When writing a tribute to someone on a fansite such as this, I have to be reminded that not everyone will share the same feelings as mine about the subject, however, I’m also reminded that if you’re here you obviously share an affinity for Mitch Pileggi and his work…so I’ll gush as I like.
Like a lot of people I first found Mitch as Assistant Director Walter S. Skinner on the FOX series THE X-FILES. As the strong, silent, stoically enigmatic boss who kept watch over Special Agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), Skinner had to trod a fine line between his handlers in Cancer Man (William B. Davis) and his own desire to do what was right and for Mitch, that offered up the opportunity to define one of the most memorable characters ever to grace the small screen. Oh, and did I mention he looked just too damn sexy in that bureaucratic chic wardrobe? I know, “Shallow much.”
There was an undefinable quality to Mitch’s character that allowed a humanity to shine through his performance as Skinner despite what could largely be considered a ‘one note’ role. These types of parts usually end up as thankless and forgetful, however, Mitch didn’t allow that stigma to fall upon him. What I saw in Mitch’s deft handling of the role was a man deeply conflicted and completely overwhelmed by the forces around him. Not knowing if he was a believer or a skeptic always kept Skinner interesting. And that a Mitch’s forte…interesting. Mitch’s non-traditional looks meant he needed to work a little harder for the recognition other lesser, more ‘attractive’ actors in his position seemed to take for granted. He always seemed to be striving for something beyond the confines of the role entailed. Skinner offered Mitch that chance to bring something different to THE X-FILES, something ELSE.
There is an inborn naturalism with Mitch, an ease that makes his acting seamless. He doesn’t resort to hystrionics in order to get his point across, rather, he keeps it real. There is a humility to Mitch that brings one in and challenges. He doesn’t sit back on his laurels which is why Mitch is one of the most intriguing character actors around today. It’s also his unconventional sex appeal and ‘guys guy’ likeability that lures and hooks one into believing in whatever character his playing.
After initially catching Mitch in THE X-FILES, I’d realized I’d see him somewhere before…somewhere unexpected. That place I’d seen him before was the Wes Craven film SHOCKER where Mitch played the part of Hoarce Pinker, serial killer and general bad guy. And that was funny because I’d never have equated Pinker’s over-the-top obviousness to Skinner’s staid, somewhat introverted nature. Two totally different roles, but one actor who brought both to life in that unique way Mitch has. He doesn’t do pretty boy. Mitch’s raison d’être is to bring to each role a bit of something you’ve never seen before, something within him we all can either relate to, or haven’t discovered. His ernestness of presence makes him hard to ignore whether he’s playing bad guys like Pinker, or good guys like Skinner, or those everyman roles we can see a bit of ourselves. In a recent episode of the CBS series CRIMINAL MINDS, Mitch played the part of Norman Hill in the episode Normal. Mitch underplayed the role so much, it was hard to figure out where he was actually acting. The explosion of anger and violence Norman exhibited came from that innate sense of understanding of the human condition Mitch has experienced having lived in the world. But he didn’t resort to camp. In what could be arguably one of Mitch’s best roles, it’s criminal Mitch didn’t garner himself an Emmy nod for the role. In the old days, it was this kind of going beyond that comfort zone that once made these awards shows so prestigious and the award highly coveted. With the proclivity to nominate the same people year-after-year, rolls like Norman Hill and by extension his portrayer Mitch Pileggi, get lost in the glut of no-talents. Mitch could easily compete against the oft nominated James Gandolfini and Hugh Laurie with ease. The problem, if there is one, is Mitch flies under the radar. He’s not showy.
