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Mark A. Sheppard

Mark Sheppard - "Leverage" Tv Series - Ifmagazine.com Interview

Tuesday 16 December 2008, by Webmaster

When it comes to genre TV, Mark Sheppard is the go-to guy. Appearing on everything from BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, THE BIONIC WOMAN, 24, THE MIDDLEMAN, MEDIUM and others too numerous to mention, if a show requires a memorable, recurring character, chances are Sheppard is or has been on it.

That trend continues this year, as he comes aboard TNT’s new hit action-drama LEVERAGE (airing tonight at 10:00 p.m.). Playing the recurring character Jim Sterling in five of the 13 episodes, he will provide a perfect foil to the show’s modern day Robin Hood Nate Ford (Timothy Hutton) and his merry band of dysfunctional post-modern thieves.

In “The Two Horse Job” that debuts tonight, Sterling appears to bust up a con the team is putting together revolving horse racing and insurance money. Since Sterling essentially has taken over Nate’s job at his former insurance company, they’re perfect foils for each other since each knows the other’s move before they even play it.

Sheppard spoke with iF on the set of LEVERAGE, and tells us about his new role as well as hints about what to expect from his other recurring role this year on Joss Whedon’s new series DOLLHOUSE and the finale of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA.

iF MAGAZINE: So you’re the Big Bad on LEVERAG, to crib a BUFFY term.

MARK SHEPPARD: Yes, but the definition of a good guy and a bad guy is very hard to explain, because Nate would be on the wrong side of the law as far as I am concerned. If he thinks of himself as a Robin Hood character, I would see myself as the Sheriff of Nottingham. I actually took his old job that Nate used to occupy at the insurance company – the one who wouldn’t pay for his son’s treatment. So we bump into each other as the season continues, and I seem to be the thorn in his side. I seem to be the person who doesn’t want him operating above the law and I have no respect for what he’s doing and I’m quite happy to shut him down at a moment’s notice.

iF: So in a real world sense, you are technically the good guy.

SHEPPARD: Absolutely, I’m the good guy. As the producers say, in a different series, I would be the lead. I think it’s a wonderful part. A lot of “bad guys” are written very obviously, but my character is on the side of the law, which makes it very interesting. There’s a sort of moral ambiguity in there. It’s a fascinating piece. If you look at Nate as an anti-hero, I would definitely be the villain of the piece, but if you look at it, as my character looks at it, Nate is in fact the villain and I would be the hero of the piece.

iF: That gives you some great drama to play.

SHEPPARD: There’s a lot of fun conflict. There’s an interesting line somewhere in the series, Nate says “I thought you were an honorable man, Sterling,” and I say, “I’m catching thieves, there’s nothing more honorable.” So I think Sterling is willing to go to any lengths to do what he has to do. It’s interesting. I think both Nate and Sterling would agree the other comes a close second in ability. It’s definitely a play on whose smarter and who’s better. There’s a lot of rivalry. As you see this season continue, you will see more and more interaction between us.

iF: Do you have an accent on LEVERAGE?

SHEPPARD: Dean came up to me and said, “do you want to play it English or Irish?” I said “I think I can play it English, because it’s Jim Sterling.” I wanted to play it American, but they wouldn’t let me.

iF: Will you be back on BATTLESTAR GALACTICA?

SHEPPARD: I will be back for the end of Season 4.

iF: Without giving anything away, will fans be blown away?

SHEPPARD: I think if I handed everyone the copy of the script and they read it and knew what was going to happen, it still wouldn’t come close to how good the actual realization is. I think it’s going to be a fascinating experience. I think it’s worth waiting for too. Plus, it’s one of the first science-fiction series ever that has a beginning, middle and an end. I remember [J. Michael] Straczinski was trying to do BABYLON 5, because my father was on BABYLON 5 and Straczinski wanted to have a beginning, middle and end. But Ron [Moore] and David [Eick] set out to actually make a show that has a beginning, middle and an end, from the start. From the start there’s been a finite understanding of the story and just to be involved in something as beautifully written, created and acted is extraordinary. Without BATTLESTAR I wouldn’t have been offered BIONIC WOMAN. I was the 65-year old creator bionics. I’m the old man. I get around a bit. And I’m on DOLLHOUSE. I play a wonderful character named Tanaka who interacts with Tahmoh Penikett character. And I love LEVERAGE just as much.

iF: Do you have a recurring on DOLLHOUSE?

SHEPPARD: I’m actually doing my second episode as we speak. I have a recurring role on MEDIUM as well. I’m the dead serial killer who makes serial killers. It’s kind of fun. I have a lot of interesting places to play.

iF: So you’re one busy guy.

SHEPPARD: There’s a lot of stuff going on. I think BATTLESTAR has opened up a lot of doors. I’m very grateful to the writers there. Some incredible stuff was written for me.

iF: How did DOLLHOUSE happen?

SHEPPARD: Joss wrote a role into DOLLHOUSE, and it sort of ended up in my lap, and I was “absolutely,” I would love the opportunity to come and play with him again.

iF: Do you have fans from all these different shows come up to you all the time?

SHEPPARD: My life is wonderful, it’s a wonderful thing to have happen. I was in a book store the other day and a guy came up, “nice work Counselor,” and I realized what he meant. I said, “thank you.” And I’m getting recognized every day now, and in interesting places. My wife’s thing is, “it’s not the one person that looks at you, it’s the three people I see that don’t say anything that’s interesting.” I hope it’s not from bad things like killing people on 24.

iF: Is there one fan base more rabid than the other?

SHEPPARD: BATTLESTAR has still got a huge following in that way. I’m amazed by the FIREFLY fans as well. FIREFLY fans are disproportionate to the amount of attention for a show that didn’t have a lot of hours on television. I’m blessed for having been a part of that.

iF: You’re in a very unique position, in that you’re on all these cult shows that have a devoted fan base, and now you’re on another show like LEVERAGE that will break out as well with its fans too.

SHEPPARD: I think LEVERAGE is fantastic. It’s the brightest writing I’ve read in a long time. It makes me happy to watch it, it makes me happy to be a part of it. It’s a joy to have an intelligent series to watch. I’m a very lucky man.