One of the busiest actors in television today is Mark Pellegrino, a forty-four year old Los Angeles native who has been in the entertainment business since the late 1980s.
In March of 2009, Pellegrino was cast as the mysterious Jacob in the ABC series Lost, for an appearance in the last episode of the fifth season. He is back on the show for the sixth and final season as Lost will air it’s last episode on May 23, 2010.
Only a month after he was hired for Lost, Pellegrino was cast to play Lucifer in the fifth season of the CW series Supernatural.
Pellegrino’s other television credits include Doogie Howser, M.D., Hunter, Northern Exposure, Knight Rider, ER, Nash Bridges, The X Files, Crossing Jordan, NYPD Blue, The Practice, Burn Notice, Grey’s Anatomy, Dexter, Criminal Minds, and The Mentalist. He has appeared in the films The Big Lebowski, Lethal Weapon 3, Mulholland Dr., National Treasure, Capote, and Spartan, among others.
The active performer also finds time to teach his craft at Acting Studio LA. He currently resides with his family just outside of Los Angeles.
Our Prattville spoke with Pellegrino on Thursday about his time-consuming career and his current TV characters.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Hi Mark, thanks for taking the time to talk with me today. You’re a busy guy!
Mark Pellegrino: Yeah, it’s pilot season and they’re flooding me with a lot of homework and a lot of auditions.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Anything exciting?
Mark Pellegrino: Well, there are a couple of projects out there that I really like.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Well, you’re on two TV shows right now … will you have time for something else?
Mark Pellegrino: There are 24 hours in a day … might as well try to fill it up.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Did you audition for the part of Jacob on Lost?
Mark Pellegrino: I did have to audition for Jacob, but the character was called Jason at the time. And none of the material in the audition was actual material that we ended up shooting so it was shrouded in mystery.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): So, you didn’t know all about the character from the very beginning?
Mark Pellegrino: I had no idea what I was auditioning for … until I got to the island and then I knew it was Jason.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Why do you think that Lost is such a television phenomenon?
Mark Pellegrino: (laughs) Well, for a number of reasons – one, the acting is very very good, the ensemble cast is amazing. I think they spend so much time on each show that the show is kind of a mini-feature film and the quality is amazing. And the story is just so circuitous and elaborate that people enjoy trying to unravel the puzzle. It gives them something to think about in addition to the other good stuff.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Is Jacob the controller of all things on the island?
Mark Pellegrino: Perhaps … perhaps not. That’s probably information that I can’t say, but soon to be found out.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): So, we’ll find out soon exactly who or what Jacob is.
Mark Pellegrino: I think you’ll be finding that out soon, yes. But, you know, even when you see that, you wonder if they’re going to throw you for a loop. They tend to take you into one direction and then they yank you in another suddenly, don’t they?
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Yes they do. What you think you see or is obvious to you … later on you find out it is something different.
Mark Pellegrino: That’s right.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Did you always know you were returning for the sixth season?
Mark Pellegrino: I had a feeling, but I wasn’t sure until a couple of months ago when they told me they were going to bring me back.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Now you get to play the devil on Supernatural and you’re freshly released from hell (laughs).
Mark Pellegrino: (laughs) Freshly raised from hell and raised to wreak havoc on this planet.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): How do you get into a mindset to play Lucifer?
Mark Pellegrino: Well, I think the thing is … Lucifer’s problem is very human. So, I don’t have to think about anything immortal or celestial. I just think about the issues in terms of human issues and the issue to me is that Lucifer was betrayed by his father and his brother whom he admired for something less than him. He was thrown over … sacrificed, and he wants revenge. So I think that’s a pretty down to earth issue that almost anybody can relate to.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Lucifer will have it out with the Winchester boys soon.
Mark Pellegrino: He’s going to use them to get what he wants. He’s going to use them to exact his revenge on his dad and brother. I think there’s a fight brewing between the brothers, that’s for sure.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Which character, Jacob or Lucifer, have you had the most fun with?
Mark Pellegrino: (laughs) Gosh, they are so different. I have a lot of fun with Lucifer because there’s a lot of latitude that I’m given. You know, I can play, and I like the fact that they write him as honest, kind of a down to earth character. That gives me a lot of leverage.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): So you enjoy Lucifer a bit more?
Mark Pellegrino: (laughs) I hate to say I enjoy Lucifer a lot! But, Jacob is still more of a mystery to me … the myth is a mystery to me. Whereas, Lucifer’s myth is pretty well known and pretty saturated in our culture you know. So, I’m not sure yet. I’m flying more blind with Jacob.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Were you familiar with either series before you were cast on them?
Mark Pellegrino: No, I don’t have time to watch TV. My wife TIVOs everything and I get all my information through her.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Do you do any of your own stunts?
Mark Pellegrino: Yeah, fighting, and minor things like that, but not big falls or car crashes or anything.
