We talk Supernatural, Battlestar Galactica, Doctor Who and more with the talented British actor ahead of his appearances at Supanova Comic Con & Gaming expo in Adelaide and Brisbane this November.
“There’s no better place to come than Australia,” enthuses Mark Sheppard when we ask if he’s looking forward to meeting Adelaide and Brisbane fans at Supanova. “It’s an actor’s paradise. There are fans everywhere – rabid fans some of them. Aussies fight hard, drink hard and love hard! Great people, mate. I married one, so I should know.”
The busy British actor considers himself lucky that the roles he’s loved playing have been ones that have really resonated with fans. “It shows when I come to Australia and see this wonderful outpouring for these shows – Supernatural, Battlestar Galactica, Firefly, Doctor Who… and all the things I’ve been part of.”
He also considers himself blessed to have some incredibly talented storytellers writing for him. “It’s the writers, mate. It really is. Without those great storytellers, I wouldn’t have anything to say.
“I love the telling of stories. I was a musician before I was an actor – the bands I’ve played in and artists I’ve worked with tended to be storytellers. I’ve been lucky enough to know some great writers in my time.
“I don’t think I necessarily pick the work as much as there’s a bunch of people out there saying, “Give this to Mark Sheppard and he might do something interesting with it…’”
One such instance was the character of lawyer Romo Lampkin in Battlestar Galactica, written specifically for Sheppard by Ron Moore and Michael Angeli. “I was a fan of Battlestar before I was on it. I would have swept the floors on that show!” he says. “Romo is actually Michael’s pet name for Ron Moore. He’s the keeper of sanity at the lowest point in humanity’s existence, I guess. He’s the one that reminds them what it is to be human. I always wondered if he’d be the fifth Cylon or not. He was definitely playing a long game…”
“To be dropped into a series at the height of where it was at the time and to be given a role that was plum and important… it was written with a lot of care. I was so proud to be a part of it.”
He’s also proud to be a part of British institution Doctor Who, having played a guest role alongside Matt Smith’s Doctor in the season six two-parter The Impossible Astronaut and Day of the Moon. “It was amazing to have a ‘bigger on the inside’ moment and say the words ‘Doctor Who’, which is rare enough as it is. To have this story that alludes to a much bigger story and never gets paid off, I think is kind of brilliant. It was really nice to hit it and quit it and be a part of that canon and that world, especially in such an extraordinary season that had The Doctor’s Wife and The Girl Who Waited – it was the peak of the writing and what Who was for me. It was beyond fun.”
Sheppard should prepare to be swamped by Supernatural fans at Supanova, whose number Down Under is legion. His semi-regular role as Crowley – demon and self-appointed King of Hell – quickly cemented him as a fan-favourite, and when asked to explain the longevity of the 15-season series, his answer is simple: “It’s the boys. That’s what fans love, and that’s what the story is.
“Misha Collins’s character and my character were in a very special position for a long time. I did about eight years and in those eight years the audience lived vicariously through our love for the Winchesters. It all hinges on that love for the Winchesters; I’ve always believed that.”
Sheppard bristles slightly when we ask about his knack for playing shady characters. “Don’t call them shady. They’re not shady. Crowley killed less people than the Winchesters!” he points out.
“You can’t play villains – there’s no such thing as a villain,” he continues. “You’re the hero of your own story… I guess that’s what it is. I’ve been lucky enough to be given big enough stories that I could play the hero in that story. [Writer] John Rogers said it best when I was doing Leverage back in the day: ‘Any other show and you’d be the hero. You’re the cop, you’re supposed to be the good guy but you’re actually the villain, because it’s a show about villains.”
As our conversation draws to a close, Sheppard is eager to talk up his new series Doom Patrol, being the adventures of the eponymous team of DC heroes. “I absolutely love the show and can’t wait for you guys to see it.The original ‘60s comic was great and odd in that Silver Surfer era. Grant Morrison picked it up in the ‘80s and did it on Vertigo, and he wanted to put Constantine in the comic book and they wouldn’t let him. So he created a new version of Constantine called Willoughby Kipling, and he based that on Richard E. Grant in Withnail & I – which is the strangest idea I’ve ever heard. And I’ve ended up playing a version of him, which is just extraordinary. I get to play Constantine in a DC property!”