Article by Emily Anne Epstein
Published in Metro
To the thrill of aging hipsters everywhere, the entire cast and crew of the ’90s Nickelodeon hit “The Adventures of Pete & Pete” will reunite at the Bowery Ballroom on Friday. Metro spoke with the show’s red headed stars to find out where they’ve been all this time: New York City.
What were you doing before “Pete and Pete”? What was your childhood like before working on TV?
Big Pete (Mike Maronna): My father was a firefighter and my mom was a high school guidance counselor. I had a lot of energy and they wanted to direct it to something positive. I started acting when I was pretty young: 5 years old. I did a lot of TV commercials and theater.
Little Pete (Danny Tamberelli): I’m from Maywood, N.J. At that time, I had just one sister, a little sister, and that was my deal when I was 6 and 7. I started the show when I was 7, so it was pretty much most of my childhood. I was in first grade.
What was your relationship like with the other Pete? Are you two still close?
Big Pete: It definitely matured as the show became more involved. Danny and I speak more often because of the reunion. We just realized I had his birthday wrong for the past couple of years. I was off by like six days. We can’t drink together in Williamsburg because it would be a hipster nuclear bomb. I wish we could do it all the time. People bug out when we walk out on the street together. Their heads explode. I did have a drink with him at the Turkey’s Nest one time.
Little Pete: We’re still close. I’m the oldest in my family and I don’t have any brothers so he’s a legitimate surrogate brother to me. When I was a teenager, I used to go see him in his apartment in Alphabet City. I remember the kitchen and the bathroom were one room and I was like wow — this is really cool. And he’s always the first one to wish me happy birthday … because he gets the date wrong.
What was your favorite episode, one that really stuck with you?
Big Pete: They were all pretty amazing. The time tunnel episode I definitely remember because we shot on location at a private movie theater in Long Island. It was crazy being out there in the summer. Also, that one about daylight savings time and having an extra hour to do things you can’t do, that particularly resonated.
Little Pete: There were a lot of really good ones. The one that was influential to me was “A Hard Day’s Pete” because I’m a musician now. I held my first bass on that shoot. That one really holds s a special place in my heart. And the time travel one, too, because I’ve always wanted to do that.
In what ways are you still like Pete and what ways are you different?
Big Pete: I blink more than he does. I never blinked at all during filming, especially when I would deliver a narration straight to camera. I was obsessed with remembering the lines and getting them right. I tend to look at the world pretty deadpan, similar to the character, and we’re both redheads. I’m definitely still like him because I always need a haircut.
Little Pete: I’m not as super tough as Little Pete, I guess, but I have the same attitude. Growing up and having to play a character, there’s part of me that doesn’t really know where he ends and where I begin. That show really affected me. I still wear flannel shirts almost every day. They’re definitely a part of my repertoire. Also, I don’t have any tattoos.
You got to brush shoulders with a lot of famous folks, like Janeane Garofalo, Debbie Harry and Iggy Pop. Did you realize who they were when you met them?
Big Pete: Not in every case, but in some cases for sure. It was awesome. We definitely listened to the B-52s when Kate Pierson was on the summer vacation episode. When Iggy came on for a couple seasons, I had not listened to him before he came on the show, but by the end I was a big fan.
Little Pete: I knew that I was going to be working with Iggy Pop so my dad gave me some records to listen to. I got really into him. By the time he was on the set, I knew who he was. He thought it was kind of strange that a 13 year old knew who he was. The best memory was playing music with Iggy Pop. He taught me how to play “TV Eye” on the guitar during a scene. He blew my amp.
What about your onscreen loves, Ellen and Petunia? What happened behind the scenes?
Big Pete: I don’t like what you’re getting at here. I’m definitely starting to blush. No, nothing ever happened. When I was 10 I was totally clueless. Ellen was a character that was a girl and a friend — and not a girlfriend. She was always basically a friend.
Little Pete: No, I don’t miss Petunia. It was nice to have her for seven years on my arm, but I used to have to shower with saran wrap on my arm, so they didn’t have to re-do the tattoo every day. As a kid, you’re kind of weirded out by that. It was a black and white stencil temporary tattoo that the makeup artist would spray paint and dump baby powder on to look more weathered. I can’t deny she may have switched arms.
Looking back, what does the show represent to you?
Big Pete: Nerds are cool. I think that’s the basic that lesson that people still hold on to today. There was so much nerdy, nerdy stuff on there. Maybe the uncool things could be considered cool now and vice versa.
Little Pete: Well, I think seeing how big this thing has gotten; you can really see how the show directly affected people. It affected my whole life and it’s cool to see that it affected other people in the same way. I don’t think a lot of shows now, or really any, have that same quality to them. Everything is so cookie cutter these days. I think the show made kids think and told them it was OK not to go with the flow. Different isn’t a bad thing and that’s cool.
What have you been up to since 1996, when the show went off air?
Big Pete: I started working as an electrician on films. In 1996, I worked my first job. I went on to film school, kept acting, did a bunch of traveling, joined Local 52 and worked on television and film in New York City.
Little Pete: I stayed with Nick for another five years doing different series, shows called “All That” and “Figure It Out.” I went to public school my whole life and then I went to college. In February 2001, I graduated high school and went to Hampshire College. I studied music performance and production. I have a band called Jounce — we’ve been playing New York City for 11 years. We play at Mercury Lounge, Brooklyn Bowl and those kinds of venues.
Do people ever recognize you on the street? What’s it like when you meet a fan?
Big Pete: I was at the train station on Friday night and this girl saw me coming down the stairs. She moved out of the way, looked at me funny and asked me if I was Pete. It happens pretty randomly. People do it at work, too, because I’m still working on movies. They tell me I look like an actor.
Little Pete: Whenever I get recognized as Little Pete, it’s usually by people that are really down to earth, people I would hang out with. It’s never someone getting weird or fratty. They say, “That show really meant something to me. It really affected me, taught me how to grow up.” It’s usually someone who recognizes me but has no idea from where. They ask, “Did you go to high school in Des Moines, Iowa?” I usually let them sit on it and work it out for themselves.
Do you think now is the right time for the reunion? Is “Pete and Pete” resurfacing for some reason?
Big Pete: Maybe its a 20 or 15-year cycle. The kids who were young then are all grown up and spending money. Now, they can get the crazy scalped tickets. It would make sense for Nickelodeon to make action figures. It’s probably just one of those cycles of finding old stuff and making it cool, like fanny packs. I often compare it to fanny packs. Are they already done? Yeah, they’re done. Are people still rocking them? I see them sometime.
Little Pete: I don’t really know. I think it’s always sort of been this cult thing. Those kids that were watching it are my age and starting families themselves. Maybe they have kids and they’re realizing how good the programming was. There really was a lot of thought about what was going on. There’s nothing like that on TV now.