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Gilles Nuytens

Mark Sheppard interview

Date of publishing: 1st May 2007

Mark Sheppard interview Battlestar Galactica Mark A. Sheppard is a British actor and musician, born in London of an Irish-German background. His television work includes the "Fire" episode of The X-Files, a year on the Jerry Bruckheimer action series Soldier of Fortune, guest-star and recurring roles on CSI, The Practice, Firefly, Special Unit 2, JAG, Star Trek: Voyager, The Chronicle, Monk, Las Vegas and CSI: NY, among others. He has most recently been seen in season five of the Fox show 24 and as Patricia Arquette's serial-killer nemesis on Medium. He appears as a guest star playing Romo Lampkin during the last three episodes of season three of the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica.

Gilles Nuytens: So you’re a big fan of the show [Battlestar Galactica]?
Mark Sheppard: I am a huge fan. My friend Naren Shankar, who is an executive producer of CSI [CSI: Crime Scene Investigation], is a very close friend. He went to school with Ron. They went to University together. And also, they went to University with René Echevarria, who is now an Executive Producer for “Medium”, which I am also on. They all worked together on Star Trek, they came from Star Trek. Naren told me that I should meet Ron, and that Ron and I would get on well. We all share an interest in computers and all sorts of other stuff. We hang out for other reasons (laughs) then just the show. But I was a big fan of the show. Ron actually tried to get me onto the show a year before.

Mark Sheppard interview Battlestar GalacticaGilles Nuytens: Yeah, as a Cylon I think.
Mark Sheppard: Well, maybe. I’m not sure. It evolved into something else I’m sure. The original idea was to bring me on as a character, as a Cylon. It was something I really wanted to do. But I was doing Medium and I couldn’t do it, there was no way for me to do the show and I was heartbroken that I couldn’t do it. And I thought that’s it, I figured well you know I had my shot and I won’t get to do it. I never really discussed it until I was at Ron’s house and David Eick was there and David said to me « You still want to be a Cylon? » « Yeah of course! » « But only a Cylon? » and I said « I’ll do anything on the show, it’s not an issue » And he says we may have a trial at the end of this season and that they were thinking of something for me. And was like « David, I will do anything on the show! » A few months later, I was at Ron’s house, and I was talking to him, I had just finished another Medium. (laughs) And I was talking to him and I was fixing one of his computers and I said oh by the way I have something for you and he goes « oh and I have something for you, three episodes of Battlestar! »

Gilles Nuytens: There is still a chance for you to be the final Cylon, why not?
Mark Sheppard: Absolutely ! Ron had said that he gave Michael Angeli Carte Blanche to make this character as odd and as wide as he wanted to make it. Michael Angeli is a very, very, very clever writer. It’s wonderful dialog, it’s a wonderfully convoluted, complicated character. You know the glasses idea was his idea, he wears dark glasses a lot, Michael Angeli, and the glasses were very important to him. And he put the cat in and all these strange elements and the kleptomania. and there are all these other questions, is he a cylon? a manipulator? is he this, is he that. All of these things are kind of irrelevant. I played him as the last sane man in the universe. If you think of the episode "The Son Also Rises", my first episode, it’s the episode after Maelstrom. Maelstrom is a disaster an absolute disaster! The end of Maelstrom leaves you with this huge hole, this gap and I walk in to a group of people in mourning. They are in mourning for Starbuck. I think I’m the only person paying attention. I think none of them are paying attention because of the events of New Caprica and everything that has happened since New Caprica. I mean basically they just want to tear Baltar to pieces, they kind of admit that they will move the trial forward because people need it, they need the trial, they need something. And my postion is that that’s no way to behave. I’m absolutely certain that Baltar is not guilty of what he was charged with, to this day I believe that. He deserved to be aquitted, he did not commit the act of treason for which he was charged. There is a lovely line in "Taking a Break" where he says that for it to be treason he has to have had knowledge of it, prior thought, it has to be deliberate and it’s perfectly articulated. It has to be deliberate. You cannot create an act of treason by accident, it’s not treason. But his fatal flaw is his begining. But I love that Romo is, I don’t know I think he’s smarter then everybody else. (laughs) I played him like he’s smarter then every body else. Then there is this wonderful thing that the writers created, which is that he is the protege of Joseph Adama. But his age falls between William Adama and Lee Adama. To me it’s almost as though Joseph Adama had a second family. You know that with fathers that have a second family there’s always a younger, there’s a middle kid. So the Grandson and the father, there is somebody in between them and they are inbetween in age as well as status. And I thought it was a fantastic thing to play. Most of my antagonism was actually played towards the Admiral not towards Lee. The entire court room scene, looking at the shots like whenever they bring Tigh to the stand. To bring Tigh to the stand to be a witness, to give evidence is the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen. He has no evidence, not any at all - it’s all anecdotal. So we have a situation by which I’m not performing to the audience I’m performing to William Adama, going to Tigh « You killed your wife and Baltar’s responsible, thank you very much now go away » but directed to William Adama. « This is your idea of justice, this is what you are doing with justice ». I believe that the system is corrupt, but it’s not unsalvagable. I love the character, Col. Tigh’s character, Michael Hogan just gives the most amazing performance as his character. If I could play anybody that is who I’d want to play, as Tigh. Do you get to see the bonus scenes?

