Today, we talk with Peter Ciuffa, who played H.P. Lovecraft, the Gentleman from Providence himself, in Supernatural penultimate season-six episode, “Let It Bleed“.
IFP: How did you get into acting?
PC: There are two ways for me to answer that, the long way or the short way. I’ll try to find the middle ground. As a kid, I enjoyed doing skits and plays for English and Drama class, but I never pursued acting. I was into sports, especially football, which I played throughout my college years. When I graduated, I was looking for work and friends of mine were in a professional play called “Tony & Tina’s Wedding” that they said I should audition for. I told them I wasn’t an actor, but they said, for that show, I just needed to be myself. I auditioned and got the part of Johnny Nunzio, the brother of the groom, in this interactive comedy about an Italian wedding. That was my first gig. I’m sure it helped that I grew up in an Italian immigrant family. In fact, when people have asked what my first experience of theatre was, I say it was when I was seated around the big family dinners at our house. Those dinners with Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, and Friends, telling stories, laughing and arguing, is still the best theatre I have ever seen! From there, I went on to co-produce and host a travel show, train and act in NY, and now I act regularly on stage and in Film/TV.
IFP: How do you generally get roles? Is there a “type” that you tend to play?
PC: Some directors I’ve worked with before will request me to work with them again, which is an honour, but mostly I go out on auditions. I am a character actor who tends to be cast as blue collar/working class guys, immigrants, gangsters, and/or the quirky friend. Think of the roles of John Turturro, or, if you are going old school, Karl Malden. With H.P. Lovecraft, I got to play an intellectual writer in a period piece! I loved it!
IFP: How did you get the part of H.P. Lovecraft on Supernatural? Any chance you’ll be back on the show?
PC: I was called in to audition for the Producers and Director, and they had given me a scene similar to what you saw on the show, but I did not know what the backstory was and was not given the script to read. So, I did my first take, which they liked, and then John Showalter, the Director, gave me some re-directs and I did it again. They must have liked it all because I got the part! Lol…My character is dead, as far as I know, but on Supernatural, you never know who might reappear. It would be great, if it happens.
IFP: What did you do to prepare for the part? Research? Acting techniques?
PC: I always work with the script first. I try to break it down for as much information as possible, because those are the words and the situation I have to bring to life. Then I start to research historical period, character traits, costume, accent, etc. I researched HP, trying to learn as much about him as I could and then meld it with the choices I had made. Then I rehearsed it with friends and showed up on set, ready to play with whatever the director gave me. It is so much fun to act!
IFP: You’ve done a fair bit of theatre and improv. What do these bring to your acting style and career?
PC: Live theatre and improv make me a better actor. The basic skills of acting are so important when performing live, because you don’t get a second chance with a live audience. Improv allows me to work on my biggest passion, comedy. I love to make people laugh, and cry, on stage and the rush you get from telling a story with others, without a script, is amazing.
IFP: You’ve done other sci-fi/horror roles. What was it like, working on V, Fringe and Harper’s Island?
PC: I loved working on all of them. Working with people like Diane Kruger, Brad Anderson, Mel Damski, Joel Gretsch, Sanford Bookstaver, and Bryan Spicer is what makes doing these shows so amazing. Even though it is not my absolute favourite genre, sci-fi/fantasy has a special place in my heart. I remember as a young kid seeing Return of The Jedi in the theatre and being blown away. Also, watching Star Trek, Doctor Who, Planet of the Apes, Battlestar Galactica, Lord of The Rings, Excalibur, etc…has taken up many of my hours!
IFP: What is your favourite genre?
PC: Comedy and Magical Realism!! The best comedies are those that tell a good story, where interesting characters are put in absurd situations. Think Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou?, The 40 Year Old Virgin, Wedding Crashers, The Pink Panther, Young Frankenstein, The Honeymooners, Carol Burnett; (British Comedies) ‘Allo, ‘Allo, Black Adder; (Canadian Comedies) Kids in The Hall, SCTV, etc. As far as Magical Realism, think Edward Scissorhands, It’s a Wonderful Life, Life is Beautiful, Cinema Paradiso, Amélie, Big Fish, The Princess Bride, etc.
IFP: How do you think being a Canadian actor differs from working in Hollywood, or in other countries like the UK?
PC: In Canada, we have great and talented actors, directors, producers, and technicians. The hard part is that our domestic TV and film production is small in comparison to the U.S. or UK, so we develop talent, but are not always able to keep our people here. If you look at Hollywood, it’s full of Canadians who managed to get their Visa or Green Card and have succeeded. As a percentage of our population, I’m sure there are more Canadian artists working in Hollywood than artists from any other country.
IFP: What is your favourite Lovecraft or other horror story?
PC: I will be honest: I have not read Lovecraft, but in researching him, I began to realize how much of his mythology has found its way into our modern culture. I collected comic books voraciously as a kid and I realized that HP’s creations had touched so many modern myths like Batman, Ghostbusters, etc. My favourite horror story from when I was a kid, which still sticks with me today, was Stephen King’s It. I saw it as the TV movie and it was creepy. Funny thing is, I love clowns. The spider at the end wasn’t that impressive, though! Lol!
IFP: If you could be a character or monster from a Lovecraft story, which one would you be?
PC: A good guy, maybe a loveable loser, who gets it in the end!
IFP: Like your version of Lovecraft in “Let It Bleed”, perhaps!
PC: You are absolutely right, Paula! I never realized that the character I just described is exactly the one I got to play!!
IFP: I see that you have an official page. How do you think the acting profession is changing for new actors in terms of dealing with publicity and promotion?
PC: As an actor, it is not good enough to simply work on your craft, anymore. You need to understand that it is show business. The show is the art. Business is business! Lol! The key is to love acting and keep working on it, as you could have all the publicity in the world, but if you can’t act, there will come a day when you won’t work. The internet has just allowed us artists to show and promote our talents to the world. Or ‘worlds’ as, correct me if I’m wrong, Lovecraft would have written.
IFP: Do you have any upcoming projects?
PC: I just finished filming an episode of Eureka, directed by Mike Rohl, and an amazing play called “Let Me Up“, in which I played two characters. Now I’m performing improv regularly with the Vancouver Theatresports League.
IFP: What is your dream project?
PC: To work on an epic film with a great director, especially a comedy or period piece. Here is my dream list of directors to work with, in no particular order in case they read this. By the way, I am open to working with any other directors out there, too. Lol:
Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, the Cohen Brothers, Tim Burton, Clint Eastwood, Mel Brooks, Giuseppe Tornatore, Jason Reitman, Ridley Scott, Roberto Benigni, Terry Gilliam, David Cronenberg, Norman Jewison, and Peter Jackson.
Just wanted to thank you so much for the interview Paula, and invite your readers to keep up to date with my career at my IMDB page http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3148295/!!!
God Bless and all the best to everyone at Innsmouth Free Press, and keep up the writing and publishing! Here is one of my favourite quotes about art as a parting shot:
“It is one of the prodigious privileges of Art that…suffering put to rhythm and cadence may fill the mind with a calm joy.” Charles Pierre Baudelaire
Bio: Peter Ciuffa was born and raised in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He trained in NYC at the Neighborhood Playhouse and with Maggie Flanigan, and acted in numerous off-Broadway productions. Since leaving NYC, he has appeared on Fringe, Psych, V, Harper’s Island, Eureka, and in various indie films. His latest role was on the season 6 finale of the CW’s Supernatural, playing famed writer H.P. Lovecraft.