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Mark A. Sheppard

Mark Sheppard - About his career - Ifmagazine.com Interview 3

Sunday 21 March 2010, by Webmaster

Mark Sheppard has made a career out of guest-starring on a number of different television programs that happen to be near and dear to fans’ heart. One of these is LEVERAGE, and the actor will be at Con-Con this weekend for the final day of the event on Sunday. He will kick off Sunday’s panels with one entitled "Our Favorite Guest Star Panel" at 10 a.m.

And if you’re in the Portland, OR area today, March 21, Sheppard will be kicking off Day 3 at CON-CON: AN OFFICIAL LEVERAGE EVENT with a very special panel tited "OUR FAVORITE GUEST STAR."

iF: You’ve done a lot of work for NBC/SyFy/USA, which as you’ve pointed out is really the same company. Did your role as the Ring Director on CHUCK come about because of that connection, or was that due to your friendship with CHUCK actor Adam Baldwin?

MARK SHEPPARD: No. Adam and Zachary [Levi] are both fans, and will always promote me, but I don’t think they actually have the time at the beginning of the process – they’re working on the show, not the ‘Here’s one for Mark’ situation. Great friends and when my name comes up, I’m sure they were ‘Absolutely.’ I’m sure they loved the idea. But it was [director] Jeremiah Chechik.

iF: Who’s also one of the regular directors in rotation on LEVERAGE …

SHEPPARD: Yeah. He and I have done MIDDLEMAN, but we never worked together, and we have a lot of mutual friends. He produced on MIDDLEMAN and I love him dearly. The man directed BENNY & JOON, one of the strangest movies ever. He directed THE AVENGERS, which is actually a really well-done film. I never liked the edit, but the idea was fantastic. But I think now, loving Jeremiah, he’s an auteur in that same vein as Javier [Grillo-Marxuach] and Ron Moore and the rest of my friends. I’d put him in that same boat. He’s a fabulous man to work with. He said, ‘We’ve got to get you on CHUCK.’ The Ring Director came up and the creator knew me, but a couple of the producers didn’t know me, and they were like, ‘Would he come in and read?’ I’m like, ‘Of course I’ll come in and read.’ So I came in and it was like, ‘Absolutely, it’ll be so much fun.’ Playing the Ring Director – I get to play Blofeld on CHUCK. I got to play with Superman [CHUCK recurring actor Brandon Routh]. There’s nothing cooler than standing at the end of a hallway, and Brandon Routh is coming down with a gun, and all I can say is, ‘Fuck me, it’s Superman.’ I think I pissed him off by the third time I said it. Zach is so good, and Adam of course is so good and Yvonne [Strahovski as Sarah] is lovely – punched me in the stomach a few times. Bonnie [Friedericy, who plays Gen. Beckman] I love, Bonnie and her husband [actor John Billingsley]. I was [at a convention] in Germany with them. She is fantastic on CHUCK. She pours that [complicated expository dialogue] out at three hundred miles an hour, and she’s a really good actress. But the CHUCK thing figures heavily on the Casey story, as the Casey story is right now. Whatever happens, I don’t think we’ll ever see the last of the Ring Director. I’ve never had so much fun as playing with those guys. They were really good to me and it’s a lot of fun to do. But Jeremiah was absolutely instrumental in that, I give him props for that.

iF: Speaking of characters we haven’t seen the last of, it looks like you sort of have some job security with Sterling on LEVERAGE.

SHEPPARD: I don’t know. I mean, it is an interesting thing. Job security is one thing, but it’s very difficult to put somebody with that impact into the situation. You can’t have an, “Oh, Sterling” moment every week. It doesn’t work. Plus the fact that Rule One is that Sterling never loses, period. That is the way that he’s written. And so for him to never lose, there has to be an opportunity to play that without killing the show. And they’ve been very good to me acting-wise – I think we did very well on this two-parter, Now they’ve got the difficulty of, where does Sterling appear in season three?

iF: Are there of parts or shows where you’re going, ‘Gee, I really want to do that’?

