Interview: Mark Pellegrino (Supernatural/Dexter/Lost/13 Reasons Why/American Rust) -By: Liam Sweeny
Written by Staff on December 6, 2022
As a writer, I’m fascinated by film and shows, television and movies. Actors are wizards to me, able to say a line in a sentence, in a way that might take me ten pages to create in a book. It’s the moment. It’s the character that we fall in love or hate with, executed so flawlessly and seamlessly that we might be enticed to shed a tear for the devil himself.
Mark Pellegrino knows all about shedding a tear for the devil. For close to 15 years, this veteran actor has had the role of Lucifer on the hit television series “Supernatural”. Also holding recurring roles on shows such as “Dexter” and “Lost”, Pellegrino shows a range of characters that will keep people like me well ensconced in pen and ink.
I sit with Mark and we discuss the proper use of sulfur in aromatherapy.
RRX: You play, among many other roles, the character of Lucifer on the television show “Supernatural”. Now this role; it wasn’t Babe Ruth or Sinatra, no biopic or old footage to watch, yet Lucifer is probably the second most famous character in the known universe. How did you make the Lucifer character your own?
MP: I think the Supernatural writers did that for me, because they composed a character dynamic that fit nicely into the family dynamic that the show explores throughout the 15 seasons, between the [Winchester] brothers and the mother and the father. All of those themes of loyalty and betrayal were also in the issues between Lucifer and his father, and his brothers, and so I didn’t feel like I had to go too far about to explore the perspective of a betrayed son and brother, and to bring that revenge story to life. It was really a matter of saying the stuff and doing what the writers told me to do. It didn’t require a lot of seeking; I think we can all relate to the types of relationships that were…larger than life in the show, but something we can all relate to.
RRX: Lucifer is an angel, so a spirit, and one that can inhabit different human “vessels”. Through the show Lucifer has inhabited others, like Misha Collins, and notably for our readers, Rick Springfield. But they didn’t just “play Lucifer;” they had to play your version of Lucifer. Did you work with them on this? Did you coach?
MP: Well, Misha actually did spend quite a bit of time with me to bring my characterization to his version of Lucifer. That was great. That gave the character a consistency throughout that I think people would look for. Rick, I don’t think he watched the show at all, so his version is sort of a side story; it’s something where Lucifer sort of takes a turn into a different realm, and different behaviors, and becomes an entirely different person during Rick’s tenure.
But Misha and I worked quite a bit on it, and my wife was actually shadowing the director of the episode where he comes out as Lucifer, and she was on the sidelines sort of helping him, coaching him along, as well. They would text back and forth with each other between scenes, and she’d say ‘no, not enough Mark in that,’ and he would throw a little more of my characterizations in there.
I gave him a sort of through-line with respect to dealing with people that he took to heart and talked about all the conventions, about the way Lucifer’s looking at a person, and deciding at every moment whether he wants to kill them or f**k them. For some reason that resonated with him, to use that as the spine of his character throughout his own tenure as Lucifer.
RRX: Seeing Lucifer pass from you to Misha was such a cool thing for us fans.
Yeah, it was really cool, and it was a smart thing for him to do as an actor; he didn’t have to do that. He could have put his own spin on it, and done his own thing, but he wanted there to be a character consistency that people would recognize and like I said, I thought that was really cool.
RRX: I have to admit, I haven’t seen the show “American Rust” yet, but I’ve seen enough pieces to know what I’m missing out on. It looks fantastic. You play Virgil Poe, who, from what I’ve read, is a pretty colorful character. Can you tell our fearless readers a little bit about “American Rust” and Virgil Poe?
MP: It takes place in a rust belt town in Pennsylvania called Buell, where a murder happens, and my son is the main suspect. My wife is in a love triangle with me, the estranged husband, sort of the Lothario of Buell, and the town chief of police, who gets caught up in this murder and the potential suspect who happens to be my son. It becomes a very complicated human drama about people being pushed to the very edge. How far will they go for love, I think, is the main question that gets answered through the first season of the series.
The second season, we’re just about to start up here. Virgil is even more colorful in the second season. The wardrobe lady described him as ‘a peacock on a budget.’ That was a pretty great description, man. And he’s a pretty colorful guy. I hope you enjoy him when you go through the season.
