Mark Pellegrino discusses the growth of Virgil in American Rust

American Rush: Broken Justice drops in full on Thursday, March 28. Mark Pellegrino discusses where we find Virgil Poe as we start off the season.
Mark Pellegrino -- Photo by Diana Ragland
Mark Pellegrino -- Photo by Diana Ragland /

Mark Pellegrino is well known for his TV roles, whether it’s Lost, Supernatural, 13 Reasons Why, or one of his most recent projects, American Rust. He returns as Virgil Poe in American Rust: Broken Justice, and he talked to Amazon Adviser exclusively about what to expect.

American Rust was originally a Showtime series. Sadly, the network canceled the show, but Amazon stepped in to save it. The second season is dubbed Broken Justice, but the storyline picks up off the back of that shocking and heartbreaking Season 1 finale.

Pellegrino spent time discussing what it’s like bringing Virgil to the screen and getting to play a character with a lot of growth potential. We also spent some time talking about his Only Love campaign, which was a Stands campaign to help bring an end to online bullying.

Mark Pellegrino talks about Only Love

Only Love was a campaign with Stands back in 2017. It focused on stopping the bullying happening online, and the shirts included a heart with a devil tail and ears connecting back to his Supernatural character of Lucifer.

Amazon Adviser: I’m going to jump straight in because for a few years I want to talk to you about that only love campaign that you did with stands. Yes, yeah, I still have the shirt. I still wear it like on a weekly basis. Why did you why did you decide to do the campaign, like in the first place?

Mark Pellegrino: Well, you know, it seems like social media is a fairly toxic environment. And it's easy when you're talking about controversial things on social media get drawn into the toxicity. And sometimes I think people take things out of context and use those decontextualized facts to hurt people to hurt people's reputation. And I saw that happening on a massive scale.

I have a friend of a friend who actually committed suicide because of because of the toxicity on social media, passing on false narratives actually ended up getting this guy fired and then he ended up committing suicide. He was completely innocent of anything, but they were passing along on social media. So I wanted to try to contribute something positive to the to the social media environment, including myself because I can get drawn into it.

I wanted to try to shift the narrative a little bit to make this about discussing let's make this about civil debate instead about hurting each other and trying to hurt the reputations of people. Let’s actually talk. And so that was an attempt to reach out in that respect and try to contribute to something positive to pretty crazy atmosphere.

AA: That was such a great campaign as well. I loved how it was anti bullying, and even social media. Bullying is such a problem in the world. And I just I love the message.

MP: I agree with you, and I feel like it's a different kind of bullying on social media. Like, at least that bully in the schoolyard has the courage to confront the person they're bullying. And I say courage because they always risk getting humiliated in return and losing. But there's a whole different ethic that goes with bullying people online. You fight these people, and it encourages them. It's like blood in the water to sharks and then their friends or sock accounts or whatever it is they do to give the appearance of like, coming at you like they all do. They're invigorated by the fact that you're up and they just pile on and pile on. And it's probably because there's no consequences for them. Right, so they're different. So it's taking me a long time to realize that I can't engage those people.

AA: I agree. I recently had some personal trolls on Twitter. And the the self restraint, respond with hard times.

MP: Right, and they know that they know that and they work that well. I'm glad that you got something positive out of Only Love. I still have all my shirts.

Mark Pellegrino _ PH _ Diana Ragland
Mark Pellegrino -- Photo by Diana Ragland /

The growth of Virgil Poe in American Rust

We then moved on to talk about American Rust: Broken Justice, which arrives on Prime Video on Thursday, March 28. This is a binge-watch release, so you’ll get to see the entire next part of the story.

AA: Virgil is one of those characters that has a lot of room to grow. What's that like for you being able to play someone who isn't always likable, but also has a lot of human traits to him.