Mark Sheppard interview Battlestar GalacticaGilles Nuytens: No I haven’t seen them yet.
Mark Sheppard: There is a bonus scene avaible on SciFi.com of for episode 18 Crossroads Part 1, the final part of the trial. The scene is me in my pajamas and Lee at the other end of the courtroom, just us. This should have been at the begining of 18, but there was no room for it, but the begining of Crossroads should have been Lee saying to me « you know he’s guilty right? » To which Romo’s answer is well he’s guilty of something, everybody is guilty of something, but is he guilty of what they are charging him, no. There is this speech about that this is not really a trial about the law, it’s a trial about a family, it’s about the « royal » family, which is your family, Lee. Is he guilty of treason? No, but is he guilty of breaking with the royal family? Yes. And for that he may just hang. That is the point! That idea breaking with the Adamas, breaking with the aristocracy, this new aristocracy, this emerging aristocracy that is created, is what I think is so immoral. Politically I find the whole thing facinating. (laughs) And is Romo a cylon ? does it matter? Does it matter if Romo is a cylon or not?

Gilles Nuytens: Does it matter, at this point no, I don’t think so.
Mark Sheppard: Absolutely not! That is what I think is so brilliant. What a great gift. I’m there to do one thing and one thing only, I think I’m there to restore justice. A true sense of justice, not this bull that has been going on since New Caprica. Which I think is brilliant. For Lee to give the speech at the end is the most important part. Because I could give that speech and everybody would say it’s brilliant but nobody would listen because I’m an outsider.

Gilles Nuytens: I think they wanted to punish someone.
Mark Sheppard: Yes, he’s the easy one to punish. He’s like Daffy Duck as opposed to Bugs Bunny, he represents what we really are, as pathetic, and sad and useless as we really are (laughs) under most conditions. Most human beings are not heroes, most human beings do not behave heroically, certainly not all the time. What an incredible aspiration.

Gilles Nuytens: What kind of effect did your father being an actor have on you, what were your motivations to follow in his foot steps?
Mark Sheppard: I hated the idea of following in his footsteps. I was a musician, primarily I was always musician. That’s how I know Brussels. I played in a lot of bands, I played in France and the first band to play in Algeria, I think. But concerning my Dad being an actor, I was like he’s the actor and I’m the muscian and that was when I was a kid, but then years later I discovered it was pretty much the same thing to me. I think we are very different, but we have a lot of similarities. He’s a fabulous character actor, truly fabulous character actor. What is funny about him is he’s getting better as he’s getting older. He’s just done some amazing work! He just finished in the film "The Prestige" and "Transformers" with Michael Bay. He’s doing some extraordinary stuff. He’s been really really enjoying this later part of his career. And that’s fun to watch and both of us can get competitive which makes it fun.

Mark Sheppard interview Battlestar GalacticaGilles Nuytens: What is your motivation to being an actor?
Mark Sheppard: No motivation at all. (laughs) Somebody asked me to do it, asked me to see if I could be in a play, and I was reluctant but I did it and I discovered it was something I love, it’s fun. But it’s story telling. It’s story telling being music, or art, or whether I write, whether I direct, or whether I act. I’ve done all of these things. It’s exactly the same to me. it makes no difference to me, it’s just a voice to something. It’s creation in its own manner. I don’t know if I will end up being an actor. I know that in this period of time it’s what I do most of and it’s what I love to do. But it’s the telling of stories and it doesn’t matter to me if it’s done in music or any form of art. I get as much enjoyment out of what I do most of and it’s what I love to do. Motivation to be an actor, I don’t know… it’s the worst job you could pick in the world. It’s based on rejection and at it’s lowest level it’s facile and uninteresting and unimportant. At its highest level it’s the most extraordinary thing to participate in. And yet how often do we get to play in it at its highest level. I think and I have to be honest, without blowing my own horn, that Battlestar is when it’s at its highest level. I think it is head and shoulders above many, many, many things made on television.

