ABC/Eric McCandless)

Milo Ventimiglia returns to broadcast TV with The Company You Keep, a drama that premieres on ABC Sunday, February 19. Ventimiglia, who played Jack in This Is Us and, going back a bit, Jess in Gilmore Girls, plays a con man named Charlie Nicoletti. He meets up with an undercover CIA officer named Emma (played by Catherine Haena Kim), and they enjoy a night of passion. But Emma is closing in on a key figure in the underworld, which affects Charlie and his family business in the confidence game. 

Sarah Wayne Callies plays Birdie, Charlie’s big sister. Callies describes Ventimiglia as “super charming” and a natural at telling the untruths that spill from Charlie’s mouth. 

Ventimiglia is an executive producer and co-showrunner, along with Julia Cohen and Phil Klemmer and Russ Cundiff. “He’s a producer on the show in a real way,” Callies noted. “He’s involved in scripts, edits, casting. It informs his character in some ways.”

That’s because Charlie is the mastermind in the family biz, she added, plotting out the next scheme on a number of different levels. 

Callies’s work includes playing Sarah in Prison Break and Lori in The Walking Dead. 

Callies describes her Birdie character as “very much a chameleon” who is probably “more comfortable in the characters she plays as a con artist than she is in her own skin.”

Birdie has a deaf daughter, played by Shaylee Mansfield. That gave Callies the opportunity to “learn about a whole culture I didn’t know anything about.” That includes having a sign language tutor for a couple of months, but Callies added that deaf culture “is about a lot more than sign language.”

There’s a vast community of “lavishly talented” actors in the deaf community who don’t get hired, Callies said, due to hiring managers intimated by the language barrier. Mansfield, she added, is a great actress, not simply a great deaf actress. 

Knowing sign language offered another perk for Birdie and her family. “It’s incredibly useful for a family to use sign language when they’re con artists,” Callies said. 

In preparation for her role, Callies mentioned watching The Sting, Paper Moon and Ocean’s Eleven, and reading The Confidence Game by Maria Konnikova. That, and she’s been stealing things everywhere she goes, Callies quipped. 

A Matt Roush review of The Company You Keep in TV Insider said: “How long can this affair last before Emma realizes it took a thief to steal her heart? Hard to say. For now, though, even if you suspect this might have made a better movie than a series, they’re great company.”

Why might The Company You Keep be right for American viewers around now? People are “exhausted and scared,” Callies said. “We’ve all really had enough of the divisiveness and the fear being shoved down our throats. I want someone to entertain me.”

The nation’s gap between rich and poor is vast, Callies added. “The motto of the [Nicoletti] family is, eat the rich,” she said. “This is a show that speaks to that.” ■

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.