The ever-cool Mark Sheppard wrote a foreword for the latest SFX Collection, dedicated to Battlestar Galactica , and we also interviewed him at length about playing the popular character of lawyer Romo Lampkin. He chatted with us about his many roles in other cult shows too, and there just wasn't enough space to do justice to everything he said, so last week and below we've printed some extra material from our conversation.
SFX: Don't you get to play a younger version of your own father [Hawk The Slayer's William Morgan Sheppard] in a forthcoming episode of NCIS?!
Mark Sheppard: "Yes, they called me up - while I was doing Dollhouse and Leverage at the same time - and said, 'We're offering your dad a role in NCIS; would you like to come and do his flashbacks?' I'm like, 'Absolutely!' So I got to spend a week with David McCallum (according to SFX I've done more sci-fi than him [laughs]!) . It was great to meet him; I'm a big fan of his. Illya Kuryakin was no mean slouch. And that's part of what shapes us - our TV heroes."
"So, Dad and I are playing a Polish torturer with a congenital disease - he feels no pain. So my dad's character ripped his eye out, and has a keloid scar through his face. Look out for an episode called 'Broken Bird'. I think it's fantastic, him and McCallum going at it, and they used me for the flashbacks! I worked with Dad once before on a small film, and I've directed him on a film myself, but this is the first we've actually got to play on network TV together. It's just great - it was fun to watch him and be watched by him for four or five days. It was interesting, copying his walk."
SFX: Are you watching any British shows at the moment? Are you into Doctor Who?
Sheppard: "I think it's a wonderful! He's such a beautifully open-ended character. There are so few open-ended characters available, and it's such a license to be wicked and brilliant and all of those things. I think it's another one of my favourite 'last sane man in the universe' characters. I think that's what it is."
"I'm just amazed at people like Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat. I think they're the coolest guys in the world. I think Russell elevated the bar, he put the intelligence back into it, he threw a bomb into the middle of the BBC with it! And now Moffat… He's great - I'm watching Coupling and going, 'It's written by one bloke! ' That's the difference between that and a lot of other shows. There's single purpose. I'm just curious to see what he's gonna do with Doctor Who."
"I hope he likes Battlestar, cos I could do with a job! [Laughs] I'll come sweep the floors of Doctor Who! I'm a huge fan. You know, maybe there's a spot for me somewhere!? They can have me for an episode any time they want. I'll come play monsters or villains, whatever they need."
"It was considered a death knoll once upon a time - some people in the old days felt they weren't doing well if they did a Doctor Who episode. But that was very disingenuous, cos everybody loved it! It was us that loved it, us as kids. We felt it was the greatest show ever made! I saw the Kylie Minogue Christmas episode the other day for the first time. It was cute, and I was like, 'Wow, that's a big budget!' I loved Geoffrey Palmer as the captain. That was brilliant. I'm so used to him from every polite sitcom... [Laughs] Come on, Moffat, give me a job!"
SFX: What about Torchwood?
Sheppard: "I'd kill to do either Torchwood or Doctor Who. John Barrowman's brilliant. Everybody knows who he is. I love that! And that he's openly gay, and he's still an icon - everybody thinks he's brilliant… cos he is brilliant. Barrowman's just the best guy for the job. Some of these things would be negatives in America. 'A skinny Scottish bloke and flamboyant gay guy? You can't get to be leads!' You've got to try to fit a certain mould and style over there sometimes."
SFX: Are there any other British TV shows that you'd like to be in?
Sheppard: "Sure. Waking The Dead. I always wanted to do Cracker. The guys that did Life On Mars were just such an amazing company. Pretty much everything they do, you can see the effort that's put into it. I met Dean Andrews from Life On Mars at Collectormania. What a fucking actor!"
"There are some great people on British television, and that's what happens when you get a resurgent film industry - one movie gets made, and then five copies of it come out, and then the industry dies. Some people go off to Hollywood, and you get your Hugh Grant movies and whatever - just semi-American stuff. But what happens is a lot of people who can't get movie jobs go into British television instead and do the darkest, scariest character shit you'll ever see in your life. I loved watching Robson Green in Wire In The Blood, I'd have liked that role! He is really good in that. Wire In The Blood is brave. There's a tradition in Britain of fantastic work. You know, I'd be honoured to be included in that group of actors."
"I saw Ken Stott in a Chinese restaurant in Soho. He sees I'm reading a script and he's obviously thinking, 'You're an actor, then!' I went up to him and told him what a fan I am, and he goes, 'Fancy a drink?' He takes me out and we have the most amazing conversation. He's totally one of my heroes, I think he's one of the best actors in Britain. And I look at him and think, 'There's hope for me yet, if he can have a cool series with that face and that look!' That's what Britain's always had. It's not just a bunch of pretty boys. We also want people with a little depth."
SFX: You've worked with Katee Sackhoff on both Battlestar and Bionic Woman. Did you both enjoy Bionic Woman as much? How disappointed were you that it didn't continue?
Sheppard: "Nobody set out to make a show that was half-arsed. I feel bad for the show; I feel bad for David Eick and everybody else. It just became this awful political wrangle, kept adjusting and squeezing. It turned into Knight Rider, basically. But we started out with something so dark and interesting. We were dead by the writers' strike. We got killed at that point."
"You know, we did some stuff on Bionic Woman together that will never be seen. There's an episode where she's all messed up in a motel… and I'm there, which doesn't make any sense whatsoever! Because two-thirds of it (the darkest, scariest parts of it; Battlestar-grade material) weren't used. It had some depth and some weight."
"There's something magical about watching Katee Sackhoff. She has a thing about her. It's effortless when she acts. She's one of the most compelling things to watch. And you see it in the Bionic Woman pilot - that fight, the Blade Runner-ish fight? You're like, 'Oooh!' Two hot women on a roof in the rain, beating the shit out of each other! [Laughs] She's truly fantastic. So it was just unfortunate. I feel really bad for Michelle Ryan too - one of the nicest girls in the world. She's very good, and hopefully she'll not have bad taste in her mouth about America. That girl's picture was on every bus stop, every building in America at one point!"
SFX: Thanks Mark!
You can read the first part of this conversation in last week's Mark Sheppard interview , and you can click here to find out more about the latest SFX Battlestar Galactica special , which is on sale now.