Gilles Nuytens: Have you acted with your father?
Mark Sheppard: Yeah, I have acted with my father and it was great really interesting and I have directed him in a film too. He’s a great actor, he’s a really really good actor to work with because we have a kind of shorthand and we teach together too sometimes which is very interesting. We have a lot of agreements about how things can be. And he has so much experience which is fantastic. We are very different actors but we come from the same place, which is very interesting to me. Have you seen his work, do you know his work?

Gilles Nuytens: I know he was in Babylon 5 ...
Mark Sheppard: Yes he was the Soul Hunter. You watch the film "Wild at Heart", with Nicolas Cage, Laura Dern - a David Lynch film, he did a fantastic job in that. He has done so much work he has played so many characters that are so interesting.

Gilles Nuytens: I will have to take a look at that.
Mark Sheppard: When he started out he played bad guys and stuff. He has taught me a certain sensibility about acting, as far as we are of the same belief that there is no such thing as a bad guy. They are people of a differing opinion. (laughs) And are willing to do different things to get what it is that they want. But you should never play the guy as a bad guy.

Mark Sheppard interview Battlestar GalacticaGilles Nuytens: Your character Romo Lampkin is very popular among the internet community, what do you attribute to this success?
Mark Sheppard: I’ve noticed! I think it’s an absolutley fantastic character. I don’t know what makes it so popular but it’s a lovely thing to play, I mean I have enjoyed it so much. Maybe it’s that he spans across everybodys stories. He’s like a bridge across everybody elses stories. That's why. I played major scenes with just about every single person on the ship. I thought it was facinating. I don’t know, I’d like to think I brought something interesting into it. (laughs) But it’s fabulous writing and just a fabulous character to play. I’m very happy that it’s so popular.

Gilles Nuytens: In only three appearences you are very popular, not the most popular character but quite popular for only three episodes.
Mark Sheppard: I appreciate that, everybody has been very kind about it, it’s a lovely thing. I had two amazing directors, to help create this character and Ron and David, Angeli, Michael Taylor and Mark Verheiden all these people writing to make this character and keep this character interesting.

Gilles Nuytens: What aspects of your personality did you put into Romo?
Mark Sheppard: Aspects of my personality? I don’t know. (laughs) Maybe my sense of justice. I would think my passion for justice would be the primary thing I would draw upon. Because everything else belongs to him. I mean it’s a different set of circumstances than mine. It’s not my life. He doesn’t behave the way I behave. But there is something that is similar to me which is his passion, his passion for justice. It’s very funny that Lee looks at justice as things that are legal and things that are illegal and behavior that is legal and behavior that is illegal. And Romo looks at justice as a means to achieve the correct result. (laughs) It’s a completely different perspective. Everything is up for grabs everything is allowable if you’re doing the right thing. If your result is the correct result, then the method is justified.

Gilles Nuytens: Now that the three episodes arc is over, have you been approached to play in season 4?
Mark Sheppard: I can’t answer that question.

Gilles Nuytens: Because you don’t know or because you can’t say?
Mark Sheppard: Because I can’t answer that question! (laughs). I have no comment on that. Let me put it this way, if I never appeared again on Battlestar Galactica it has been an incredible journey and if I appear again I would be extraordinarily happy. I cannot answer that! Imagine that if I know that I am, I would hate to tell and ruin the surprise, and imagine if nobody had said anything to me I would hate to tell and ruin the surprise too.

Gilles Nuytens: So with it being such a loner and a little dark and maniputaltive sort of guy, what do you think has made Romo that way?
Mark Sheppard: Dark and manipulative? I don’t think he’s dark and manipulative. I don’t think he’s dark at all! I think he’s smart. And I don’t think of him as manipulative, like I said he believes absolutely in justice. What we see of him is that he believes in Baltars right to a fair trial.

Mark Sheppard interview Battlestar GalacticaGilles Nuytens: Well, what do you think that made him what he is actually?
Mark Sheppard: Well what is he? (laughs) He says what it is in the scene in The Son Also Rises, where he talks about his teacher Joseph Adama, his teacher. He says I wanted to know what he knew so I did what he did. He believes. That is the point. That is the entire point, that he believes, it is the most important part of his life, is what he believes in. I think he’s very much a man of honor. But people always take a moralistic view of the truth and right and wrong and I think he has a very different concept of right and wrong.

Gilles Nuytens: And what was your biggest challenge playing him?
Mark Sheppard: Romo? Maybe the dialogue, to find the man that says all those things. A lot of dialogue, to find the man that is able to say all those things.

