Mark Pellegrino: Good versus Evil (recap)

While we’re waiting for part 2 of the ‘Good versus Evil’ podcast, here’s a recap of (and a few comments about) part 1.

Mark auditioned for Sean Bean’s part in National Treasure and bonded with the casting director. Mark’s cat had passed away in his arms the day before, and he couldn’t stop crying — even during the audition. That must have been dreadful. What a sweet soul he is.

Mark got into Objectivism when he was 23 or 24 after suggesting a book exchange with a very strange actor friend. At the time he was primarily a product of the state school system and held conventional views based on religion. Mark and his friend would drink coffee and argue about topics such as politics and environmentalism until 5 am at a 24-hour cafe in Hollywood. Drinking coffee and talking the night away is something all the best people do!

In the book exchange, Mark’s friend gave him Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead — he recognised parts of himself in both the heroes and the villains. Ayn Rand’s writing didn’t help Mark resolve that, so it was a troubling experience that didn’t fully resolve until about five years ago. I’d love to hear Mark talk more about that process; was his earlier religious indoctrination the main block to fully accepting Objectivism, or was that just an example? Mark has a firm foundation now and knows how to apply it to his life. It’s a pleasure listening to (or reading) Mark talk about philosophy and politics because he’s able to articulate his thoughts so clearly.

Mark described Objectivism — which he said is an elaboration of Aristotelianism — as counter-cultural. It goes against universally accepted moral truths, with morality as an epistemological concept central to man’s relationship with reality. In Objectivism, reason is the most important faculty as it’s key to living and cooperating with others.

Mark prefaced his comments on whether Lucifer is good or evil by saying good and evil are equally powerful in modern western culture, whereas Objectivism treats heroism as rational and villainy as irrational. In this context, the villains initiate force against others and are parasites feeding on the productive people in a society. Evil is therefore weak and exists because the good allow it. Mark considers Lucifer the first rebel against arbitrary authority; a being who took a stand against humans because they lacked virtue, yet still gave humanity free will and knowledge of right and wrong.

Playing Lucifer increased Mark’s sympathy for the devil. As an actor, he likes to find the thing that makes him sympathetic to his character, so he doesn’t play a caricature. Supernatural is about family and people who have to survive on their own wits after being abandoned by their parents. Lucifer is an outsider, abandoned and persecuted by his family.

Being able to sympathise with a character is important for an actor. Mark talked about using Meisner and Stanislavski’s magic ‘as if’ to fill gaps in the concretes of the story and find the emotional essence of a scene. Mark works out what he’s doing, and how he feels about it, from a first-person perspective, makes it interesting and compelling to himself, then just tries to do it. Mark explained it as the reality of doing because acting is a chicken and egg thing. You don’t generate the experience and then act (though it depends on the situation as there are times when that makes sense). You just do, and the experience happens when you immerse yourself in the doing. Mark likes to keep his eye on what his character is trying to convince someone to do or think, not on the emotional goal. His emotions come out of the scene, the moment, and whatever the other actor gives him, which he says is a scary way to work because you can’t predict what’s going to happen. It’s truly fascinating listening to Mark talking about his approach to acting. I get the impression that the students who’ve had Mark and Tracy as teachers are extremely lucky.

Mark managed to get a little dig in at Rick Springfield. I love that he calls this out at every opportunity because Rick Springfield was awful; two dimensional and such a wasted opportunity. With all Lucifer’s temporary vessels, I think it would have been so much better to change Mark’s appearance and keep the essence of Lucifer alive and constant. From Mark’s perspective, there was no continuity and Springfield’s Lucifer was just a stereotypical bad guy.

Does Mark give off a bad guy vibe? The roles Mark’s had since Dexter and Jacob are complex and layered, and there’s always some good in them that he can get behind. He plays a lot of villains, but I see Mark as a hero in real life as he’s a good person who stands up for what he knows is right. Some of Mark’s fans see him as a giant teddy bear, which might, in part, be down to the hugs he’s famous for at cons but we’ve also seen him with Frankie. Adorable! According to his wife, Mark should have played the lead role in Monk because he is just like him — bookish with pathological anxieties. The guy who plays Monk does a good job, but I know Mark could have brought something exciting and different to the role. I would love to see Mark take on a major role with a character who’s funny, nuanced and good, but battling his own demons and quirks.

The teaser for part two is Mark talking about what people should do when they’re thinking about going up to someone they think they’ve seen on TV. I saw that happen (not to Mark) in Las Vegas and it appeared excruciatingly uncomfortable for the person who had been on TV.