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Photo Credit: Bejo Dohmen

My Casting Story: Peter Ivanov on ‘Snowfall’


There is a particular catch-22 situation well-known amongst actors that involves breaking into the industry. That is, it’s difficult for an actor to book their first recognizable TV series without already having one on their résumé. So, how is one to land their first proper co-star role if they don’t first have such a credit to their name? The question is a tough one to crack, so we wanted to talk with an actor who recently experienced such a career breakthrough moment for this installment of My Casting Story. Peter Ivanov sat down with Casting Networks — via Zoom — to share what led to him booking the penultimate episode of the latest season of FX’s Snowfall. Spoiler alert: Christmas trees and the seizing of opportunities are in full swing ahead.

 

It’s great to virtually see you, Peter. Before we dive into your casting story, I’d love to hear how you’d sum up your character of Alexander on a series all about the infancy of the crack cocaine epidemic in Los Angeles in the ‘80s.

Alexander is a low-level KGB agent who’s partnered with a character named Ruben — played by Alejandro Edda — to infiltrate a warehouse owned by the character Avi (Alon Aboutboul). This is particularly an instance of Russian involvement within the crime ring that the series features, which you don’t see much of before the fifth season. Alexander and Ruben are part of the storyline that shows how the operation is expanding beyond the Black community and the Colombian community.

 

Thanks for providing that context. And what can you tell us about the process of booking the role?

I received the audition for this at the end of last year, right around the beginning of December. At the time, my side hustle was working at a Christmas tree lot. So, I’d been slinging trees around all day, trying to tie them on top of people’s cars and all that. I was exhausted by the time I finished my shift, but when I checked my phone, I saw an audition had come in that was due by the next day. So, I sprinted home and spent about an hour trying to scrub tree sap off my arms. After I got cleaned up and learned the lines, I set up my living room to film the audition and managed to get it done in time.

 

Phew! I got tired just listening to that.

[Laughs] If you have a quick turnaround like that, you don’t really have a choice. I mean, I guess you do — you could turn down the audition. It’s harder for me to mentally accept the choice of not taking an opportunity, though, than it is to push through and get something done. But I will say that it was a funny transition, going from slinging Christmas trees to doing an audition scene about a KGB agent who can’t fathom the idea of a playboy. The term doesn’t actually exist in Russian — it’s a very slang-based language, but we don’t really have a word for “playboy.” And it was cool to be able to audition for a character that allowed me to use a Russian accent because that’s my background — my family came here from St. Petersburg. Then within a week of submitting the self-tape, I found out that I had booked the role and would get to play Alexander. 

 

That’s a quick turnaround on finding out you’d booked it. And can you also share a bit about your experience filming Snowfall

One of my shoot days was the last day before production went on hiatus for the holidays. Meaning, everyone got to go home and take a break for the holidays as soon as we were done filming my scene. And to add to that scenario, it was a night shoot and cold, too. Everyone had jackets on and were just huddling together, trying to stay warm. But people on set were so nice and professional — there was this sense of just needing to see it through to the end. So, we did a few takes of our scene, which shows Alejandro and me infiltrating the warehouse as Ruben and Alexander. The director called for one last take, which was supposed to be the final one of the night. When she called “action,” I walked up to the warehouse door, picked the lock, and pulled it open. But in the process, I smacked myself right in the face with the door.

 

No! 

Yes, but I just pushed through like nothing had happened and finished out the scene with Alejandro. After the director yelled “cut,” everyone starts scrambling around because they think that filming is about to be wrapped. People are anticipating going home at any moment and starting their holiday break. So, I sprint out really quickly to the director and ask her to review the take, explaining what happened with the door. She hadn’t noticed it while we were filming but tells everyone to hang tight for a second while she looks at the playback. I felt — more than heard — a general groan over the hold-up. I can’t stress enough how ready to go home everyone was. But we ended up doing one more take, nailed it perfectly, and everyone parted ways for the holidays after that. 

 

That story brings to mind tales of Leonardo DiCaprio’s method acting through real pain during some of his scenes. And in case the DiCaprio comparison gains traction as your career continues, I want to note that it was made here first!  [Laughs] Before we wrap, I’d love to hear how working on such a high-profile series has impacted your career so far. 

Just booking the project came with a strong boost in confidence. Getting on a well-established show and having the credit on my résumé feels like it lends me credibility. You know? It tells casting that I’ve already done it and am capable of working at that level again. So, booking Snowfall definitely catalyzed some more momentum in my career. I signed NDAs for these next couple of projects, but I can say that I finished shooting on a Peacock comedy series and have another project coming up in July. 

Those interested in keeping up with Ivanov’s career journey can find him on IMDb. And should you be curious about his adventures off-camera, they can be explored on Instagram.

This interview has been edited and condensed.