Peter Kendall

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Peter Mark Kendall is headed to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop—well, a fictionalized version at least. The 28-year-old Towson native has a recurring role in the upcoming fourth season of “Girls” (which premieres Jan. 11), starring alongside series creator Lena Dunham, whose character Hannah is ditching the Big Apple (and maybe her boyfriend?) to begin a new chapter in her life. Kendall, who studied music and theater at McDaniel College and received an M.F.A. at the Brown University/Trinity Rep joint program, was in town for the holidays from New York City when he spoke with STYLE about working under Dunham’s direction, sharing the big screen with Richard Gere and his big acting break in Baltimore.

STYLE: You portray Jeffrey in the newest season of “Girls.” Here’s the part where I ask you about your character—and whether he’s a love interest for Hannah.
KENDALL: That’s hush-hush. All I can really say is that, at the end of last season, Hannah decides to head off to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. And Jeffrey is another M.F.A. student along with three or four others who are part of her writing workshop.

Are you a fan of the show, personally?

Before I got the part, I had seen an episode. Preparing for the role, I watched all of it and I just think it’s so wonderful. What happens on that show is always unexpected, which I appreciate.

Give us three adjectives to describe Lena Dunham.

Intelligent, warm and hardworking. It’s amazing being on set with her; I’m always in awe of how many hats she wears. She would be in a scene, call cut, go to the monitors, watch the footage, make a change in the script, then come back and give us directions and act in the scene. I find it difficult just to be an actor.

Here at STYLE, we’re big fans of “The Leftovers” on HBO—and we hear you appeared in an episode. Which one?

I’m in episode 4 [on the bus with Christina before it crashes into the car carrying those creepy “Loved Ones” dummies]. Here’s the most frustrating thing I learned about doing TV this year. I had a really nice arc in that episode, but they decided to rewrite it because they didn’t feel like they could introduce another character and storyline. Five percent of what I actually did made it onto the screen, which was a bummer because it was such a fun character. It was anti-climactic waiting for the show to come out, but that’s just the way it goes.

That show’s biggest secret is what happened to the “departed” after they disappeared. What’s your theory?

I don’t even want to make a guess. As a viewer, I revel in the mystery. I love how they leave it up in the air. I only got the info needed to play my character.

You also appear in some upcoming films, like “Louder than Bombs” starring Jesse Eisenberg and “Time Out of Mind,” where Richard Gere plays a homeless man trying to reconnect with his daughter (Jena Malone). How was it working with those big names?

“Time Out of Mind” was directed by Oren Moverman, who’s a filmmaker I really admire. He just called me up the day before I was supposed to start filming, asked me out to get a drink and talked about the way we were going to work. He was like, “Look, the script is very much a base so I want you to forget about it and see what happens.” That was awesome, because there was so much freedom to try anything on set. I play a guy named Connor, who owns the bar where Jena Malone works. There’s kind of a love interest between us—and a history. Richard Gere was lovely. When you’re carrying a film like that, stamina is a huge thing. It was clear he was trying to conserve his energy and keep his focus up between takes.

You have a recurring role in season three of “The Americans” on FX. The suspense never lets up on that show. What can you tell us about it?

My character’s name is Hans—and I’ve gotten to act a lot with Keri Russell, which has been amazing. There’s an intensity about that show which also translates to the set, because there’s just so much information. It’s really fun to be in that environment. To be in a spy show is very, very cool. The 10-year-old kid in me is thrilled.

Did your first acting audition go over well or was it a nightmare?

My first professional audition was for the Baltimore Shakespeare Festival when they were still around off of Roland Avenue. I was sick as a dog and I was still in my senior year of undergrad. It went really well and I ended up playing opposite Bruce Nelson in “The Taming of the Shrew” that summer. I just remember the drive down from McDaniel I was shaking and so nervous—trying to convince myself to go rather than turn back around. I’ve done so many auditions since then, now that [nervous] feeling is gone. I really look forward to them.

Was that your big break?

I really do think so. Because of that show, I did some shows at Center Stage, and I became close with Irene Lewis [former artistic director]. She helped me get into grad school and wrote a recommendation letter for me. It started my career as a professional actor.

Tell us something fun about your family.

My family emigrated from South Africa in 1985, and more than half of our family is in South Africa. My dad is an architect and my mom is a preschool teacher. They were always so supportive of the idea of trying to make a living as an artist. I also have three siblings; two older brothers and one older sister. The eldest, Simon was a professional actor for a long time as well. He was an inspiration and so helpful in getting my career started.

When you come back into town, is there a certain spot you like to revisit?

After undergrad, I was living in Hampden right off The Avenue—and I absolutely loved it. My folks are out in the woods in Pikesville, which is beautiful and quiet. If I could, I would totally live in Baltimore. New York is the place to be right now because of the kind of work that’s being done. But I really enjoy mid-sized cities like Providence and Baltimore. This is one of my favorite places on Earth.

Be it in film, stage or television, what is your dream role?

I’ve been so fortunate to be doing TV and films recently that I haven’t done a play in almost three years. I’m dying to get back onstage to do some classic stuff. I’d love to get a shot at “Hamlet” and I love Tennessee Williams. All of that wonderful, poetic language. In terms of TV and film, characters that have a big arc and make a big change would be the most fun to do. A sense of catharsis and revelation. Quirkier stuff, too. Right now, I’m just so thrilled to be working. All work is good work. With a little luck, I’ll get to keep on doing it.

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