Gilles Nuytens: You had quite a lot of lines to say.
Mark Sheppard: Not just the lines, but like, what does he mean, why does he say the things that he says? What was funny is when I watched those episodes with some of the people from the show and I look at what he is doing and it makes sense. What he does makes sense at the end. When you see what happens you go « Oh that is why he’s doing what’s he’s doing ». So it has to make sense to me from the begining. And the challenge was to make a man with so many words that you don’t know whether he’s telling the truth or he’s lying, you have to find what the truth was.

Gilles Nuytens: Did you have some input on the character?
Mark Sheppard: In what manner? We always have input on the character, but did I write the character, no, that was Michael Angeli. Created by Ron, Micheal and David, Romo is their creation.

Gilles Nuytens: But I mean some actors give some ideas to the director to make modifcations?
Mark Sheppard: I agree there is always a difference from what is on paper and what is on screen, always. There is always a difference as to what is mine and what is theirs, but it doesn’t really matter. The end result is what matters, right ?

Gilles Nuytens: Yes what is on screen is what is best.
Mark Sheppard: We could have a convoluted conversation about it you know, but for example the cane being placed against the wall at the end was not scripted. When I put the cane down, that scene was not scripted, but that cane is a result of everything that was written before. Does that make sense? It becomes collaborative, not competitive.

Mark Sheppard interview Battlestar GalacticaGilles Nuytens: Yes, that’s an evolution.
Mark Sheppard: Yes, Absolutely, then it becomes logical and we have to kind of do this and suggestions are very interesting. There are many different levels of suggestion as long as you always remember that it has to come from the root, which is the story. It’s the most essential part, which is why a lot of people, with the greatest respect, a lot of people forget that to change something just to change something is uninteresting, but to change something because it evolves is a fantastic type of thing. I mean it is an amazing cast of people and they are all incredibly imaginative. And I had the benefit on my first episode of having Michael Angeli and Bob Young, (of course, being the director) being on set the entire time. Every thing I did, the writer is there so I had the ability to frankly exchange ideas and and measure it against what is best for the show and the role and everything else. There were constent tweaks being made and processes and changes and stuff which made it facinating for me. But it was a lovely luxury to have Michael actually be there and some of the time Ron was there too. And when the cane scene was up Ron was there and I was like I want to put the cane down and he was like great idea, great idea, but it comes as a result from what is written. You can never take away from the writer what is the writers. The inspiration, you know?

Gilles Nuytens: You mentioned an interview that Galatica was probably the smartest show ever produced, What for you is the smartest part of the show?
Mark Sheppard: What is the smartest part of the show? The way that these people live under these circumstances. I think it’s amazing. It’s my favorite show since "The West Wing". I used to watch "The West Wing", it’s an incredibly smart show, very interesting to watch. And the characters and circumstances were incredible. Then I started watching Battlestar Galactica and the characters, the life, the lives that are going on under these extraordinary circumstances. I think it has very little to do with space. (laughs) Which is facinating. I think that a lot of people are put off by the idea that it’s Battlestar Galactica, you know they’re many other shows around which are genre shows that you can tell by their names probably what the content is. Take Star Trek 2010 you would have an idea where that might be, but I don’t think that you can necessarily discover what Battlestar Galactica is just by it’s name. So Yes, very smart show.

Gilles Nuytens: Did you like the old show?
Mark Sheppard: The old show? No, it wasn’t my era, I saw it, I wasn’t a big fan, I just didn’t get into it, it wasn’t my thing.

Gilles Nuytens: What was the funniest experience during the shooting of Balttlestar Galactica?
Mark Sheppard: It was just a wonderful time. It was an amazing learning experience for me. It’s a very generous group of people, and there was a lot of fun on the set. There was a lot of fun to be had and many very generous people from the top to the bottom. But the funniest thing I think was the cat. (laughs) Trying to make him comfortable was very funny.

Mark Sheppard interview Battlestar GalacticaGilles Nuytens: I suppose there are a lot of small stories about it?
Mark Sheppard: About the cat ? Well everybody loves the cats and nobody is mean to the cat but we want him to jump on the table. So there is a handler there and he has trained the cat to do it, Jerry the cat. So Jerry jumps up and down and after a while he doesn’t want to do it any more . (laughs) So it’s like you know it’s pushing the cat up to the table. But Jerry and I became friends. There is this lovely scene that they cut out. At the end of the scene when Lee says if anything moves don’t touch it, if anything is in the wrong place, it’s when he is worried about me finding a bomb. And my line is if they want to kill me they’ll find a way, now how do I get to see the Cylon woman. And I looked down and Jerry the cat is sitting there and what is funny is I looked at him and there is a line says Please go boom. And what happend is the cat looked up at me when I spoke to him, then as I looked away, he looked away. It was ver funny. (laughs) Cat’s do what they wanna do.

