CBS All Access continues to welcome seasoned theatre actors to its programming, and Peter Mark Kendall is no exception. The star of Strange Angel, which returns for its second season June 13, boasts a theatre pedigree that includes Broadway’s most recent revival of Six Degrees of Separation and Off-Broadway’s Blue Ridge at Atlantic Theatre Company.
He’s also been featured in LCT3’s The Harvest and Mercury Fur at New York’s Signature Center. But viewers may know him best from television series like Girls, Chicago Med, The Americans, and now the historical sci-fi drama.
Following the life of Jack Parsons, a 1940s rocket scientist and cult member who believed people could control their own fate through sex magick, Strange Angel is also the story of two friends: Jack and Kendall’s character Richard Onstead, his science partner.
“I love his big heart that sometimes gets hidden because of his difficulty in connecting to other people,” says Kendall of his character. Before Angel, Kendall’s love for science came from astronomy. “I have very fond memories of driving at night with my father, looking up into the sky, trying to wrap my 10-year-old head around the vastness of space,” says Kendall. “Those are some of my favorite conversations I’ve ever had with my dad.”
Here, he talks about his theatre roots, his theatrical collaborators who made an impact, and more.
What was your first professional job?
I played Lucentio in Taming of the Shrew at the Baltimore Shakespeare Festival in the summer of 2008. I learned so much about acting and Shakespeare, performing outside in swampy 100-degree Baltimore heat.
What was the stage show that has most influenced you?
In recent years, it was A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing at Baryshnikov Arts Center. It was a one-woman show performed by the brilliant Aoife Duffin. It was the kind of acting I admire the most. She was so simple, and yet she completely emptied the tank. A friend invited me to the show, and I went knowing nothing about what we were about to see. I love that.
Is there a stage moment you witnessed (from the audience, from the wings, in rehearsal) that stays with you?
In 2006, my brother and sister-in-law took me to Two Trains Running at the Signature Theatre in NYC. During the climax of the play, Frankie Faison was beautifully performing a moment of catharsis for his character. However, I couldn’t take my eyes off of the brilliant Ron Cephas Jones, who was just listening and taking in the choices of his castmate. He was so open, present, and simple, that his reaction became the most profound part of the play for me.
What’s been the biggest challenge of your career?
Trying to embrace the lack of certainty.
What’s been the most rewarding experience onstage for you?
Playing Brick opposite Harris Yulin in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, directed by Lisa Rothe.
Who is a collaborator (from the theatre) that made you better?
Taibi Magar. I’ve admired her ever since we went to grad school together at Brown/Trinity. She’s my favorite kind of director. She sits down in the muck with her actors, in such a kind, patient and empathetic way. She can give you the simplest note, that unlocks volumes about the character for you.
How do you balance stage and screen? Do you want to?
I try to do at least a play a year. If it were up to me, I would do half theatre, half TV/film work. I’m incredibly lucky and grateful to work on Strange Angel, but it creates a small window of time I’m available to audition for plays at the moment.
Favorite part of doing TV that’s different from the theatre?
I love the pace of TV. It always feels like you are flying by the seat of your pants. It’s good for me not to have time to over think choices. I think it makes me a better actor.