On the new SyFy television series Being Human, adapted from the popular British series of the same name, actor Mark Pellegrino plays Bishop, a powerful vampire who is over 300 years old. He is the leader of a vicious vampire legion in Boston, but no amount of power will satisfy him until he lures Aidan (Sam Witwer), who has sworn off killing humans for blood, back into his fold of thirsty blood hunters.
While at the SyFy portion of the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour, Mark Pellegrino, who is best known for playing Jacob on Lost and Lucifer on Supernatural, talked about the appeal of this new character, his decision not to watch the original series before developing his role, finding the balance between the darkness and the humor on the series, and how close the cast has become. He also shared his favorite memory from his time on Lost. Check out what he had to say after the jump:
Question: Who is the guy that you’re playing?
MARK PELLEGRINO: His name is James Bishop, and he’s a vampire. He’s about 300 years old. At the time that we see him, he’s the vampire boss of Boston. All the vampire clans are organizing their families, and there are heads of these families, kind of like the mafia system. Bishop has positioned himself in the Boston Police Department, as a Lieutenant. He also has a stake in this funeral home, which is where the vampire business takes place. He basically operates out of there and is trying, from the very beginning, to bring Aidan back into the fold. Aidan has been the rebel. He’s the prodigal son, so to speak. Bishop is trying to bring him back into the family business.
You’ve done Lost and Supernatural. How is Being Human different?
PELLEGRINO: This is different because it’s the vampire world. That’s very different from Lucifer and Jacob. I think the vampire world, as we paint, is actually different from the vampire world that you’ve seen, up to this point. Not to disparage anything, but most vampire stories tend to be romance novels that are Twilight-ish with metrosexual guys. This is a much more gritty story about human beings that are trying to grapple with problems that every human being deals with. It’s just put in the supernatural realm.
My character, Bishop, as the vampire boss of Boston, is grappling with issues of loyalty and betrayal. My son, Aidan, who’s played by Sam Witwer, has decided to go clean. He doesn’t want to eat people anymore, and he’s gone off the path. That’s not just a betrayal of vampirism, but it’s a betrayal of our ethic, our code and our relationship. It’s like my son saying, “I don’t want to go into the family business. I don’t believe anything that you say is true. I’m rejecting you entirely.” But, along with that, since we have such a tight, interwoven network of families, with very rigid codes of conduct and law, he’s stepping outside of that and putting himself in danger. So, in addition to the personal aspect of me wanting him to be back in the fold, as a father would want his son to be back in the family, there’s practical issues as well, of him putting himself into a rather shaky position with the other vampire communities out there.
PELLEGRINO: I believe you will see other vampires.
What’s the vampire transformation like for you?
PELLEGRINO: Easy in comparison to the werewolf transformation. We just stick teeth in and get a little bit of pale stuff and some cool contacts.
You’re very good at being menacing. What is it about you that allows you to incorporate that?
PELLEGRINO: I think it is something that just happens. I think people just take me that way, even though I don’t intend it. Bishop is supposed to be a bad guy, but I never look at a bad guy as a bad guy, and I never try to play a bad guy menacingly. To me, Bishop is a father, trying to bring his son back into the family. He doesn’t think he’s bad. All people are trying to go for what they think is good for them, to some degree, and I think Bishop is trying to do the same thing. I think it’s perhaps an accident of nature that I’m menacing because I don’t really have to do much to do that.
Bishop seems to be actively tempting Aidan to go back to his old ways. How much more direct does that temptation get?
PELLEGRINO: It will grow. It all depends on what happens with him. I don’t want to give away anything, but it all depends on the situation, what develops and how I see that situation is affecting him. Because he’s over 300 years old, Bishop has had enough experience to be able to sit and relax and wait for the thing to happen that he needs to happen to make his move. There are plenty of situations that present themselves where he can come in and see if he can turn it into his favor.
Will there be some humor in this series?
PELLEGRINO: Yes. It’s a dramatic series and there’s definitely intense and dramatic themes to it, but they are sprinkled, very effectively, with humor throughout. You’ll find yourself laughing and crying several times, in the same episode.
PELLEGRINO: Everybody. We all interact with each other. I can’t tell you why. You’re going to have to see that.
But, Bishop can see Sally?
PELLEGRINO: Yes. People in the supernatural realm can see ghosts. Werewolves and vampires can see the ghosts.
What’s it been like to work with Sam Witwer, Sam Huntington and Meaghan Rath?
PELLEGRINO: They are three of the finest people that I’ve met, and we’ve actually become very close. You don’t get a chance to be that way with people in a cast sometimes. You become close while you’re there and you feel like, “Wow, we’re friends,” and then you don’t see each other for months and months, or ever. We’ve kept in close contact with each other since the show. It’s only been a month, but so far so good.
Had you been familiar with the original series at all, or did you intentionally stay away from it because your character is so different?
PELLEGRINO: I watched a little bit of it, and then decided that it was probably better to stay away from it because I didn’t want, in any way, to imitate the tone of it. I knew we’d be using it as a template, and then jumping off in our own original way.
What do you think the appeal of vampires is?
PELLEGRINO: I don’t really watch the shows too much, so I don’t really know. At the moment, it seems to be just a vehicle for people to watch really beautiful people doing extraordinary things. Maybe that’s the appeal – the intense romance and longing, and the chasm that is forever between a human and a vampire, and the terrible addiction, and the danger that’s always present between a human and a vampire. That’s dealt with in our show, too. We have issues with that, that are dealt with. It’s a lusty relationship between humans and vampires, and we have that in our show as well.
What’s your best memory of doing Lost?
PELLEGRINO: I think the best memory I have is the night I finally worked with everybody. I mostly worked with Jorge [Garcia], which was great. But, to see everybody there and get a feel for all the characters there, for the big finale scene where we were around the campfire and I had only a certain amount of time to give them the skinny, was really nice because I got to see how great everybody was and what a family they really were. They acted so fully with me, and they were so sweet and kind. It was a nice, warm experience.