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Jacob and the Devil
Mania Interviews Lost’s Mark Pellegrino
By Rob Vaux
April 27, 2010
Mark Pellegrino as the island watchman Jacob in LOST(2010).
© ABC/Bob Trate
Mark Pellegrino is the definition of the working actor, with a steady diet of television and movie roles dating back over twenty years. His profile has gone up considerably in the genre community with a pair of choice roles: the enigmatic Jacob on Lost and the decidedly less enigmatic Lucifer on Supernatural. In an exclusive interview with Mania, he talked at length about both characters and the challenges required to bring them to life.
Question: You’ve been working in television for a long time. Is it different when something big like Lost comes along, or is it just another gig?
Mark Pellegrino: It changes things in hindsight, because at the moment, it’s kind of a secret audition. The material they use aren’t the scenes, and the characters you’re auditioning for aren’t the actual characters. You really have no idea what you’re auditioning for, so it is just like any other job. Then you’re there at work and you see the effects of your work, and it ripples out. Then it becomes kind of a big deal, which is the way it’s happened with me
Q: So you didn’t know you were auditioning for Lost?
MP: I knew it was for Lost, and I knew it was for a guest part that would “possibly” recur. The character’s name, I think, was Jason, and the scene was some little piece that didn’t really connect to the overall story. So I did it, and thought if I got it, I’d be a guest star. Maybe I’ll be recurring, maybe not -- people do have a way of dying on this show -- and it wasn’t until I got there that I found out it was the pivotal, archetypal part of Jacob.
Q: How quickly did it take you to integrate with the cast?
MP: It’s always a little weird when you go onto a set, especially when you go onto a show that’s been running for a long time. You always feel a little nervous that first day. But this cast and crew have been so nice and so kind. There hasn’t been a missed step or a bad moment yet, to be honest with you. They made me feel at home from the beginning.
Q: What were some of the most unexpected challenges to working on Lost?
MP: The mosquitoes are a challenge. Working at night in the jungle can sometimes get a little funky, especially when you’re the only person in the cast or crew that the mosquitoes want to dine on. That seems to be my fate. There was one day that was tough. We had to do work on a beach, and it was a pretty calm day starting out, but we had to finish the scene with these enormous waves. I’ve seen big waves before. These waves… ten feet and they just sucked the water out. You couldn’t move and you couldn’t get out of the way. That was the one environmental difficulty we encountered. Oh, and walking barefoot in the jungle, which I had to do a lot. That’s tough.
Q: You’re also playing Lucifer on Supernatural, and he’s a very storied character. De Niro’s played him. Pacino’s played him. How do you approach that challenge and make a character like that your own?
MP: I hope I do it the same way they would, and try to find the things in the character that I can identify with and make my own. For me, the character has a pretty simple storyline that anybody can relate to: a faithful son who’s betrayed by his father and brothers. God wants him to serve man, he refuses, and so God kicks him out. It’s like being blown over by the family that you love for somebody less worthy. It leaves a bad taste in his mouth and he wants to get even. It’s a revenge story to me. Whatever life Lucifer has is his life; whatever comes out of him stems from his desire for revenge… and from the broken heart that creates that need for revenge.
As an actor, no matter what character you’re play, you have to be on his side. I’ve played a number of jerk-offs in my career, and you have to understand what the character is going for. He’s always going for something positive; he has to live with himself in the morning.
Q: Is there a need to bring something more than human to the character -- something truly otherworldly? Or does the very human motivation of revenge sustain you in finding the character?
MP: It was necessary to make him human from my point of view because feelings like revenge come from wanting something, and because only a being who is capable of life and death can want something. No action matters to an immortal being: you can take poison or nutritious food, walk down the street or jump off a building. It doesn’t matter. So me -- being a living being who can only understand things from the point of view of human values -- I have to make this immortal being struggle in a human way. That’s the only way I can understand it, from a human struggle.
Q; Is there a catharsis with Lucifer? A venting of one’s negative emotions?
MP: There can be, especially in the last episode that I did. There are some moments when I get to channel that darkness and other moments that are really heartbreaking. That never feels very good, though it often makes for good results.