Gail Williams seeks out the character actor Mark Sheppard.
Say the name Mark Sheppard and a lot of people won't have the foggiest who you're talking about, he's not the leap-of-the-page-big-screen-hero type. But by the time this you've finished reading this article, you might just be surprised how many times you've seen him. You might also have seen him as Mark A Sheppard, but that’s actors for you.
The first time I became aware of Mark Sheppard was in the two part Doctor Who story told in Day of the Moon and The Impossible Astronaut, where he played the younger Canton Delaware III. I noticed him on this for his voice, fantastic voice, smooth and warm, like golden syrup over hot sponge pudding - so good you just know it has to be bad for you. Playing the CIA agent who is calm cool and capable, capable of lying to his superiors and twisting appearances to appear to be one thing when he was something else, Mark was everything the character needed him to be, and he delivered that final twist with aplomb. Loved it. Interesting fact, the older Canton Delaware was actually played by William Morgan Sheppard, Mark’s father.
Then I was watching Warehouse 13, or I should say re-watching it. Now I'm not big on subscription TV, though I do subscribe to a certain on demand service, and that was where I first stumbled over Warehouse 13 - I will admit to binge watching it then and even more so now I have the box set, but I was quite late to find this particular gem, and was surprised when I re-watched the series and there in Beyond Our Control Mark Sheppard appears as Benedict Valda, one of the regents. Again it's that incredible voice that gives gravitas to the role and the way he plays it. He's a recurring character through the series and has some excellent story lines. He died well, and came back better - well okay - he came back much worse and almost saw to the destruction of Warehouse 13, but that was another great two parter.
Similarly I re-watched Firefly recently (see article Flash in the Pan or Just a Firefly) and he pops up in early episodes of that too. He plays Badger, who's a bit of a spiv, and I have to ask - what kind of guy wears a tie without a collar? Yeah okay, costume choice is a strange sensibility to be offended on but I never claimed normality.
All of which got me wondering, what else has the guy done, so off I trotted to the ever trusty (?) IMDB and got a list, I was surprised by what else he's appeared in. Don't worry this is only the highlights, I'm not going to test anyone's patience with a list - IMDB can do that.
My daughter was the first to bring White Collar to my attention. In this Mark plays Curtis Hagan, talented art restorer and skilled forger who turns his talents to counterfeiting. Watching that show is only made easier because Matt Bomer as Neal Caffrey looks like the cool dude Sinatra - before the Vegas years - all of which I swear I am too young to remember. That series is great, a really interesting and clever twist on the whole detective story.
Another odd take on detective stories, was Chuck, Mark played the Ring Director in that. In Battlestar Galactica he is an attorney of dubious ethics - this seems to be a repeating attribute for Sheppard’s characters, but then he does it so well. He’s also turned up in Burn Notice (never watched so can’t comment), Dollhouse (I have watched, but would only bother on a really slow night), and the Bionic Woman, the truly appalling version with Michelle Ryan which I’m trying to erase from my memory. He was in Sliders which was one of those that I really enjoyed at first, then it went on too long and I drifted away, and he appeared in Charmed, but that went on too long too.
Interestingly he also appeared in The X-Files. Loved The X-Files - and good news, they’re making new episodes, but I’ll stop there before I diverge too much. Anyway, back to the point, Mark played Cecil L’Ively in the episode Fire. I pulled pictures of this character up on Google and showed my daughter, who squealed with delight and called him “Baby Sheppard”. I’m raising a monster, what can I do?
More recently though, to bring us bang up to date, Mark is now staring in Supernatural as Crowley. Now I watched the first few episodes of this on TV, but again got lost on the way, I may just have to swipe the box set off my daughter to catch up on the other nine and a half seasons. Crowley is a crossroads demon-formerly the King of the Crossroads and Lilith's right hand man-who assumed leadership of Hell after he helped Sam and Dean re-imprison Lucifer in the cage. His meatsuit (body) belonged to a unnamed "moderately successful" New York literary agent - but as a writer I always suspect literary agents have to be demons - though I’m sure I’ll change that view once I actually get one. :-D Another interesting fact. At this point he is the only actor to have appeared in both Supernatural and Doctor Who, wonder how long that will last.
Speaking of Doctor Who, and nipping back for a second to the oddity of Mark and his father both playing Canton Delaware, this isn’t the only time the pair have played the same character, they’ve pulled the same trick in NCIS and Mysterious Island.
One thing I got totally wrong about Mark Sheppard, is his nationality. I assumed, because he always seems to play Americans, that he is American. But no. The guy may live in Los Angeles, but he was born in London, which makes him another great British Treasure.
Well that only leaves one question - what's next for Mark Sheppard? No, actually that's not the question, well it’s the question for him, but for me the only question left is does he fit the Six Degrees of Separation to Lwaxana Troi? Well of course it he does! Mark Sheppard played Leucon in Star Trek: Voyager, suspect you can all figure out who the computer voice was.
Gail Williams lives in her own private dungeon populated with all the weird and
the wonderful she can imagine. Some of it’s very weird, and the odd bits
and pieces are a bit wonderful. Well okay, she lives in Swansea with
her husband and daughter. And the world’s most demanding cat. To find
out more about Gail, check out www.gailbwilliams.co.uk - Dare you!