Seemingly one of the busiest actors working in television, Mark Pellegrino has brought us some incredibly memorable characters. He was the mysterious Jacob on Lost, the diabolical Lucifer on Supernatural, and Rita’s abusive ex-husband Paul on Dexter. Soon he will be vampire leader and Boston cop Bishop on Syfy’s new series BEING HUMAN, the American take on the current UK hit series about a vampire, werewolf, and ghost trying to find their place in the world.
Daemon’s TV recently talked to Mark about playing Bishop and the challenges of re-imagining a popular British series, as well as about his thoughts on how Lost ended and why Paul maybe wasn’t such a bad guy after all.
Now, ‘Being Human’ starts on January 17th on SyFy?
Mark Pellegrino: Yes.
It’s being billed as a re-imagining of the British series. Can you elaborate on what that means?
Mark Pellegrino: Well, as far as I know it uses the original template and then jumps off at various points into it’s own original version of it where characters take very different turns than they did in the original version. That’s as far as that goes, as far as I know. Maybe like ‘The Office’ became it’s own version with it’s own kind of characters. I think something similar is in the offing for ‘Being Human’.
What can you tell us about Bishop, the character you play?
Mark Pellegrino: Bishop is a very old vampire. He was turned in the 1600s in England and came over to the New World before the Revolutionary War to make his bones and his mark in the world. He has become the vampire boss of Boston. The vampire world is kind of organized the way that the mafia is, in families that govern each other. He’s become the overlord of Boston, so to speak. He turned Aidan, one of the main characters of the story, and Aidan has since had second thoughts about his lifestyle and is trying desperately to change it and I’m trying desperately to bring him back in the fold.
I’m assuming that Aidan is not the only vampire you’ve turned. What makes him so special that you want to bring him back into the fold?
Mark Pellegrino: Well, I’m hesitant to say because I want people to find out a little bit more about it, but suffice it to say that Aidan is an extraordinary character and has the brawn and brains to achieve my ends the way that I need them to be achieved, in addition to a couple of other things that I don’t want to say because I think they’ll be revealed in the show.
Now in addition to being a vampire leader you’re a cop, correct?
Mark Pellegrino: I am a cop, yes. I’m a Lieutenant in the Boston Police Force.
I live right near Boston and that cracks me up. I can almost see it happening.
Mark Pellegrino: You should look at those cops closely now.
One of the best things about the UK series is the cast chemistry. How has the cast in the North American version gelling?
Mark Pellegrino: We’re all friends. In fact, we’re all going to Maui together in the middle of February, and Sam Witwer came over to my house and installed wif-fi through my Xbox. And Sammy Huntington grew up in Hancock, New Hampshire and my wife and I went to Hancock, New Hampshire to the Inn that he recommended and stayed there for the night and got together with him and wife, Rachel, in the morning, but we’re all really, really good friends. I would say that the cast is really gelling.
You guys shoot in Montreal, right? Is that something that naturally happens since you’re all away from home together?
Mark Pellegrino: You do tend to get really close to the people that you’re working with and they become a second family, and then normally what happens is the second that wrap party is over you’re not really talking to them again and you just live separate lives until you see each other again and then it’s like, ‘Whoa. Hey, what’s up?’ And you’re picking up from the last wrap party. But these guys are different. I feel like we’ve made arrangements to see each other after the show and we keep talking and texting and enjoying each other. I think that these guys are definitely not the typical, run of the mill folks. We’ve become a family and it’s kind of going to stay that way.
Is it fair to say that Bishop is a complicated, grey area type of character?
Mark Pellegrino: I definitely think that. What I think is great about the show is that everybody is grey. I mean, there’s no archetypal character in the show. Everybody has issues and you can kind of relate to everybody, even the villainous. I’m suppose to be villainous, I guess, but you can relate to me and you understand what I’m going through and hopefully empathize with my point of view. I think that everybody has those moments of grey.
Well, you had us empathizing with your character Lucifer on ‘Supernatural’ –
Mark Pellegrino: Poor Lucifer. He gets a bad rap.
Even Rita’s ex-husband, he certainly wasn’t the best guy, but he was telling the truth –
Mark Pellegrino: You know what, I let the people who are watching the story judge for themselves, but for me Paul was trying to get his family back and that was his interest. He might’ve done it in a really crappy way and was totally misguided, but he loved his wife and he loved his kids. He didn’t know how to deal with a lot of things appropriately, but in the end really wanted to save them from this guy. I think that Lucifer, the same thing, his story of betrayal. For Bishop, too, there are a lot of very strong moral themes that guide Bishop’s behavior and some people would think, ‘Really?’ But for me there’s a case to be made.
Did you know that Jacob is the third most popular baby name this year? You must take some credit for that –
Mark Pellegrino: Wow. I hope I can. I’m going to even if I shouldn’t.
Coming onto ‘Lost’ and playing the character of Jacob, what was the biggest challenge for you?