RRX: So, to get fanboy for a sec. “Supernatural” had a story arc in the beginning that led up to the apocalypse, to a title fight between Lucifer and Michael, all in. The Winchester brothers and friends shut it down. Then it went on for ten more seasons. I always felt like there may have been thought, talk, or a plan to end it at five. Any truth to that?
MP: My understanding is that Eric Kripke wanted it to end. I think he had it all sorted out, all the story arcs figured out right to that end apocalypse and then it would be over. But fans didn’t want that, and the network responded, and they got ten more years of monster fighting and crazy celestial phenomenon. So yeah, it was supposed to be over.
RRX: As mentioned prior, Lucifer is an angel, archangel, and he has a vessel, a guy named Nick. You started the role as Nick, then possessed by Lucifer, and later on back to Nick. You played two characters in the same body, kind of like Sybil without the miniseries. How did you create that relationship between Nick and Lucifer?
MP: The later Nick was such a vastly different character than the season five Nick. You stumble into Nick’s life and he seems like a victim of terrible circumstance, who was probably religious, did everything by the book, and was handed this terrible tragedy that made him angry at God. He’s a victim, and the devil takes advantage of that; it’s a very heartwarming story, there’s sympathy all around, and the devil himself comes off as a righteous, honest character, which you don’t see a lot in the angels in “Supernatural”; they’re sort of dicks, right? And here’s this guy coming out saying real things, and making this enormous claim that he will never lie to Nick; that’s a huge thing.
I love season five Lucifer because he’s a grand character. He’s remote, but identifiable. He’s the smartest and most powerful guy in the room. A being to fear. And I think that Lucifer probably could’ve beaten Michael, because he was just a powerful and scary being.
When Nick comes back later on, there’s a suggestion that he wasn’t sort of the family guy that was all there, all in spirit. He had a lot of deep flaws, and the devil kind of took advantage of those flaws. That later Nick was more like a guy who had felt power, and liked it, and wanted it back. So rather than a guy who was exploited by the devil because of his tragedy, he was a guy who fell in love with power, and Lucifer, and the idea of being unbound by any moral code. And he wanted all that back. So, he pursued Lucifer as a lover; it was sort of a story of unrequited love. Of this guy wanting to reconnect with this feeling he could never get. It left him with this residual malignancy. Each time he killed he got a little taste of the piece that Lucifer left in him. So that Nick was very different than the season five Nick.
RRX: You’ve been in “Supernatural”, of course, but also “American Rust”, as said, but also “Lost”, “Dexter”, “13 Reasons Why”… I don’t have enough room here to list your body of work. I’m a firm believer that creatives have projects that they do that put them on a “next level.” in their craft. Did you have a role that, after playing it, put you on that “next level” as an actor?
MP: I do, but I don’t think many people saw it, because it was a theater production at our theater company in Studio City, and it was Hamlet. And we worked on Hamlet for two years. We rehearsed it; I read that play twice a day for two years. And we put it up for about four months. I think it was a great, great, great production – it should have been filmed. When you work on a play for two years, it’s in you in a way that it can’t be when you’re on a normal rehearsal schedule for theater, which is about four to six weeks.
And it changed me. I remember walking into an audition one time and thinking to myself, ‘what am I so nervous about? I did Hamlet. This is nothing.’ That’s like deadlifting a thousand pounds every single day and every other job you do, you’re lifting a 20-pound dumbbell. There’s no strain or stress at all. If you can stand up in front of an audience and do “to be or not to be” and make them understand what you’re saying, you can make almost anything comprehensible.
RRX: What’s coming up for you? What are the happenings?
MP: We’re doing season two of “American Rust”, I’m about to drive out, with my dogs, to Pittsburgh, wish us luck, and I have to be there for the first day of shooting, which is November 29th. So that’s getting underway. And the first four episodes read very, very good. I can’t wait to see what it looks like on film, and see how they’ve imagined these characters. We’ve got some new folks in the cast who’ll be fun to work with. And some old folks coming back that’ll be fun to work with too.
Yeah, I do podcasts, and commentary, and stuff that I enjoy almost more than acting. You can find that stuff on my Twitter page, my Reality Checks, little philosophy bites. I’m writing a couple of things, hopefully those will be okay, and that’s what I’ve got.