Exclusive Interview: Mitch Pileggi of ‘Supernatural’
I was lucky enough to attend the San Diego Comic-Con this year, where Supernatural creator Eric Kripke announced that actor Mitch Pileggi would play Mary Winchester’s father on an upcoming episode of the series. Many of the geeks in the room, myself included, reached nerd nirvana when the news was announced. The man who so perfectly embodied the bad-ass Walter Skinner on The X-Files is an amazing choice to play Sam and Dean’s grandfather. Viewers will get a chance to see Pileggi in the role on tomorrow night’s Supernatural episode, entitled “In the Beginning.”
I recently had a chance to sit down with Pileggi to discuss his role on the CW series, as well as his stints on Brothers & Sisters and Sons of Anarchy. Read on for the mp3 and complete transcript of the interview.
This is Don from BuddyTV, and today I’m talking to Mitch Pileggi, who plays Samuel Campbell on this week’s episode of Supernatural. I know your role is pretty important to the show. Did they approach you specifically for it, or how did that come about?
Yeah, they did. Eric called me and told me what they were doing, and I’d worked with Eric before on another series, so he just wanted to know if I’d be interested in doing this. A lot of people on the show I worked with on The X-Files, aside from the fact that I like Eric, so I said, “Absolutely. When do I go?” Plus it’s in Vancouver. I get to go to Vancouver and hang out for a while.
I was going to mention that X-Files connection. It seems like a lot of people from that show migrated over to Supernatural.
Yeah, a lot of the crew was our crew on The X-Files. You’ve got Kim [Manners], and a lot of people up in the front office are people I worked with on The X-Files too.
What can you tell us about your character on Supernatural? I know you can’t reveal too much.
Well, I’m playing their grandfather. Castiel sends Dean back in time to — why he sends him back in time is revealed later on at the end of the episode, but he’s back in Lawrence, Kansas in 1973, and because of that he runs into his father, and his mother, and his grandparents on his mother’s side. There’s a lot that happens as a result of that.
Is there something in particular that keeps you coming back to the sci-fi and horror genres?
I’ve always been a big fan of sci-fi and horror, and I’ve been a big fan of novels that are sci-fi and horror. It’s what I like. It’s not necessarily all I want to do, but I think because I have pretty substantial exposure in it that’s why they keep thinking, let’s bring Mitch into this. He’s a sci-fi guy! It’s all fun. In Stargate: Atlantis I get to be Captain Kirk. It’s stuff I really enjoy doing.
Do you have any plans to go back to Stargate: Atlantis for the movie they’re doing?
I have no idea. Unless they call and ask me about it, I don’t know what their plans are. I’d love to do it, but we’ll see where they go with it.
You also have a recurring role right now on Sons of Anarchy over on FX. That’s a little bit more of a villainous role.
Oh, I’d say he’s pretty nasty. [laughs] He’s a pretty nasty cat. Not that I’m saying there’s anything wrong with that. It’s so funny, because I’m really almost reluctant to talk about that character because of the nature of it, but as an actor he’s really fun to play. It’s really meaty and you can get into layers, and because it’s on cable you can do stuff you can’t normally do on network television. As an actor it’s really interesting and a lot of fun, and it’s a great group of people to work with too.
Do you like diving into a villain role every once in a while?
I do. I got away from it for a long time, because I really started out playing villains. I got away from it doing The X-Files, and then a lot of bureaucrats came my way, and now I’m getting the opportunity to go back and play the bad guys again. It’s fun, I really enjoy it. There seems to be so much more to those characters.
Yeah, I still remember you as the villain in Shocker [The 1989 horror movie directed by Wes Craven].
Yeah, that was fun to do. I had a good time making that. Hard time watching myself in it, but it was interesting. [laughs] It was great working with Wes Craven too, one of my favorite people.
I also saw you pop up on Brothers & Sisters on Sunday, which I wasn’t expecting.
I didn’t even know that was on. I guess I should have paid more attention, but I was switching channels and I happened to come across one of my scenes on it. I had completely forgot that I had done it. There’s a couple more, I think I did three episodes of it. That was kind of an overnight deal. They called me the night before they started shooting, I think they lost somebody, so they called up and asked if I would come in and start shooting at 7:30 in the morning. I hadn’t even looked at the script, I didn’t know what was going on, and I’m not a terribly quick study, so I had to pound that dialogue into my head overnight. I was able to pull it out.
You’ve done a lot of one episode guest starring roles, or maybe a few episodes. What is that process like? Do you like going in, then getting out and doing something else?
It’s like being a hired gun. For the most part I like it. I like it a lot more now than I used to, because before I did The X-Files it’s like you go on a set and you’re the new kid on the block. It’s a little bit uncomfortable. But now, most of the sets I go on when I guest star on something I’ve worked with a lot of the crew before, or a lot of the cast. It makes it a lot more comfortable for me to go on a set like that now. I don’t get intimidated at all by anything that’s going on or anybody that I’m working with.
Would you like to settle down in a series again?
Sure, absolutely. With a series you’ve just got that assurance of an income coming in. It’s a job, acting is a job, and a lot of people think, why are you doing that series? Why are you playing that role? Well, because I’ve got to send my daughter to school, I’ve got to put food on the table and I’ve got to pay bills. Some people go, well, where’s your artistic integrity? You know, sometimes you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do. When you have the opportunity to play good roles that are really substantial and do have some artistic integrity, that makes it a real treat.
What was the experience like going back to The X-Files franchise with the recent movie?
I was in and out so quick that it was almost like it didn’t happen. It was so quick. Once again I was working with a lot of people from the crew, from the L.A. crew and the Vancouver crew, shooting up in Vancouver, so it’s always great to see those people and hang out with them and be with them. I didn’t have a lot to do, so it was pretty simple. You know, kicking doors in, screaming and yelling and waving a gun is pretty much what I did for nine years, so it wasn’t a task. [laughs]
Do you have any other projects coming up that you wanted to talk about?
I’ve got a movie called Flash of Genius with Greg Kinnear coming out the beginning of next month, I’m starring on Criminal Minds, I’m doing narration for Secrets of Magic Revealed for Bruce Nash on I’m not sure which network, and Brothers & Sisters is still going, then Sons of Anarchy.
Wow, that’s a full plate.
Yeah. [laughs] For so long I’ve had periods with nothing to do, and it’s kind of nice, then all of a sudden I’m overwhelmed. Now I can understand why people need assistants.
– Interview conducted by Don Williams
(Image courtesy of the CW)
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