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Interview: Mark Gagliardi

With all of the craziness going on in the world today, viewers need a way to escape the madness, if only for an hour each week. Well, the new CBS series Blood & Treasure is the show that will help you escape!

Blood & Treasure follows a brilliant antiquities expert and a cunning art thief who team up to catch a ruthless terrorist who funds his attacks through stolen treasure. Along for this incredible ride is actor Mark Gagliardi, who plays Father Chuck.

You can think of Mark as a jack of all trades. He holds a BFA in Acting from DePaul University and has appeared on stage and in television and film. Add to that the several podcasts he’s a part of and his hit series Drunk History, you have a man who stays busy and has a wealth of knowledge and skills to draw from.

We had the pleasure of speaking with Mark about his new CBS series Blood & Treasure. We discuss his character, Father Chuck, what fans can look forward to with the first season and we also talk about his series Drunk History.

Pop Culture Principle – What was it about the pilot script for Blood & Treasure that made you want to sign on to the project?

Mark Gagliardi – Matt Federman and Stephen Scaia, who are the creators of the show, and I are very similar nerds because we love the same things. We love big epic movies like Indiana Jones and Star Wars movies. We all grew up roughly the same time, so we had the same point of reference as kids.

So, when I read the script, I thought that this script was really fun and a throwback to these big summer blockbusters that I knew growing up and also because of the way they wrote their script, I really loved the way they wrote action scenes. They had boldface; Batman-style comic book sound effects written into the script. I thought it was just so much fun and it pops off the page and you really love the characters. Plus, Father Chuck was a really fun and cool character to get to read for.

Pop Culture Principle – Can you tell us a little bit about your character Father Chuck and how he fits in the world of Blood & Treasure?

Mark Gagliardi – Father Chuck and one of the two lead characters Danny are childhood best friends. Father Chuck took a different path were Danny became an antiquities expert and Father Chuck became a Jesuit priest. He worked his way up until he is now within the foreign ministry of the Vatican, which comes in real handy when you have a television show about international treasure hunters.

It’s fun to get to play a priest because as a priest, I get to be a sounding board for the other characters which is really nice because we get some great acting moments. I would like to eventually swing in on a rope with a big sword, but for now, Father Chuck will just ask someone why they are doing that. 😊

Pop Culture Principle – Your character provides a lot of the comedy moments in the series so far. With your background, are you allowed to improvise at all during those moments or do you stick strictly to the script?

Mark Gagliardi – I have to say; we have an amazing team of writers and 99.9 percent of it is their work. I’m on this show strictly as an actor, but every once and a while, they let me throw in a line here and there, which is really fun and its very kind of them to let me do that. I think they let me do it because I have that same frame of reference and we are all the fan of the same stuff. Father Chuck at his core is a fan who recognizes that this whole experience is like a movie.

Pop Culture Principle – Now even though your character is involved with a lot of the comedic aspects of the show, you do get to have those serious moments as well. How do you enjoy playing those scenes?

Mark Gagliardi – Man, I love it. I grew up acting in all kinds of things, but as an adult, I geared more towards comedy. I hadn’t really done any on-camera drama, in fact, I had done so little, when I was auditioning for the show, they couldn’t even find any tape of me doing dramatic scenes, so I put a couple on tape for them.

But that’s what I grew up doing. Acting is acting and comedy is just one style. Truth is truth on screen or on stage. So, I did get to tap into some actor skills that I haven’t used in a long time. I’ll tell you this, playing a dramatic scene, I found myself having to pull back a lot because working mostly in comedy, I deal more in broad strokes. In the second episode that I appeared in, I have a small scene on a couch with Lexi. It’s a very quiet scene of two people getting to know each other. One person changing their mind about the other one and it’s fun to get to play those small moments.

Pop Culture Principle – We read in a previous interview that the show does shot around some pretty old artifacts and you’d worry about breaking them during shooting. Is that true?

Mark Gagliardi – Yes. We shot in the Vatican library and I was worried that I would hurt a book that is a thousand years old! When you first get to Rome, I’m looking around at everything and thinking all this stuff is ancient and what if I touch this building which has been around for thousands of years and it crumbles. Then I realized, there have been tourists in this city for two thousand years and if it hasn’t crumbled by now, me leaning up against an ancient ruin is not going to hurt anything and from that point, I became very tactile in my experiences in Rome.

Pop Culture Principle – Do you think people comparing this series to National Treasure or say The Librarian helps or hurts your series?

