You may know him from the FX series "Rescue Me," but actor Steven Pasquale paid his dues on stage first. He recently moved to network television with the NBC drama "Do No Harm." The contemporary Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde saga has him playing the dual roles of earnest neurosurgeon Jason Cole and bad boy alter ego Ian Price. Raised in Hershey, Pa., Mr. Pasquale found his way into acting in high school. Off-screen, the 36-year-old is married to Tony Award-winning actress Laura Benanti. They have a daughter and live in New York City. "Do No Harm" premieres Thursday at 10 p.m.
Playing this dual role, do you ever find yourself mixing up the nuances of the characters, especially the facial expressions?
You know, I don't because my strategy going into it was just to treat the Jason Cole story and Ian Price's story as two separate movies. So there is occasional behavior that overlaps, but they are just two completely different guys. I am just trying to play each as if it weren't a story about them sharing the same body.
So when you are shooting, is it all Ian scenes and then you go to all Jason scenes?
God, I wish we did. It would be awesome to, like, do two or three days of Jason and then two or three days of Ian. What ends up happening is you shoot based on your location. So if it's, let's say, my apartment, then we shoot all of the stuff that happens at the apartment, and that oftentimes is Jason and Ian. We do a lot of finishing a scene, changing my clothes, running back up and then it's Ian. At this point, we are six months in, so I have wrapped my brain around the two of them pretty well. Early on, I was very nervous in terms of how different to make them, how severe to make their differences. But after seeing the re-cut pilot, I hope we are in the right direction.
You have done so much stage work. Is television a breeze in comparison?
Television is a completely 1,000 percent different skill set than being on stage. You know, I was on stage in Pittsburgh with "Miss Saigon" in 1997, Heinz Hall. I remember it well. I also played Heinz Hall with "West Side Story" in 1996. So I have spent significant periods in Pittsburgh.
You grew up in Pennsylvania farm country, so was the goal always to get out and live an urban life?
Yeah, central Pennsylvania, Hershey. I didn't realize what a love affair I would have with big city life until I got to New York City. In a place like New York, granted it's utterly unique, you can get and have and do anything you want at any time of any day. It's bursting with culture and the cream of the crop in all walks of life. That sort of energy really excites me. So I've had a love affair with big city life ever since I moved from my small town. But I have some very fond memories of growing up there.
Are your parents still in Hershey?
My parents retired to New York City, and my brother and both of my sisters ended up in New York City. We are all New York City transplants from Pennsylvania.
So when did you realize you had enough talent to make it as an actor?
Well, listen, the jury is still out. We'll see. I think when I was like 17 or 18 years old I thought, "I think there is something in me. I really believe I can make a career in doing this."
Now I didn't define what that was, whether it was just being a broke regional theater actor or a Broadway actor. I just wanted to dip my toe in the pool and see if I could, you know, make a life as an actor.
Did you study acting, go to college for it or get into it right from high school?
Pretty much right from high school. I went to [Southern Methodist University] in Dallas, Texas, for a semester, and I was in the process of transferring out when I auditioned for the National Touring Company of "West Side Story" in New York City. I booked that job and went out on the road for a year. Then I went out on the road for three years with "Miss Saigon," and I played 60, 70, 80 American cities when everyone else my age was in college. I had really sort of incredible on-the-job training doing eight shows a week. It was a rank-and-file, front-line, storytelling sort of way, so I learned an enormous amount about acting and storytelling and singing and being on stage as a very, very young person. When I got to New York, I felt pretty equipped to tackle life as an actor having done 31/2, four years of touring.
How intensely do you get involved in a character?
It completely depends on the project, to be honest. I'm not one of those actors who wants to live in some kind of dark character and wants to live in the darkness so much that no one around me has any fun. When you work on a television set, the crew busts their butt so long every day that I feel like it's sometimes an extra burden if the actor that they are dealing with's process is so dark that it's uncomfortable to be around. So I try to keep it light at work.
I'm guessing you like playing the bad guy better, so do you have to take care to give the good guy character as much attention to detail?
Of course. He is so deeply good that I don't worry about his likability factor. His sole reason for existing is to help people, and because of Ian Price's existence, he feels like there could be a lot of harm done in the world. He feels if he can keep the scale from tipping in that direction by helping people as a doctor, then he is going to stick around.
What have you learned about yourself in playing these two characters?
Well, I've learned that I actually am Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Every night I completely become a different person. I'm very different at 8:25 p.m. than I am for the rest of the day. In terms of this show, all that means is I become a sleeping zombie. It's an exhausting schedule, so when I get home at 8 or 9 o'clock, I fall into bed with my shoes on and wait for my alarm to wake me up the next day. But who doesn't relate to the good and bad in all of us? I certainly do.
Well, it's more like the idea that we compartmentalize our lives to some extent.
Ian Price doesn't have a buffer or a hesitation button in him when he says anything or makes decisions. Whereas Jason, who is a deeply earnest and good person, is really calculating about what he says and he does. Both I find strangely admirable qualities.
Now you can always say "Ian did it" when things don't go well at home.
Exactly. If I screw up in my actual life I can just say, "Hey, man, I was in character. Sorry I trashed that hotel room. Ian did it."
Speaking of your personal life, you are married to an award-winning actress. Do you run things by her, and are acting and characters a big topic around the house?
No, actually not at all. You know, our life is very complicated because she is working on a television show in Los Angles and living there, and I'm working here in Philadelphia. So it's the sort of classic bittersweet Hollywood story of two actors doing very well but not getting nearly enough time together. So our conversations tend to be about real life and not so much about work. Of course, as artists, we talk about the ups and downs and the frustrations, etc., depending on the day.
Last question: When you broke it to your parents that this is what you wanted to do, how did they react?
Their initial reaction was like, "Great, so you've picked the one thing in the world where it's like not a real job. Sweet. That's gonna make us feel really relaxed about the future."
But then they started coming and seeing me in plays at school and maybe saw that there was a spark of something that could be real. They have been incredibly supportive ever since then, to be honest, since I was 18.mobilehome - breakfast