Mark Pellegrino: I think the biggest challenge was flying blind. I had no idea what the end was going to be and no idea what my character was, where he came from and what his intentions were. All of that was kind of revealed to me as I was going along. So there were times when something would happen after I’d already shot three episodes and I’d say to myself, ‘God. I wish that I knew that.’ I don’t know that it affected anything. It all kind of worked out the way that it needed to. Even that challenge of not knowing also became a really great asset because from an actor’s point of view one of the biggest pitfalls is to play ideas and I didn’t have to play ideas because I had none, other than little hints here and there given by Jack Bender. He’d just say one or two things that I thought guided me in a direction. Other than that it was just dealing with every scene on it’s own.
Did you have a favorite scene?
Mark Pellegrino: For me, I just love the scene where the Man in Black and Jacob are first coming together and you see Jacob for the first time and there’s this mysterious kind of standoff between these characters, and you’re kind of gob-smacked by the fact the guy talking is the Jacob you’ve been waiting for all this time. I like that so much because it’s so simple. It’s such a simple little gunfight between these guys that we get to know a lot about later on.
You and Titus Welliver had a great chemistry, the Man in Black and the Man in White, but you were both grey and it was beautiful onscreen –
Mark Pellegrino: Oh, thank you. It’s hard not to have a chemistry with Titus because he’s such a great guy and he’s just really, really cool. So you’d have to be an extraordinary screw up not to get along with him. He’s so good and so talented and he brought such a gentleness to the part and that’s the great thing about ‘Lost’, yeah, like you were saying. There is so much grey and everybody has sin and something to overcome and be redeemed by. I found that extraordinary for Jacob because I thought that Jacob was a kind of Christ like figure and then I find that in his history there’s a lot of messiness here that he has to atone for. It was disturbing and at the same time really thought provoking and it really made me think, ‘Wow. These guys Damon [Lindelof] and Carlton [Cuse] know how to write.
Were you happy with Jacob’s arc when it was finally resolved?
Mark Pellegrino: I was. I thought that the end was really fulfilling for me. I thought that it was emotionally fulfilling and I thought that it had some really beautiful things about redemption. It was really emotional for me, watching it. Did you feel the same way?
I was sobbing.
Mark Pellegrino: Yeah, through the whole thing practically.
Yes. It was beautiful, and of course I’m a dog lover and they had to kill me at the end with Vincent –
Mark Pellegrino: I know. Didn’t that destroy you? I know, I’m a dog lover, too, and I was bawling, just bawling.
I’m one of the fans who loved the ending even though there’s a split in the fandom –
Mark Pellegrino: There really is, but that split I think is part of the beauty of the show and part of what makes everybody so intimately involved in it. For a long time afterwards they’re going to be discussing it, thinking about it, debating it, turning it over in their minds. In a way that raises the level of the show to a bit of an artistic piece and not just a TV show.
Is it easier to join a show like ‘Being Human’ in the beginning of the show rather than on season five?
Mark Pellegrino: Like everything there’s good and bad, and to me, starting any show can be nerve racking. It’s definitely great to get in the midst of it and find your rhythm with everyone else. That’s great, but there’s the expectations of, like, ‘Oh, we’re all carrying this show and lets hope that it goes well,’ and the nerves associated with that once you get into the process. Coming into a show I’m intimidated in a way, all these great people have been working for a long time and now I’m coming into the family and am I going to be accepted. That also goes away when you start dealing with the problems of the scene and trying to make it come to life. So I guess the long and the short of that is that it’s good and bad.
This show could be like ‘Lost’ and ‘Supernatural’, a big cult hit, but there is a bit of backlash though due to there already being a UK ‘Being Human’ and this show’s differences. How do you deal with fans because some fans are ardent?
Mark Pellegrino: It doesn’t affect me. I understand it completely. I was one of those British version of ‘The Office’ guys and I was so upset even though Ricky Gervais was in on the creative process when ‘The Office’ came here. I boycotted it for the longest time because I was such a strident ‘Office’ guy and then I started watching episodes of it and discovered that it was its own thing and that it shouldn’t be really considered in the same category in a way. It was it’s own show with it’s own style and it’s own sense of delivery. They did it really, really well and as long as I took it as a separate entity which was hard at first and will probably be hard for the people who have preconceived notions based on the BBC version, but once I started taking it as an independent entity it was just really, really funny in it’s own way. It wasn’t the same as the British ‘Office’, but it was just as good in its own way.
Do you have a dream role, a character you want to play or people to work with?
Mark Pellegrino: I’ll tell you what, I am dying to be on ‘Walking Dead’. Not only because I love Frank Durabont, but because I’m a huge zombie apocalypse fan and I’m dying to be in a zombie apocalypse story. So that’s kind of what I’m dying to do at the moment, but there are tons of directors and people that I would love to work with in features and in TV and there’s probably not enough time in my lifetime to work with all of them.
Besides ‘Walking Dead’ are there any other shows that you’d really enjoy being on?
Mark Pellegrino: I like strange shows like ‘Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia’. It’s a funny show. Funny and eclectic. I love ‘Bored to Death’. That would be a good show to work on.
I think it’s my favorite Ted Danson role –
Mark Pellegrino: Oh, my God, he’s great on it.
Being Human premieres on Syfy Monday, January 17 at 9pm eastern/8pm central.
You can find all of our Being Human coverage here.
Follow me on Twitter @michstjame