SHEPPARD: Loads of things. I look at stuff all the time and I read stuff all the time, and I see what’s interesting and what people suggest, and what’s been very nice is that for a period of time, I’ve been offered some wonderful roles. It’s very interesting to work with friends. You kind of have to be on your toes. I feel like I kind of have to be very respectful of their reputation as well as mine, being the custodian of a character that figures in their ongoing creation, the show. So if you’re a character on that show, you become an important piece of that show, you’re protecting the story. And if you start to behave in a manner that doesn’t fit, which is very easy to do, if ego gets in the way, it doesn’t work. It helps if the characters are a little larger than life sometimes – then you can get some room to play. And it really helps that those types of roles that I’ve recurred in have really been very well written. They’re lovely to do, from Romo [on BATTLESTAR GALACTICA]to Badger [on FIREFLY] – Badger would have been so much fun to do in the second season, because he’s an extension of Joss. He wrote him as an extension of himself, I’m sure. And he understands that character, that character is personal to him. And I think the same goes [on LEVERAGE] for John [Rogers] and Amy [Berg] and everybody protecting Sterling. It’s very important to them that Sterling appears to be a certain way. They give me enough wiggle room to make it interesting. I love that. Season two, obviously, [Gina Bellman] got pregnant. Sterling would have been back in episode five, but because they had to reschedule what they were doing and reform what they were doing, the show evolved in a very different way away from me. And so it became about putting me off for seven episodes, which is a long time, but it gave them a chance to rethink what the character was in the new version of the story. And I think it went very well and my return in [episode] twelve was really interesting, and having Maggie [Nate’s ex-wife, played by Kari Matchett] come back was really good. Kari’s a wonderful actress. She just looks at me with one raised eyebrow of disdain for the despicable character that I play, the guy that aids and abets her ex-husband to be the villain she doesn’t want him to be.

iF: You were both on 24, but not at the same time …

SHEPPARD: I was on Day Five. That was an interesting role. [24 producer] Evan Katz and I worked on SPECIAL UNIT 2. He’s married to Lisa Miller-Katz, who’s a wonderful casting director, who cast some of the greatest comedies of all time. She’d spotted me on TV with Evan. Evan told me that she went, “You’ve got to get him for this role in SPECIAL UNIT 2,” and they did. Years later, they sent me a script [for 24], and it says, ‘Yellow Tie Man.’ I don’t even have a fucking name [it turned out to be Ivan Erwich, according to IMDB]. So when I got to set, they had a chair made up for me saying ‘Yellow Tie Man,’ which was very funny. I still have the chair back with ‘Yellow Tie Man’ on it. And the Yellow Tie Man was an interesting development. I was kind of left as a placeholder. The year before, the Marwan/Arnold Vosloo storyline was amazing, but he’d done sixteen or seventeen episodes, and I think they’d made a very conscious decision not to run any villain for more than seven or eight episodes, because I think it was important to them not to say, ‘Jack can’t catch somebody, or he can catch him but can’t finish.’ So I think I was a placeholder until the next guy came, which funnily enough was Julian Sands, which was a lot of fun. And we all had a great time. Jeff Cadiente is one of the greatest stunt coordinators and one of the stuntmen I’d worked with before, just really good people. He’s one of those guys who’s kept me safe for years. I’ve worked with him on V.I.P.

iF: What else have you got going on?

SHEPPARD: I was just down in Louisiana making a little film called EXTINCTION, K2 Pictures. Somebody’s down there creating dinosaurs in the bayou. There was a fourteen-foot gator over there, and a nineteen-foot gator over there. It was one of those. A good company to work with, they were just a lot of fun, K2. The work down there is fascinating. The crews are great, the food’s amazing in Louisiana. I was down there for the Saints’ championship game. There was nothing better to watch than the team play for the state. It was a great time for Louisiana to make some money. I’ll be going back to work with them on something in the summer.