Interview: Mitch Pileggi – SUPERNATURAL

     October 2, 2008

Written by Matt Goldberg

It’s always fun to root for Mitch Pileggi. He was the gruff but loveable bureaucrat Walter Skinner on “The X-Files” and tonight he’ll be re-teaming with some of his old “X-Files” crew as he does a guest spot on “Supernatural” as the grandfather of the show’s heroes, Sam and Dean Winchester (played by Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, respectively). I spoke with Pileggi about the role as well as his current work on “Sons of Anarchy” and his future projects.

How does your approach differ in working on a show like “Supernatural” as opposed to one more grounded in reality like “Sons of Anarchy”?

Mitch Pileggi: Well in both of them you’re dealing with monsters. But the ones are “Supernatural” are the ones who can all of a sudden disappear in a poof of smoke. It’s substantially different. “Sons of Anarchy” you’re riding around on motorcycles and dealing with crime. “Supernatural” is huge and it’s bold and it’s a lot of fun to watch.

What can you tell us about your role on “Supernatural”?

Pileggi: Not much! [laughter] I play Sam and Dean’s grandfather. Dean goes back in time; sent back by Castiel, and he meets his mother and he meets his grandparents on his mother’s side. And the character I play, he doesn’t know who this guy is and doesn’t care much for him being around the house and being around his daughter. And he’s made that introduction through [the boys’ father] John, who he doesn’t care much for either. He’s kind of a grumpy old guy like me. Fortunately, he’s not as old as he would be if they were playing it in the present time. When they said “grandfather” I said, “Whoa! Hold up!”

Judging from the behind-the-scenes footage, “Supernatural” seems like a pretty fun show to work on. Was that your experience?

Pileggi: For me it was great in that a lot of the crew were crew that worked on “The X-Files” like [director] Kim Manners and a lot of people in the front office were people I worked with on “The X-Files” so it was very much like going back to family. Jensen is the one I worked with mostly; I met with Jared briefly and they’re a couple of the nicest guys you’re ever going to meet. Working with Jensen I was very impressed and I told him I had heard many good things about the way they comported themselves on set and I was very impressed by that. He’s got a great sense of humor. He’s there to work and still have a great time. The crew loves ’em and I love that.

Were you familiar with the show before being cast?

Pileggi: I had some exposure to it but I had been given a couple episodes to watch before I did it and after I watched them, I called up [creator] Eric Kripke and asked “Why haven’t I been watching this show? It looks great, the stories are great, and the performances are great.” So I was slapping myself wondering why I hadn’t watched it.

Since there was a new “X-Files” film this past summer, I was wondering what it was like to return to the character of Walter Skinner after six years?

Pileggi: It was okay. It was a lot better having had some time rather than if we had done it shortly after. It was fine. It was great to work again with a lot of people that had worked on the show, here and in Vancouver so it was fun. And it was easy for me. I didn’t have a whole lot to do. Just came in and kicked some doors down and shouted at people, which is what I did for nine years!

What are you working on right now?

Pileggi: So far I’m still standing on “Sons of Anarchy” but all the rest of the people on the show have me in their crosshairs so I’m waiting for the bullet in the head. And I’m starting to do an episode of “Criminal Minds” and I’m also doing narration on a series.

How’s your experience been on “Sons of Anarchy”?

Pileggi: It’s a great character. I’m reluctant to talk too much about the character because of who he is and what he does and how he behaves but as an actor, it’s a hoot. I just have a ball because only one character on that show has redeeming values; everyone else is just nasty. The guy that I’m playing is about as nasty as it gets. It’s fun to play because I’m going back to my bad-guy roots.

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