In person, Mark Pellegrino has both devils’ horns and vampire fangs.
Okay, not really. But you’ll forgive me for expecting them, given how incredibly effective he’s been in his roles as Lucifer’s vessel on Supernatural and Bishop, the leader of the vampires on Syfy’s Being Human — and also the mysterious Jacob on Lost.
(As much as I loved him in Supernatural, I didn’t think the producers gave the character of Lucifer nearly enough to do last year!)
The 45-year-old actor has been finding steady TV and film work for years, often as thugs and other meanies (in the cult film The Big Lebowski, he was the guy who stuffs Jeff Bridge’s head down the toilet).
But with break-out appearances on high-profile shows like Supernatural and Lost, and his bigger role on Being Human, Pellegrino’s career is currently hotter than ever.
Recently, I had a chance to sit down with him and chat about how he got so very good at playing bad:
TheTorchOnline: You’re so good at playing evil. Do you worry about being typecast?
Mark Pellegrino: I don’t because I feel like I let the audience judge who’s evil, and I try to play everybody, at least so far, as good. To me, Lucifer was somebody who had a real beef. He’d been betrayed by his father and his brother for lesser beings, and was angry about it and wanted to get revenge. I think anybody could to relate to that. So to me, that’s not necessarily a bad guy. That’s a good guy who’s been betrayed, who has a sense of justice, who’s been bamboozled.
TTO: What I absolutely loved about that Satan is that he was the one character who always told the truth. The Prince of Lies never lied!
MP: Regardless of how one religious one is, I think an amazingly coherent case can be made against God, so one needs to just tell the truth. And that’s what Lucifer did, to his credit. He was an angel of light before to the fall.
TTO: Was this a pre-existing belief you had or did you find it for the character?
MP: I was lucky in the sense that I’ve experimented was various beliefs all my life, so when I did that show, I had already probably read The Bible four times, studied it from a philosophical perspective. So I think my sensibility was already there. They did give me a book called The Book of Enoch [an ancient Jewish document] and I read that,but it didn’t inform me.
TTO: Any chance we’ll see Lucifer again?
MP: Not that I know of. I think Lucifer used up that vessel. But it is the supernatural, so anything is possible.
TTO: So how is being the leader of the vampires in Being Human the same as playing Lucifer, and how is it different?
MP: Well, it’s the same in the sense that I have a cause. It’s a same in the sense that I’m dealing with issues of deep betrayal and a family split.
But rather than trying to destroy and annihilate like Lucifer did, Bishop is trying to bring the elements back together again. He’s trying to be a uniting force. So he sees a little bit further than his desire for revenge. And I think that’s motivated by a real love and connection with Aiden, the main character, that I don’t think Lucifer would’ve allowed himself.
TTO: When you play these roles, do you find that the darkness stays with you? Is it ever difficult to shake off?
MP: I think things like that can [stay with you]. I think that’s more an issue with younger actors. It was definitely an issue with me for a few years. But after a while, you begin to understand the difference between what you’re doing on the set and life.
It can infect you a little bit if the emotions that you’re feeling are negative enough. But you can tend to shake it off. You learn how to supplement yourself with other stuff.
TTO: In your personal life, do you find that you’re drawn to these sci-fi/fantasy/horror roles?
MP: I’ve always been a big fan of science fiction and horror. It’s been sort of an accident that I’ve stumbled into my favorite genre. I’m glad about it. I think science fiction has been a place for people to explore taboo subjects in a safe atmosphere, because it’s fantasy. So they can really push the envelope in a lot of ways.
And horror is just great, because really well-done horror is really the realm of the heroic. The stories are deep. I’m not a big fan of the slasher flick. I like the “story” horror — The Exorcist, the story of a man losing his faith and regaining it. And Rosemary’s Baby, things like that.
And I think we touch that [in Being Human], in that way of telling a real story about souls.
TTO: When you were a kid and playing with your friends, did you play the bad guy then?
MP: I think we all kind of switched up! We did the natural acting thing. I spent a lot of years in acting class trying to regain the things we did when we were five.
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