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Milo Ventimiglia taps dad's Chicago stories for 'Mob City'

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  • Milo Ventimiglia stars as mob attorney and "fixer" Ned Stax in "Mob City" on TNT.
Milo Ventimiglia stars as mob attorney and "fixer" Ned Stax… (TNT )
December 08, 2013|By Curt Wagner, @ShowPatrol | RedEye

"Mob City" tells the story of Los Angeles gangsters in 1947, but Chicago's mob history helped Milo Ventimiglia create his character in Frank Darabont's miniseries.

"It's funny. I kind of went back to stories and things that I heard from my father in Chicago," Ventimiglia said during a recent interview, adding that his father's side of the family came from Chicago Heights in thye south suburbs.

The actor grew up listening to his dad's tales of the city's gangster past and used those stories to help fill in the blanks about attorney Ned Stax, one of the fictional characters Darabont has mixed in with historical mob figures including Bugsy Siegel (Edward Burns) and Mickey Cohen (Jeremy Luke). 

"I would throw things out at Frank about who this guy is and how he found himself in this life and we agreed on a lot of it," Ventimiglia said.

With his fancy suits, slicked-back hair and shiny shoes, Ned may seem like a squeaky-clean, upright L.A. citizen who happens to legally represent criminals. Don't be fooled, Ventimiglia said. Ned works as a "fixer" in every aspect of Siegel's criminal enterprise. 

"Ned's hands are dirty, but they're under white gloves," he said. "And that's the thing, it's a different kind of dirt. Everybody kind of looks for the gunman and nobody looks for the guy who's organizing the execution."

Executions come fast and furious in the six-episode "Mob City," which is airing two episodes beginning at 8 p.m. each Wednesday through Dec. 18 on TNT. Darabont's ode to noir mysteries of the 1930s and '40s focuses on the battle for L.A. between the mob and a corrupt-but-changing police department in the 1940s.

Darabont's involvement was all Ventimiglia needed to audition for "Mob City." "I'm such a fan of his work," he said. "I'd always been a fan of his work, everything that he had done."

Fans of the former "Heroes" star have the chance to see Ventimiglia in another project this week. His action series, "Chosen," returns Thursday for its second season on Sony's streaming video service, Crackle.

Ventimiglia plays Ian Mitchell, a lawyer and father who was forced in the first season to participate in a deadly game in which regular people are chosen to kill other innocent people while also being targeted by other "chosen" assassins, which in Season 2 includes newcomer Chad Michael Murray.

Ventimiglia not only stars, but serves as executive producer for the series, which makes positive response to the show all the sweeter.

"We had so much fun with the first season," he said. "And knowing that people really responded to it and were excited about it, to come back and do a second season—and now we're talking about a third—it's just great."

Ventimiglia talked more about both his projects, which you'll find after the "CH:OS:EN" trailer below.

What got you interested in the project?
For me, first and foremost it was Frank. I'm such a fan of his work. I'd always been a fan of his work, everything that he had done. I just wanted to be a part of that with him, but then seeing his beautiful script and knowing that my friend Michael De Luca was producing it, I was like, "Wow, this is in good hands."

Also hearing that Jon Bernthal was the first one in; I was a fan of his work. It was a very easy thing to say I wanted to be a part of it.

Then I just had to prove to everybody else that I deserved to be a part of it. So as is traditional, you put yourself on tape and apparently Frank saw it and said, "Who the fuck is this guy?"—in a good way. He said that to Mike De Luca. And Mike De Luca said, "Oh yeah, I know Milo well." So it all worked out. But it was just one of those things that I really just had to find a way to be a part of it.

Did you know the role that you were going up for or did that come later?
I did know the role but the version of the script that I read, my character didn't pop up because they left off the last five pages of script and my character doesn't come in until toward the very end. So it was just something that [I went in] not knowing who my character was but knowing he was kind of a fixer for the mob. [I knew] that he was the legitimate face, the legal face for the mob, but he had a lot of dark skills. I'm like, "Well, if Frank's writing it I'm in. It's going to be great."

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