Doogie-Howser-M.D.[Photo: 20th Century Fox]
Mulholland-Drive[Photo: Universal Pictures]
We’re not going to say Mark Pellegrino is destined to play a villain. After all, Lost’s Jacob — one of an impressive number of TV characters he’s brought to life — turned out to be a mostly good guy. But his mere presence in the premiere of The Tomorrow People tonight on the CW (9 pm ET) lets us know that the heroes are in trouble. His Dr. Jedikiah Price is the leader of Ultra, an organization that is trying to find and neutralize the so-called “Tomorrow People” or homo superiors, a new species with powers of telekinesis, telepathy and teleportation. We recently spoke to Pellegrino, however, and he defended Jedikiah’s motives as pretty reasonable. He also managed to share his thoughts on his roles in Lost, Mulholland Drive, Supernatural and Doogie Howser M.D., and — brace yourselves — how he came to love Glee and One Direction.
VH1: Hi, Mark! So, I could just call your Tomorrow People character the villain, but do you have a better way to sum up Jedikiah for us?
Mark Pellegrino: I think he is a man devoted to the purpose of protecting the human race from the superior species that, in all of my research and studies, when in competition with an inferior species, not only defeats it but wipes it out.
VH1: Will we be able to relate to him too?
MP: I hope so. Especially in episodes 8 and 9, you see the more human side of Jedikiah. Jedikiah to me is a combination of scientist and politician. And what you see more in earlier episodes, especially the pilot episode, is the ruthlessness of a politician who has a grander vision of things than just this moment, an “ends justify the means” kind of animating philosophy. You see how much internal sacrifice he has had to make by the personal revelations that happen later on. It’s tough living for an ideal, and I think that’s what Jedikiah is living for.
VH1: Does the idea of a real life “homo superior” species scare you?
MP: It depends on the values of the person. If the person’s bad, yeah, they scare me because they can do quite a lot of things. Through the course of the show, you see breakouts that are mistaken as bad but aren’t. Some of them are doing bad things for noble reasons, because they’re on the fringes of society. And then you see really bad ones. You see people that are very scary. So you definitely get to see what it would be like if somebody with those kind of powers and horrible anti-life values were let loose in the world, and it’s frightening.
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VH1: Did you watch any of the original British TV show?
MP: I did not. Did you? I am curious, but I’m also a little bit nervous to see it. Even though I know it was the 70s and kind of a kid show and a little bit campy, I kind of want this to be its own independent thing. When everything’s said and done and maybe we’re on hiatus or something, maybe I’ll sneak a look at the original shapeshifting robot of Jedikiah.
VH1: Were you ever a fan of those older cult sci-fi shows?
MP: Star Trek was a big thing for me. I kind of grew up with that. And Twilight Zone is one of my all-time favorite shows. In fact me and Sam Witwer from Being Human sit down and have marathons to get our little Twilight Zone fix. Every Saturday night at midnight, it would come on KTLA … and I had this little white RCA black and white television I used to watch that with my step-brother religiously. The “Living Doll” one is one of the freakiest things to watch at midnight. Dolls freak me out anyway, but that one is just wrong.
VH1: So is Twilight Zone an inspiration for some of your creepier characters?
VH1: What do you have in common with your characters?
MP: What a lot of the characters have had, I would call it an excess of passion. It’s an excess to the point it becomes your driving focus. What I share with them is I’m a fairly ambitious person, and once I’m focused on something, I’m pretty intently focused. I love the purposefulness of all the characters. There have been a couple of characters that were working for redemption, and I like that notion in general. It resonates with me. That human concept of redemption, I think, is big.
VH1: OK, so how about this character way back in your resume: “Dude” in an episode of Doogie Howser, M.D.?
MP: I remember something like a mullet. I remember, I think I was in some kind of pool hall, and I remember Doogie Howser hitting me in the nuts with a pool cue, I think. And the look with the crossed eyes I made before I dropped out of frame was pretty silly. But that’s kind of all I remember. [Neil Patrick Harris] was very smart, and you could see him as that prodigy doctor. He was so smart. He had that something. He was charismatic. I didn’t know that he was such a great singer and musical mind and all that stuff. Did you see that episode with him on Glee?
VH1: You’re a Glee fan?
MP: My wife turns me onto shows. I do end up watching them. She has to drag me in there, and when she does, I enjoy it. Glee was one of those things for the first year, especially, I got into that. I would sit down with a glass of wine and get into that. I even have a Glee CD in my car.
VH1: I was looking at your Twitter and also saw you’ve just become a One Direction fan.
MP: I saw that movie because my daughter said let’s go see it. I expected to be wanting to slit my wrists in the first 10 minutes. And those kids are really cool! It’s not just their music, ’cause kind of a rock and roll fan. I like everything, jazz and classical, and all over the spectrum. But it’s who they are that kind of blew me away. Hopefully it’s not all packaging and wasn’t just some clever gimmick. They seem like authentic kids who were thrown into what has to be the most overwhelming situation on the planet, and they handle it with a kind of grace and wisdom that 20-, 30-, 40-year-olds can’t handle it with. I thought Harry was really cool. He was my favorite.
VH1: Years after the Lost finale, I still think I’m confused about what it all meant. Did you understand it?
MP: When I was in it, definitely not. I didn’t know that Jacob’s story was a redemption story when I started. I had no idea what I had done to my brother. The only hint that they gave me was “Jesus the carpenter,” a more down-to-earth but kind of godlike figure. That was all the information I had to go on, plus whatever information was in each script that we got. But I like that it didn’t necessarily tie everything up, and it left you to imagine for yourself what the possibilities are, and they’re endless.
VH1: So you couldn’t sum it up for me?
MP: I don’t think I could. But that’s the beauty of it. I remember one time, I watched Mulholland Drive at a press screening. I had no idea what was going on … all of it freaked me out. I didn’t really like it, to be honest with you. But people have come up to me over the years who are obsessed with turning the information over in their minds and trying to get to the bottom of it, which I don’t think they will. But I realized something about art and how it can stick with you and make you think. And think and think. That’s where Lost crosses over from a TV show to something artistic, because it doesn’t give you answers that are pat. It doesn’t tie everything up for you. It makes you struggle with the puzzle long after it’s done. It ends up becoming a relationship with it in a very different way than a regular show. It becomes a relationship that died prematurely and you’re still left sorting it out.
VH1: Could The Tomorrow People end up developing that relationship with fans, even as a CW show?
MP: Supernatural has that relationship with its fans that’s very intense. This has that capability. I think what draws people into Supernatural is that when all is said and done, and the ash from the various apocalypses settle, it’s about the brothers. Even though there’s cool fights in this and cool special effects and there’s superheroes … in the end it is about family. Two families: the family by blood and family by choice. And about loyalty and all those things that I think really make for a good story.