Mark Gagliardi – When the show first came out, I like any good neurotic actor read all of the reviews that came out. There were a few that had the complaint that the show seemed derivative and my initial thought was yea, duh! This entire series is an homage. I think people have caught on as more people have watched the show and as more episodes have aired, that we are constantly quoting all of our influences in this show. I think we do have self-awareness of standing on the shoulders of other works and I hope that people don’t consider us ripping them off, I hope people consider what we are doing an homage because we approach these other properties with so much love and respect.

Pop Culture Principle – Do you think viewers need an escapist show like Blood & Treasure to take their minds off all the craziness going on in the world today, if only for a little while?

Mark Gagliardi – I do. I think that has always been to me, an important element of entertainment, especially mass broadcast entertainment like this. It’s summertime and you want to take a beach read to the beach with you. There is a place for the golden age of television that we are in right now and there are very wonderful, very important shows out there, but I don’t feel like taking a serious show to the beach with me. Sometimes you just want to watch some action and see some explosions and not be too serious.

Pop Culture Principle – What can fans look forward to with the rest of the first season of Blood & Treasure?

Mark Gagliardi – Fans can expect twists and turns. There are characters that we think are good that might turn out not to be and there are characters that you think are bad that might turn out not to be. That is one of the beauties of an action and adventure show is all the twists and turns it can take.

I think they can look forward to a show that also follows some really cool history stories that are definitely worth diving into as the episode finishes. There is a lot of fun stuff that we have in store. It’s so hard because I don’t know what I can give away.

I will tell you this though. We were all sitting around one night at our hangout bar playing a game of action show bucket list which is where all of the actors said what they would like to do in an action show. I think Matt and Stephen worked everyone’s action show bucket list moment into the series. So, I challenge all of your readers, fans, and people who watch the show, see if you can guess which things were each person’s action show bucket list item. That was one of the moments that I knew I was on a special show that has a really fun group of people creating it.

Pop Culture Principle – Your back for another episode of Drunk History. How have you enjoyed working on that series?

Mark Gagliardi – I love it. It’s one of those things that started on my couch and now it’s on television in its sixth season. It blows my mind that this has become a thing. I watched this series grow from the beginning and it’s not like something that already existed that I jumped into.

When I did it first, it was on my couch and it wasn’t a show, so I watched it grow around Derek and Jeremy. Watching something like that take off for two of the most creative, funny and talented people I know, Derek Waters and Jeremy Konner has been an absolute joy and I’m happy to come back and play when I can. I usually can’t do more than one per season because any more would probably kill a person. 😊

Pop Culture Principle – Do you think viewers might be surprised that a lot of actual research goes into every episode of Drunk History?

Mark Gagliardi – There is a lot of research. We get about a month to learn our story once we’ve chosen our story and then there’s a great historian for the show who is also one of the executive producers. They will give you a call about a week before to make sure that you know the story. For me, I always go overboard when I do it. They tell me that I give them way too much and they have to tell me what to focus on. The producers are really good at distilling out the important and funny details because I’ll go off on tangents.

Pop Culture Principle – What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about getting into the entertainment industry?

Mark Gagliardi – I would say first and foremost, be fearless and find your tribe. I don’t think that individuals excel in this business, I think groups excel in this business. For me, it’s always been about finding the ensemble that I love, finding people that I love working with and find people that will elevate you. Also, you need to work hard. Acting is not an easy job and it’s easy to give up on, but if you are good at it, passionate about it and can’t imagine doing anything else, work hard and find your tribe.

Pop Culture Principle – What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about getting into the entertainment industry?

Mark Gagliardi – I’ve got two podcasts going on right now. One is called We Got This with Mark and Hal. It’s me and a friend of mine and we settle barguments. Our first episode being should you put ketchup on a hot dog or not and believe it or not, we got an hour out of that topic. I am also doing a podcast for Blood & Treasure called Pod & Treasure. I’ll be at Dragon Con in the fall, hopefully between episodes in Season 2 if that happens. Lots of fun stuff and exciting things happening.

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We would like to thank Mark for taking time out of his schedule to talk with us. You can catch new episodes of Blood & Treasure every Tuesday night at 10/9c only on CBS. Mark will return to Drunk History in a brand new episode on June 30th on the History Channel. If you'd like to keep up with Mark's latest news and projects, you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @MarkGags!

**Blood & Treasure photos courtesy of Kharen Hill/Kimberly Ross/CBS**

**All other photos courtesy of Jenn KL**

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