Mitch’s professionalism has garnered himself respect in the way he’s taken on many various recurring roles in some of the industry’s top network and cable shows. As DEA Agent Jack Hammond in NBC’s LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICITMS UNIT, Colonel Steven Caldwell in cable’s STARGATE: ATLANTIS, FX’s SONS OF ANARCHY as Neo-Nazi and head of the NORDICS Ernest Darby, ABC’s GREY’S ANATOMY as Dr. Larry Jennings head of the board of Seatlle Grace, and as the demon hunter Samuel Campbell on the CW’s SUPERNATURAL, Mitch has shown a diversity in the roles he’s played. And no two performances are the same. Mitch is not ready to sit back on his laurels. He’s always willing to learn something new with each performance. Typcasting is not a word one would use for Mitch. Even as the corporate executive in FLASH OF GENIUS starring Greg Kinnear, Mitch displayed a smarminess one has to wonder if in his travails during his work as a Defense Contractor back before he took up acting, if Mitch had come across men like Macklin Tyler which gave him the insite on how to play such characters. And in the end I believe it is that worldliness of the journeyman Mitch pulls from for each role he undertakes. His intrinsic nature acting as a guide, taking him into perhaps known or unknown territory with ease.
Most actors would just sit back and collect the accolades and continue to slum it, but not Mitch. He has an inner drive that forces him to continue to make each part his best. And that’s what his fans have come to expect of him. At no point does he play the prima donna. Mitch is always eager to attend a fan gathering for whichever show calls. He’s a favourite at conventions and takes time for everyone who comes to his table. He always has a smile and a willingness to give to his fans his time and consideration, and one gets the feeling from him that it’s not about him, but the enjoyment of it. That’s what makes Mitch such a kind hearted person. He’s at ease within whatever forum he’s in. I think in the end what will be said of Mitch is that he’s not only a gentleman, but a true human being taking in this thing we call the human experience. Mitch also is a loving family man, something that makes this man who and what he is. That love of his wife Arlene and their daughter Sawyer brings this man to a state of grace. Any of the images there are of him with Arlene and Sawyer shows him as not only loving, but embracing of being both husband and father, as if he’s waited his whole life to be both. The fact that Mitch has granted this much access to himself shows he’s a man who is comfortable sharing this part of himself with the public. While most would shy away from exposing this much of his private life, Mitch isn’t. He trusts his fans know the difference between the lines and won’t betray that nor cross that line. And I don’t think most would. They know how much his family means to him.
The fans have embraced Mitch with two factions: The Mitch Pileggi Estrogen Brigade and The Screaming Pileggis, bot equally ecstatic on their love of all things Mitch. There is also a Yahoo group dedicated to all things Mitchly called Mitch Pics. Along with various websites, forums dedicated to the various television shows Mitch has appeared on, all make up a good cross-section of people dedicated to this man. And their dedication is not lost on Mitch. He’s again humble with the adoration, though again, he’s not all ‘big headed’ about it. Mitch’s recent return to the CW show SUPERNATURAL brought about a collective sigh from Mitch’s fans, but also by the stars of the show Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, prompting Padalecki to remark: It’s great. He’s a great actor. I grew up watching The X-Files. I was a big fan of him and he’s just a cool guy who brings a unique energy to the show, and a great maturity. And he has this sort of like, big strong, man’s man kind of feel to him. So you trust him as a hunter. It’s almost like having dad back. He’s like a man’s man…He brings some great things to the character, so. I can’t wait to see where it goes.”. Praise has been equal in coming for Mitch from those he’s worked with. This type of goodwill has made Mitch welcomed back to many high profile shows where he’s appeared in a recurring status.
All in all, my decision to create this website was due in large part to wanting to share my love of Mitch with you, those denizens on the WWW. I know for me, ever since finding him as Walter Skinner has not been for nothing. It’s been a joy and a boon to discover Mitch’s other work and to enjoy his continued work whether that be in the science fiction, paranormal, dramatic, comedy, venues, whatever. Mitch has never let me down in giving me, the viewer, what I know I’ll get from him, which is a hell of a performance. And it is to that excellence I dedicate this website.
Thanks Mitch for your continued humility and your great bottomless soul.
Dianne B. Dee
07 November 2010