Pico Alexander

AGE: 25. ALMA MATER: Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers. SEEN IN: A Most Violent Year; Simon Stephens’s play Punk Rock at the Lucille Lortel Theatre in New York. UP NEXT: The Philip Roth adaptation Indignation directed by James Schamus and War Machine, alongside Brad Pitt.

EMMA BROWN: What was your first professional role?

PICO ALEXANDER: I was in the second grade. I can’t remember the name of the play for the life of me, but it was some kitchen-sink family drama about a son returning from a war at BAM. Very naturalistic. At one point, somebody loses it, and ten of my friends from second grade and I run out screaming around the dining room table. I got $200 for that. Bought myself a pair of Rollerblades; put the other $100 into savings.

BROWN: Do you come from a creative family?

ALEXANDER: I’d say so. My dad is a cinematographer, my grandfather was an actor in Poland, and my mom went to music school back in Poland. I was always watching movies and visiting my dad on set. My earliest memory is Cop Land [1997] with Sylvester Stallone. He was sitting in a car and he invited me to come sit with him. On the take, I remember he had me duck down in the front seat of the car. I remember Analyze This [1999]; there was a shoot-out at the end, and that was all I cared about. At the end of every take, I’d go around and collect the empty shells. I think I still have a bag of them.

BROWN: Do you speak Polish? 

ALEXANDER: I do. It was my first language.

BROWN: Has that ever been useful for work?

ALEXANDER: Linguistically, I’m set up in a way that I have more of a dexterity with sounds and I maybe have an easier time with accents. I feel like it’s so much a part of me that I don’t know who I’d be without it. I went into kindergarten not speaking a word of English. The first day of school I punched a kid in the stomach because I thought he was making fun of me. I was a little bit of a rabid child.

BROWN: How did you get the nickname “Pico”?

ALEXANDER: Before I was born, my dad started jokingly referring to the baby as Pico. They didn’t know if it was a boy or a girl, and they didn’t want to call it “it,” like some inanimate object, so they started calling me Pico. Then they wanted to give me a serious, Christian name when I was born, but it was too late, it didn’t stick. 

BROWN: What’s the last film that really stuck with you?

ALEXANDER: Son of Saul. I’m just so fascinated by the darker sides of humanity. That’s what I’m looking for—”How is this shit happening around the world?” I want to know the circumstances that make people behave in a certain kind of way. However, I enjoy going to the movie theater. I’m happy to go for an hour and a half and watch what’s going on. I went to see Captain America: Civil War yesterday. It’s no Son of Saul, but I had a great time. 

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