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Mark Pellegrino is known for playing bad guys, but his character on A&E’s The Returned isn’t so easy to categorize. Pellegrino stars as Jack, a father who lost his daughter in a bus crash only for her to explicably return four years later. Not that everything has gone smoothly: Jack has looked for comfort in alcohol and sex with a psychic who claims she can communicate with the dead (but only when she’s getting it on).
Although The Returned is based on a French television drama of the same name, showrunner Carlton Cuse—who made his name as co-showrunner of Lost—has slowly been departing from the original, meaning it’s anyone’s guess what will happen on the upcoming season finale. All Pellegrino will say? It’s “apocalyptic.”
Pellegrino called up EW to talk about Jack’s growth over the show, whether or not he ‘ships Jack and Claire and why he loves sci-fi.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Have you watched the French version?
MARK PELLEGRINO: Yes. I loved it. I thought it was extremely well put together, kind of a seamless take on the genre. And it had elements of simplicity and sparseness that I thought were really interesting and lent itself to the mystery of the universe, of that particular universe. I really dug it.
Jack has this complicated relationship with Lucy the waitress, and she recently revealed she was communicating with his father’s killer. Are we going to find out more about that before the season ends?
I don’t think we’re going to go further down that path yet, but that’s definitely a foreshadowing of our relationship and the connection and the fact that I’m starting to believe her. She’s no longer a fraud. I mean, what she’s saying is for real and needs to be taken seriously.
Are you rooting for Jack and Claire?
I’m kind of a sentimentalist and always root for the marriage to work out. I wonder if they’re just two fundamentally incapable people. I mean, she had dreams and aspirations of being a photographic artist and, apparently, those things were never realized by being a mom at home and having a family life. That said, marriage is hard and it takes a lot of effort and will and I hope that they can find a way to bridge that gap eventually. But what I like about the Jake and Lucy relationship is that they were both kind of using each other for their own purposes and then discovered something very authentic underneath. And that’s a very difficult thing to deny. It’s something that was more than just a physical attraction, but something that connects them very deeply. And I’m also interested in seeing how that’s explored and how Jack negotiates the territory between Claire and Lucy, and what Claire’s final verdicts are on Peter. Because look at their relationship. Holy crap.
You’re known for playing villains. How would you characterize Jack?
I think Jack is somebody who’s in over his head. I think he got dealt a blow that he hasn’t been able to recover from, in part because nobody around him has the tools to recover from it and so he turns to the things that people do to get relief. I think he’s kind of stuck in a stage of grief, and that anger, resentment stage of things — your life isn’t turning out the way you want it to turn out but you really don’t have the tools and the equipment to make changes. And I’m hoping that Lucy and his opening up to her, which he hasn’t opened up like that in years, is the catalyst for him to be more heroic and assertive and taking control of his life and seeing that he is kind of the captain of his own destiny.
How much do you actually know about his backstory? Did anyone sit you all down at some point and fill you in?
We did have a big talk. We all sat around the table in a room in a studio in Vancouver, and [executive producers Raelle Tucker and Carlton Cuse] answered questions and filled us in on our backstories from their point of view. And it was kind of a broad brush, broad strokes kind of filling in that we had to take and run the details on. But I know things about the relationship between Claire and Jack, some of it has already been revealed, some not, and my past.
You worked on Lost, and this show is very Lost-like in that you kind of have no idea what’s going on or what’s going to happen. Do you and your castmates ever exchange theories?
We don’t. It’s such a huge cast, and we find ourselves mostly working on a separate days and isolated in our own storylines. We’re intrigued and we want to know, especially now I know what happens in the last episode, and I’m very interested in finding out where they’re going to go from there because it’s pretty crazy. So I have no idea. [Laughs] But that’s kind of cool, in a way. I don’t think I want to know any of the answers right now. I want them to be revealed to me, otherwise it’s going to be in the back of my mind somewhere and that’s always sketchy.
At its core, what do you think The Returned is about?
It’s about life and death and the nature of death and the meaning of it for people. I think it deals with the miraculous and what a miracle really means. What really happens when nature breaks its own rules and now you have to deal with a universe that’s not the way you thought it was. But I think Peter in the last episode stated a thematic element that I hope becomes very important when he talked about acceptance. And accepting one another for their differences. I think people’s reactions to the miracle says something about the nature of how we deal with one another and how we deal with the other, and someone who’s outside and someone who is different. And I hope that becomes a thematic point, and they explore the nature of bigotry, hatred for the other because they’re the other.
In the last episode, Camille said something like, “They’re never going to accept us if we keep hiding.”
I love that, and there’s so many parallels to it in our own world. Of someone who’s gay coming out of the closet and being embraced by their community as opposed to run out of town, and that’s one of the things I love about sci-fi. You can deal indirectly with really hot topics that might be really incendiary out in the real world and cause people with disparate worldviews to fight, but then when they see it in this context, suddenly, the concept of accepting the other becomes palatable and interesting topic for discussion as opposed to a reason to fight.
Could you give me a one-word hint about the finale?
The first season finale of The Returned airs Monday at 10 p.m. on A&E.