Melissa Parker: You’ve had an impressive career in television. Do you enjoy playing a villain more than say a cop on Criminal Minds?
Mark Pellegrino: (laughs) Yeah, you know, the cops on Criminal Minds are hard. I admire those guys because they can rattle off data like nobody’s business. They have to say so much and the bad guy is active and he’s doing things … and as a bad guy I have a lot less to remember. So I like that, and there’s a lot of room for personality in a bad guy.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): What was your first professional acting job?
Mark Pellegrino: Oh boy, I think my first professional acting job was a movie called Fatal Beauty with Whoopi Goldberg and Sam Elliott, and directed by Tom Holland who directed a real cool comedy horror movie called Fright Night. I had never acted before when I did that job and it probably shows (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Were you credited?
Mark Pellegrino: I am credited, my character’s name is Frankenstein. I was a drug dealer’s bodyguard or something … I had a line or two with Brad Dourif, an actor who I’ve loved for a long time. He was amazing in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Unfortunately, I didn’t really know how to act so I did the best I could.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Television and films are so different. Do you prefer acting in one or the other?
Mark Pellegrino: Yeah, you’re right they are different and there are advantages to both. You get a lot of experience in TV because you have to swallow a lot of scripts over the course of a year and bring them to life and there is something to that. You know, working all of the time … and fast. But, the curse of it is that sometimes you can’t go as deep as you can in a film where you can take more time.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Do you feel that the quality of TV has improved with shows like Lost and Grey’s Anatomy over TV perhaps 20 or so years ago?
Mark Pellegrino: Oh yeah, definitely. It’s not just the bells and whistles, not just the special effects. I think the plots are a lot more complex. The characters are more complex and not so archetypal and black and white so even your heroes are flawed and have issues that becomes part of the plot line in the story that I think is pretty interesting.
I think the acting is a lot better, too, you know, more natural and real. People are more used to cameras being thrust in their faces so they seem to be more at home with the medium. And there’s a lot of competition out there and competition can make the quality of something better.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): I think the censors have loosened up some also over the years.
Mark Pellegrino: Yes because the advent of cable television pushed the envelope for everybody. And, after all, I think the biggest censor is the person sitting in the living room who can turn off the TV if they want to.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): What made you want to become an actor?
Mark Pellegrino: Girls, power, money … you know, all of the things you don’t get when you’re a young actor (laughs). I think that’s what actually, stupidly enough, attracted me to it because I wanted to become a marine biologist and I just kind of stumbled into it. I thought, hey, this might be kind of cool.
Then I found this theatre company named Playhouse West and the acting teacher there, Bob Carnegie, who is a close associate of Sandy Meisner who was a famous acting coach in the group theatre and I just got so into the craft of it, you know, the superficial trappings kind of fell away as any motivation at all and it just became about wanting to be better at what I do.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Did you have any role models when you were younger?
Mark Pellegrino: Oh my God, yeah, all of the classics … all of the great actors. Brando is one of my favorites. He destroyed me for a couple of years watching him (laughs) because he was just so amazing and so brilliant, untouchable in a lot of ways. His early work just blew me away. I love Robert Duvall. He just gets better and better as he gets older.
I like tons of today’s young actors … Philip Seymour Hoffman is one of my favorites. I loved Anthony Hopkins for years and years. Meryl Streep … my God, I love her. There are just tons of people out there that you can learn from.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Paul Newman was so good also.
Mark Pellegrino: Yes, he was just one of those rare phenomenons who was not only a great actor but a good person, too.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): You teach acting also.
Mark Pellegrino: Yeah, for about twelve or thirteen years now.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Have you had any famous students?
Mark Pellegrino: Well, you know, I’ve worked with famous people in class. They weren’t technically my students but we’d either worked together in scenes or I would be helming the class at the time they were working on something and I’d help direct the scenes they were in. Like, Ashley Judd and I have worked together and she was in class at my school and James Franco also.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Do you teach any specific style of acting?
Mark Pellegrino: Yes, the acting that we teach is called the Meisner Technique and it all kind of comes from Stanislavski who is the original “method” guy. When it was brought to America by Stella Adler, it kind of branched off into a bunch of different areas.
The group theatre was the theatre that brought Stanislavski’s method into America and then Stella Adler had an interpretation, Lee Strasberg had an interpretation, and Sandy Meisner had an interpretation and they all kind of went off and started their own schools. Sandy’s focuses a lot on listening and being in the moment, but a lot of imaginary stuff too. Duvall was a Meisner actor, Jon Voight a Meisner actor … really great folks out there are Meisner actors.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): What do you like to do on those rare occasions when you’re not working?
Mark Pellegrino: I like to read books, mostly American History, but I like some novels too. I like to hang with my dogs and my family and just relax … try to unwind.
Interview by Melissa Parker
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