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(Since Oct. 7, 1999)
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seaQuest: Peter & Michael DeLuise
Profile By Bob Andelman
(Originally published in Sci-Fi Universe)
The first thing you notice about
Peter DeLuise is what's missing his hair. His head is shorn clean
for the role of Dagwood, the mutant with superhuman strength
and mild-mannered temper on seaQuest DSV. It's
not a subject he enjoys discussing.
"It's terrible," he says, shaking his smooth
noggin. "Just awful. You couldn't have picked a worse subject.
I dunno something about a bald head. It doesn't do anything
for anybody. I shaved it in July. It's been touch and go ever
since. Every time I wake up, I go, 'Oh, my God, what have I done?'
I just keep trying to remember that I don't really like being
out of work."
Not talking about his bald head on the set, attention is further
attracted by the reticulated splotches all over it would be like
not asking Leonard Nimoy about the ears 25 years ago. And DeLuise's
willingness to cut his hair off won him the job.
"Patrick Hasburgh worked with Peter and his brother, Michael,
on 21 Jump Street," says executive producer
David J. Burke. "He wanted Michael to play Tony Piccolo;
I thought that was great. And one day he said to me, 'I think
Peter DeLuise should play Dagwood.' Now, we had used Peter in
another episode. I was concerned about it; Patrick said don't
worry about it. Then when Peter came in with his head shaved,
I didn't recognize him."
The DeLuise brothers bear only a passing resemblance out of makeup
and none in greasepaint. They played sibs on Jump Street,
the last time they worked together. Separately, the sons of actor
Dom DeLuise (who played Piccolo's fathers in the Vapors
episode) have appeared in a variety of films and TV shows.
Michael's film credits include:
The Man Without a Face, Encino Man, Wayne's World,
and Midnight Edition. On television, he plays Dennis
Franz's son on NYPD Blue. Peter, who for five seasons
played a cop alongside Johnny Depp in Jump Street,
has done guest spots in numerous TV shows and appeared in several
movies, including Solar Babies, Rescue Me, Hot Stuff,
and Free Ride.
On seaQuest, Michael plays an ex-con named Tony
Piccolo. "He has gills on his back," Michael explains.
"He can stay in the water for any amount of time. He comes
from New York and has a cocky attitude." That may come from
Piccolo's time in prison. He was once human, but traded his humanity
to be a GELF genetically engineered life form which earned him
an early release from prison
Peter's character, Dagwood, is also a GELF. He's also the janitor
"I'm a genetically engineered combat soldier made up of
all the different races of the world African-American, Native
American, Asian, Mediterranean, WASP," he says. "I'm
the prototype but the experiment wasn't quite what they hoped
for. They wanted a real killer and they got kind of a gentle
giant sort of guy. I'm a hairless, genetic mutant with superhuman
strength, a constant reminder of why man should not mess with
nature. Kind of a cross to bear by the technology. Because you
can't just create a life and, if it doesn't work out, just erase
it, take it away. That's part of the problem of experimenting
with genetics. So now I clean up and kick ass once in a while."
The name "Dagwood" comes from the root, D.A.G. Dark
Age of Genetics. It's the period of time during which Dagwood
and Piccolo are created, only to have genetically-engineered
soldiers outlawed. "Daggers has a double meaning because
daggers are killers, a killing utensil," Peter says. "But
it's also a racial slur. I give myself the name 'Dagwood the
Dagger' because I think it's funny. I'm sooo messed up."
"One of the misconceptions about my character people think
I'm dumb. I'm not dumb. I'm emotionally an adolescent,"
Peter says. "I've got emotions, but I don't know what to
do with them. I don't know about the human condition very much.
I'm like Starman an intellect stuck in a human body, but he didn't
know how to use it properly. Or Lenny, from Of Mice and
Men. Again, a huge guy but he's this gentle giant who
just wants to pet the bunny rabbits. Or the Wookie from Star
Wars, Chewbacca. He's totally misunderstood, a huge guy,
but he's not dumb."
If you're guessing Peter has more than a passing interest in
sci-fi, you're right.
"I'm a big time Trekker," he says. "I'm into Fangoria,
heavy makeup. I've done a couple of 'B' horror films. Totally
loved Blade Runner. I'm heavy into science fiction."
Notice he didn't mention seaQuest? Neither DeLuise
brother watched the show in its first season.
"We usually go out," Peter says. "Me and Michael
are very popular, so we usually go out over the weekend."
"We go to Star Trek conventions," Michael
says, choking back a giggle.
"Or we're watching old Spielberg classics," Peter says.
"Like Jaws." (Steven Spielberg's studio,
Amblin, produces seaQuest DSV.)
Of the two, Michael's time in makeup is the easiest. His gills
are only visible when he takes his shirt off for underwater scenes.
Peter, on the other hand, is in makeup daily, where continuity
requires he have the same colorful splotches in the same place
each time out.
"They have pictures of me that they use every time,"
he says. "I've got about four different colors. They use
acrylic paint, mixed with medical adhesive. It's sprayed on with
an airbrush. It takes approximately an hour and a half depending
on whether I'm squirming or not squirming. This week I got to
shave my legs. A real big thrill. Last week, I shaved
my chest and my forearms."
Did he have any concerns about wearing so much body paint for
such long stretches of time?
"I heard Brent Spiner (Data from Star Trek: The Next
Generation) got a facial like every week. Did he have
a reaction?" Peter asks. "I hope I don't have
a reaction. Thank God medical adhesive is biodegradable. I'm
sure one of these days I'm going to need a superpowerful laxative
to plow through all of this gunk."
Not surprisingly, Peter loves the idea of his work being enhanced
by special effects and computer graphics. "That's the bonus!"
he says. "If you're into science fiction, it's cool. What
if we were just on a regular show, with no special effects. That
could be boring!"
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