On the just-completed third season of HBO’s mortuary hit “Six Feet Under,” Peter Macdissi played Olivier, the temperamental teacher of budding artist Claire (Lauren Ambrose).
Macdissi gave the character — a complicated, self-righteous mentor who crossed many lines, including the eventual bedding of Claire’s mercurial boyfriend — an unflappable intensity and intimidating intelligence that managed to stand out in a show known for drawing big talent like Lili Taylor, Kathy Bates and James Cromwell to its many nuanced supporting roles. He has consequently garnered much attention in Hollywood, a stamp of approval he takes very seriously.
“I’ve always fantasized about Hollywood,” he says. “It’s a place where people strive to entertain other people, and I think entertainment is very crucial to the human condition.”
Macdissi traveled far to reach his fantasy destination: a child of cosmopolitan, war-torn Beirut, he moved to Sweden to study dance at the Institut de Beaux Arts before heading to Los Angeles. Along the way, he’s picked up five languages (French, Arabic, Armenian, English and Swedish), which has only heightened his taste for the arts.
“I read ‘1001 Nights’ in Arabic and it was an unbelievably erotic experience,” he recalls.
Once he made the move to L.A. eight years ago, Macdissi studied at the Lee Strasberg Institute and the Actors Studio, and popped up in bit parts on “The X-Files,” “JAG,” “Three Kings” and “Bad Company,” before appearing on “Six Feet Under.” Now mulling over future projects, Macdissi is hoping Olivier will return, diplomatically crediting the cast for his performance.
“It was one of the friendliest sets I’ve worked on. People were very subdued, which was very conducive to creating good work.”