By Isabel Jones
Updated Dec 21, 2018 @ 11:45 am

Milo Ventimiglia has never been hotter, and neither has his career.

The 41-year-old This Is Us patriarch stars alongside Jennifer Lopez (at her personal request) in the feel-good movie of the holiday season: Second Act.

And while hearing that you’re J. Lo’s top choice for her onscreen love interest is basically the biggest confidence boost there is, it was the script that ultimately won Ventimiglia over.

“I thought that it was empowering a woman to do better for herself when people were saying she wasn’t worthy of certain positions and certain roles,” Milo tells InStyle. “And I thought that I could contribute to that as well — contribute to playing the supportive romantic interest that just wanted the best for his girl.”

Milo Ventimiglia Second Act
Credit: STX Films

If this character profile doesn’t sound all too familiar, that’s because it isn’t. Second Act, a more feminist hybrid of Maid in Manhattan and Working Girl, flips the script on the typical power-woman narrative, placing Lopez’s Maya squarely in the film’s driver’s seat. There’s a male love interest (Milo’s Trey), but he’s not a requisite to her happily ever after.

In fact, their relationship echoes that of Lopez and her real-life beau, former MLB star Alex Rodriguez. “There’s a guy who completely supports his lady,” Ventimiglia agrees.

Though a Lopez fan from the get-go, working with the multi-hyphenate gave Ventimiglia a front-row seat to the J. Lo-effect.

“What I’ve seen through her work is someone who’s been responsible with the impact she’s made on people’s lives. And working with her myself I really saw that,” he told us.

Between takes, Milo says he and Jennifer shared something more valuable than the chemistry you see on screen: understanding. “I understood how hard she works and she understood how hard I work, so there were a lot of moments where we both knew there was comfort in not having to perform for each other, and we could just kind of exist as co-workers,” he explained. “Those are oftentimes I think the moments that a lot of people just brush past, but for me, personally, I think they might’ve been the most impactful. We both get to take a break while we’re in the company of each other.”

Testament to the role reversal of Second Act, Milo marks one of the film’s early trailers with a (literally) steamy shower scene alongside Lopez. And though the actual shower bit was filmed toward the end of the shoot, he says baring his abs was “moment one” on set.

“I said ‘Hey guys, I’m Milo — I’m going to take my shirt off for you today,’” he tells me. “I wasn’t quite expecting it. It’s kind of part of the job, I guess — you’ve got to be ready to go at a moment’s notice, but also it would’ve been nice to have a talking scene beforehand.”

Second Act opens in theaters nationwide on Dec. 21.