Editor’s note: This story was published exclusively in The Jefferson Chronicle DIGEST magazine prior to being made available online. To receive the DIGEST magazine when it is released digitally, subscribe free.
Imagine being next in line to inherit a business that’s been in the family for several generations. Think about the security of such a scenario. Imagine the comfort of knowing there will always be a roof above. Ahh, the joys of entitlement!
That is, unless a For Sale sign is hung on said family business before the inheritance kicks in. Hopes, dashed. Entitlement, short-circuited. Roof, gone. Such is the angst that can cause a person’s life to spiral out of control – usually downward. And such is the grist around which a fertile and creative mind can spin that situation into a compelling saga … one that becomes a popular television series.
That creative mind belongs to former township resident Louis Rocky Bacigalupo, a 2010 graduate of Jefferson Township High School. The series, based on the disappointment and anger of a troubled 20-something male who believes his inheritance is being stolen, is The Mortician.
Following discovery at an indie film festival in Manchester, Vermont, the pilot was picked up for a series by Amazon Prime. It achieved a successful first season and built an enthusiastic fan following. In fact, those fans are clamoring for a second season, especially since the initial run, which is still available on Prime, ended with a cliffhanger. No spoilers here!
Producing another season, however, depends on the success of fundraising efforts. An angel investor, says Bacigalupo, would be more than welcome.
In addition to creating, writing, and producing The Mortician, Bacigalupo portrays the troubled character, Laurence. In a devious twist, he does manage to inherit his family’s business – a funeral home. The ensuing aftermath is what makes this series popular, especially with fans of dark comedy with huge doses of suspicion and intrigue. Again, no spoilers here!
From Scraps of Paper to Small Screens
Bacigalupo, who grew up in the township’s Lake Hopatcong section, tells The Jefferson Chronicle that although he always loved art and music, he was not inclined to participate in such activities during high school. Truth be told, he admits he was “pretty awful in school. I don’t think my goals were thought of as realistic and that sort of separated me. I was in my own world,” he explains.
Music, however, was an exception. He says he would “daydream to music. I guess that’s where the cinema thing comes from. I didn’t realize I was already doing it in my head.” He further explains, “When I listen to music, I see stories. Or if I see something happening, I always set it to music in my mind. I’ll pull some scrap [of paper] out of my pocket and jot it down, make it honest, make it live and breathing. It’s a solitary thing,” he adds.
Scraps of paper and paper napkins, in fact, are some of the tools Bacigalupo credits for his writing success. “Most of my writing is done on bar napkins,” he quips. “I will also fill up a notebook with babble and nonsense, and then do that horrible typing thing when I’m home working,” he continues. “I’m most excited about things that come from real life.”
Although not inclined to get involved with drama early on, Bacigalupo’s affinity to music did evolve into active participation. A friend taught him how to play guitar, which led to playing with bands until about two years ago, he tells The Chronicle. During high school and for several years afterward, he played with the bands Free Movie Tuesday and Above All Fallen.
One band he played with even came close to releasing a record. “Everyone worked so hard [on the record]. We slept in the studio for weeks. It’s a real bummer. That record is still on a hard drive somewhere,” he muses. “It was sort of like an electro-garage punk piece. It was cool.” He is currently working on a record of his own.
Bacigalupo notes that it was a babysitter who first introduced him to punk rock, giving him some CDs. The sitter also introduced him to MTV “back when it was videos. I didn’t realize it was art until later.” One of his first acting gigs occurred when a music video director asked him to read for an online series. “I really dug it,” he says, adding that he didn’t seriously act in anything until he was about 20 years old.
Do, or Die Trying
Eventually acting became a passion and Bacigalupo decided he was “going to be an actor or die trying.” He got a job playing the character Rocco on a show called Invader Kim. “We filmed for like a solid year, but the studio never released it for some reason. That was a hard one. I thought it was going to be my big break,” he reflects.
After that disappointing experience, he decided to seriously study acting as a profession and enrolled in the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts. “I wanted to develop a craft and to live and breathe acting in New York City. I am very proud of all the work we did there,” he says.
Following studies at the conservatory, he wrote and produced The Mortician, pouring his life savings into the project. He filmed the pilot with friends, and the rest, as the saying goes, is history.
While the mortuary may seem central to the storyline, Bacigalupo says the series is not really about the business. “The Mortician started as an aesthetic thing,” inspired by filming in a Virginia cemetery. “I loved the look of the Spanish moss and the old churches … the whole southern Gothic thing.” But instead of aesthetics, the series is motivated by themes of entitlement and the eternal search for meaning. “It’s biblical,” he says.
As stated on his website, “The Mortician is a take on the American southern Gothic: sin, grace, and redemption.” In the series, he aims to “explore the thin line between redemption and revenge.” Readers can view snippets of Bacigalupo’s work on his website.
These days, the screenwriter/actor/producer is immersed in several creative endeavors. “We just filmed another pilot, Eighty-12, that I wrote and directed,” Bacigalupo tells The Chronicle. “Writing The Mortician gave me some street cred,” he notes. “Now more producers are taking me seriously when it comes to my screenplays. The response has been overwhelming.”
He acted in the movie Vampz, which started airing on DirecTV in March, and also has a horror film, Mittens, in the works. In addition, Bacigalupo recently finished a film, Inner City Rats, in which he plays a criminal, and a CryptTV horror movie, The Widower, in which he plays “a nerdy kind of guy.” He says, “I also just booked a role where I am a hockey player. That will be a new one for me! Guess I’ll have to start practicing ice skating in preparation for that part.”
Despite some serious disappointments along the way – the album that never made it to market, the movie that was never screened – Bacigalupo remains undeterred and optimistic. “If you are an actor or a writer, you face rejection every day. If you can’t take it, get out,” he advises. But there will be no “getting out” for him. “I haven’t even accomplished one percent of what I plan to do,” he exudes.
If all his accomplishments to date don’t even account for one percent, his growing fan base can anticipate a whole lot more from Louis Rocky Bacigalupo. Indeed, we can expect more “bodies” of work beyond The Mortician from this Jefferson grad.