ABC’s “The Company You Keep,” which marks Emmy nominee Milo Ventimiglia’s first role after ”This Is Us,” is bringing sexy back to network television. The thriller-drama, based on the Korean format “My Fellow Citizens!,” follows a career conman and the CIA officer assigned to his case on a professional and romantic crash course, with plenty of steamy scenes, car chases and betrayals en route.
“There’s crime, there’s romance, there’s caper, there’s heist, there’s chases and a law enforcement element,” Ventimiglia told TheWrap, “but I really think fundamentally, down at the very bottom, you’ve got very relatable people going through this want and desire to connect with somebody and be understood and find love, or partnership or safety, in just being themselves.”
The show’s pilot, which premiered Feb. 19 and drew largely positive critical and audience attention, traced con artist Charlie Nicoletti’s (Ventimiglia) role in the family business, which he is longing to but ultimately cannot escape — at least not without paying off his debts. Meanwhile, undercover agent Emma (Catherine Haena Kim) is moving on from a dead-end relationship and making headway in her career, setting her sights on the new criminal leader who is threatening Charlie’s family. However, one chance night of passion and connection — in which both take turns obscuring the truth and naming false professional devotions (astronaut for Emma and classically trained pianist for Charlie) — leads the duo on a path to an inescapable, intoxicating romance complicated by a dramatically ironic cat-and-mouse game.
“You have two professional, compartmentalized folks who can’t quite be honest in what they do for a living,” Ventimiglia said, “and that definitely jeopardizes and minimizes who they can lean into romantically or in their personal lives.”
Created by co-showrunner Julia Cohen (“A Million Little Things”), the series was brought to Milo Ventimiglia’s banner Divide Pictures by executive producer Jon M. Chu, with whom Ventimiglia has been longtime friends. (“Both of us [were] doing early, early digital days, low-hanging fruit and finally made it to the big leagues,” Ventimiglia said.) Cohen was approached with the idea in late 2020, and the show’s development quickly moved to the top of Ventimiglia’s priority list, with the actor boarding the project as EP and star, dedicating time to its creation as he was wrapping the final season of “This Is Us,” from which he was able to recruit 90% of the crew for “The Company You Keep.”
“I think it was a two-week window between wrapping ‘This Is Us,’ shaving the mustache and jumping into Charlie Nicoletti,” he recalled. “We had been developing this through the year previous, while I was in the last season of ‘This Is Us,’ and we had timed it to where we could move nearly the entire crew from ‘This Is Us’ over to ‘The Company You Keep,’ to the pilot. But I had lived with the material, I had lived with the script; as pieces were coming together — cast, crew, locations — all that stuff was happening, I was in my mind slowly shifting from Jack to Charlie, and I understood the dynamic difference between these two men that I had played and I was about to play.”
Ventimiglia continued, “It was plenty of time to dive into the shoes of a new character, almost like Charlie does on a weekly basis on the show, playing these cons, playing these grifts — he’s a different person every time.”
While previewing the series at the Winter Television Critics Association, Cohen said, “I, like the rest of us, was just craving something fun and escapist and wildly romantic, and honestly, I created the show that I really wanted to watch at that time … There is an epic romance at its core, and a very sexy one that was certainly appealing to my inner TV audience.”
Describing it as a “fun ride” of a show that he hopes audiences “just enjoy,” Ventimiglia added at the time, “It’s [about] exploring real intimacy; sure there’s the physical [aspect] and you got two people that are just thrown together and drawn together and pulled together like magnets, but really what makes that stick is that emotional vulnerability, intellectual vulnerability, is the willingness to open that raw nerve to show it to somebody else.”
The first episode of “The Company You Keep” is now streaming on Hulu. The series airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on ABC.