Mark Povinelli’s road to his acting career stands out as unique even in a world of unusual and varied paths to the stage. Sometimes it is an unexpected life experience that prepares you best for an audience. He says that as a little person he grew up with an awareness that he differed from the people in his life and realized early that he was, so to speak, on stage all the time. People were looking at him. His first stage appearance at the age of 7 was a 2nd grade talent show for which his mother dressed him with a blond wig and a lollipop. Yes, of course, Shirley Temple. Could he dance? Could he sing? Maybe, but he says with a laugh that seeing a 7 year-old in drag may have been the real draw. There was a powerful realization here for Mark. On stage he saw that he was in charge of who was looking at him and why. He could make people cry and he could make people laugh, and he knew acting was his passion.
His first professional role after graduated from college was with a small children’s theater doing a Rumplestiltskin. He says, “No doubt there are advantages. In LA, when there was a need for a little person I was there.” In Dharma and Greg he played a lawyer actually, but still, as a little person at the hands of the ever politically correct Dharma who kept stumbling on her words that evoked short, or a little person being mistaken for a child.
The disadvantages are clear as well, because with his resume he should be able to walk into any door, but he says people have trouble seeing him for the part of a lawyer. Silly, really, as if lawyers need to be a certain height and particularly odd given that Mark would have become a lawyer if he had not gone into acting. He understands that casting directors are in a tough spot because they are accountable to directors and producers. He is okay with the reality that not every actor gets to play every kind of a role because he has a good sense of who he is, thanks to parents who let him know his difference did not define his future.
He says he had formed so much of his identity as a little person who was different, and he knew how to make the most of it socially. He was the only little person in his social circle until, at the age of 19, he went to his first Little People Convention and found that his size did not make him special at all. Everyone in sight was a little person, and he was faced with the sudden challenge of having to find out who he was outside of his size. He wanted to walk right out of the room. He smiles broadly as he says he met his met his wife there that summer. He saw her at breakfast one morning and said to himself, ‘I am going to marry this person.’ It was terrible. I was way to young to want this.” She noticed him two years later, and they waited 6 years to get married. He says his real job is his family. Taking care of his children because when he is not acting he is home.
As for the relationships that come to life on the stage or the movie set, he says it is “odd to meet on a given day and then enter into what you would have to call an intimate relationship. You get close quickly. You meet such interesting people and all formalities of social constructs are out the window for the intense magnetic relationships, and then the job is over and you go your separate ways. You spend all you time for a long time and then it goes away. That is why I work hard at having an ordinary real life. My wife, two kids, dogs and cats and a very mundane life. My safety net of coming back home and knowing where I belong.”
To listen to him talk about his personal journey is a joy all its own. Mark is a smart, funny, engaging, energizing and truly gracious man in whose company people are safe and welcome.
His love letter? Maybe one to Reese Witherspoon for her role in making him so at ease in doing Water For Elephants. Maybe his brothers? Mark lives in a loving safe world of people who have been important in his life, so it could be to anyone, or more than one.
From me to you with love in the air,
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