MP: I love that, as you said, because it gives you a lot of room to explore and a lot of room for the character to grow. And you can never say “oh, he's just like that.” He's not an archetype. He's a real human being. And so sometimes real human beings throw curveballs at you. They do things that you're not expecting. I think that's great storytelling.

Virgil has lots of opportunity in [American Rust] Season 2 with where Billy finds himself, where Grace finds herself, and where he finds himself in relationship with those two folks to grow, to step up, to change, to become better, and to become worse.

AA: Where are we picking up with him? I had to rewatch the last episode just to get some reminders, and the last big thing I remember is Billy was in a coma.

MP: Billy's in a coma, and there’s a big sit down with Dell that struck me as pretty scary, because he's essentially saying, I have all this information. I have these thoughts, and you know what I'm talking about. I think you and Grace are in on something.

And I was thinking, “oh my god, it's another Dexter. Oh my god. It's like Paul Bennett knows what's going on with Dexter and it’s the frying pan to the head and he's gonna go out ignominiously in one of the episodes.” So for me, Virgil's hanging by a thread at the end of Season 1, because Isaac comes back and Billy's in a coma, a Virgil has done these terrible things. I'm outing Grace and it looks like the whole structure is going to come down on everybody's head. But the people in Buell may be burdened and overwhelmed, but they're also durable, and they're smarter. So Season 2 will be about getting out from under some of that stuff and then being confronted with a whole new set of views. I gotta tell you Buell is a more exciting place to live than in New York City.

AA: I know sometimes the change of a network can lead to a change in some things that are or aren’t allowed. Have you noticed that change at all with the move to Prime Video?

MP: This season is a lot more fast paced. There are a lot more balls in the air that are really scary. I think Virgil's persona changes somewhat, like the way he dresses. He's a peacock on a budget and this season a rock star comes out and he's definitely a lot more flamboyant, a lot more Virgil Poe. I think they had some more creative license to play with stuff and get a little more racy.

I know I did a scene in there that is pretty racy. I don't know how much they're gonna allow, but it's pretty great. My where my son discovers me in an unfortunate trust. As far as standards and practices stuff go between the two networks, I'm not really sure if there are differences. The script is faster, more intense.

AA: There are some dramatic and emotional moments throughout this series. What do you do to prepare with your scene partners for a show like this?

M: Every actor works on his part differently, but I felt I needed to journal my past with Billy and Grace. I did a lot of journaling and imagination work that carried over from Season 1. The crazy thing about acting and homework is you do a lot of work behind the scenes to try to make something personal to you, and then you just have to forget about and see what happens in the moment.

Unfortunately for me, I felt like between Billy and Virgil is a dynamic that I lived out from the Billy perspective. I never had a father ,so I have a great deal of sympathy for this dynamic about the idea of a man trying to reconcile with his son and trying to get some redemption for being a bad dad. That's something I always wished my dad done that with me. In a way I get to move out a little wish fulfillment in this in this in this season.

AA: I bet that was great for like your inner child in a way.

MP: It was I mean, but some stuff was really hard. Like when young Billy catches me in the middle of screw around and I reject him. You know, that was super hard for me to do, because I identified the lonely kid who just wanted to show his dad that he did something great and to be shut down like that, I identified with that with him. As an actor, and as a writer too, you have to you have to go to some pretty dark places sometimes and just live through them.

AA: I know as a writer and my favorite pieces have been the most challenging; the ones that have pushed me to emotional depths.

MP: Oh yeah! I don't know how writers can do it. They have to kill their babies.. They have to be ruthless to characters and I haven't learned that yet.

A touch on an upcoming Netflix project

We finished the interview chatting about an upcoming Netflix project. Pellegrino will be in Beverly Hills: Axel Foley. He couldn’t share anything about his character, but he had something exciting for fans of the original Eddie Murphy movies.

MP: From being a Beverly Hills fan, I think people are going to be really, really happy with what they see.

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American Rust: Broken Justice drops in full on Thursday, March 28 on Prime Video.