Gilles Nuytens: A lot of people still think about science fiction as being "child-ish" stuff. What do you think we could do to prove them it's not and to push them to give it a chance?
Mark Sheppard: Change the names of all the TV shows. (laughs) First impressions. Give them better budgets, but most of them give them better costumes. Battlestar has got fantastic costumes. Science Fiction is just such a label.

Gilles Nuytens: What’s your point of view of Science Fiction today? you have worked on a lot of Scifi, like Firefly, The X-Files, …
Mark Sheppard: Today, it’s very interesting. I have been very lucky, which means I get play things or people or people in circumstances that are not necessarily realistic but extensions of reality. I love the imagnation, I think there are some fantastic films and TV made purely from imagination, which is the way it should be. If I look back, Blade Runner, Aliens are pretty much my favorite films of all time, I like many films. But those films really tell me something because they create a world that is possible and probable. And I think some of the TV series do the same and thery’re fantastic.

Gilles Nuytens: You have been cast for The Bionic Woman. Can you speak about the show and the character you are going to play on it?
Mark Sheppard: Yes! ... I can’t say what I’m doing or talk about the show. I can probably talk about it in a months time. And I can’t say what I’m doing but yet again it was a lovely role to play.

Gilles Nuytens: Can you give even the name of your character?
Mark Sheppard: No it’s not out yet so I can’t do that, I can’t do anything.

Mark Sheppard interview Battlestar GalacticaGilles Nuytens: So you can’t say if it is a recurring character or a one shot episode?
Mark Sheppard: Well no that would be saying (laughs). I can’t give any information at all as on Bionic Woman until I have approval from David Eick as to what I can say. We’ll know in about a month as to what I have to say about it.

Gilles Nuytens: The Bionic Woman is another remake of an old show. Do you like the idea to remake old shows or movies in general?
Mark Sheppard: I don’t know that they are remakes. I don’t think the present Bionic Woman bares much resemblence to the other Bionic Woman. I don’t think Battlestar Galactica bares much resemblence to the old Battlestar Galatica. Do you think so, do you think they are the same?

Gilles Nuytens: The main subject is the same, but it is certainly another show. The names are the same, the main plot of the stories is almost the same but no, it is completely different shows.
Mark Sheppard: I think so I think you’re right.

Gilles Nuytens: The old show was more like Star Wars.
Mark Sheppard: I think the old show was very indicitive of its time.

Gilles Nuytens: You have played guest roles in so many shows, what is your favorite character to play so far?
Mark Sheppard: Romo Lampkin! No question, I think he is absolutely the most amazing character. Ron said something really nice to me, he said you know we have seen you as a bad guy so many times it was nice to write you something where you’re not a bad guy.

Gilles Nuytens: Can you speak about your experience on 24 and meeting Kiefer Sutherland?
Mark Sheppard: Kiefer Sutherland? He’s a great guy! I like him a lot, he’s a very good man and he’s very much in charge of his set. He is very much in charge of what goes on around him and a very interesting man. 24 was a funny experience. It was written for me by a man called Evan Katz, who is an Executive Producer on the show and who I did a show for a long time ago. I had origanally auditioned a couple of times on 24 and I didn’t get the roles and they decided to write me a role. They said we’ve got something for you that will be really interesting. I had no idea what it was when I got it. So it would evolve every week, I was maybe supposed to be there for two or three episodes, and it became this sort of drawn out thing, this character without much to do. I was yet again a bridge between two sections I think. Between the first section and when Julian Sands comes in. But it was fun to play. 24 is an extraordinarily complicated show to make. They were very good to me, I did 6 or 7 hours.

Gilles Nuytens: Do you like SciFi in general?
Mark Sheppard: I love Scifi! But I don’t see it as anything different from anything else. I mean it’s like I enjoy stories. Good stories, if they are good stories they are good stories. I don’t watch something just because it’s SciFi and I wouldn’t avoid something because it’s SciFi.

Gilles Nuytens: Do you like Stargate?
Mark Sheppard: Stargate? Honestly I have never seen an episode of Stargate or any of its incarnations.

Gilles Nuytens: Would you play on the show?
Mark Sheppard: I have no idea, they have never approached me. My friend Jewel [Staite] is on it and I think Morrena [Baccarin] was on it, from Firefly. And I guess I just never had the chance to appreciate it.

Gilles Nuytens: Well thank you very much for your time.
Mark Sheppard: Thank you –.

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© 2007 Interview by Gilles Nuytens for The Scifi World
Transcript by Rene Burl & Meghan Gibson


 



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