Exclusive Interview: Mark Sheppard, from 'Battlestar Galactica' (Part 2)
John Kubicek
John Kubicek
Senior Writer, BuddyTV
Just think about – there’s all this military, and there’s all this pomp and circumstance…


I mean there’s so much that’s been made of in Battlestar Galactica, because we came in with the ships, we came in with the military. And then Roslin gets brought into it…

What if he’s a cylon?


I mean seriously, did you ever think of that?

He’ll never die!

But did you ever think of that kind of concept?

I have thought of that, but I don’t think he is.

That’s fine by me. But it’s a helluva question. It was the first question I had to ask myself when I read the character.

Out of all of the cylons, the most human to me is the Brother Cavil, if that makes sense.

That’s interesting.

I mean most of them seem very surprised at the – well, until we got our reveal at the end (of season three), the ones that didn’t know they were cylons – but of the ones who have, at least from what we have seen, known that they were cylons for a good long while – I think they seem amazed by how humans react and they are surprised at things. Brother Cavil seems to have always kind of gone, “Oh, well yeah…” He kind of understood that.

But it’s age as well, definitely with age.

He’s an old cylon?

He’s an older soul, I think. In that way. There’s a wonderful immaturity in the cylons and he doesn’t seem to have as much of that, which I love. Does that make sense?

Oh yeah. Yeah, that definitely makes sense. I can see that.

I love the idea that Romo is something else…yeah, I know what you said. I totally get what you’re saying. I just never think of him like that. You see, I think of him as a superman.

You don’t want to be an everyman, you want to be a superman?

It’s not about not wanting to be something – it’s the way I think of him. He’s extraordinarily powerful, but not in a way that would be, you know –

Recognized by others.

Well, I think it is recognized. Absolutely the opposite of what you are saying – how’s that?

There you go. I’m saying in a positive sense and you’re just talking in a general sense.

You don’t think that Adama and Roslin totally know what he is?

Oh yeah, I do.

Totally get what he is. He’s not some lucky lawyer. He’s not an ambulance chaser. I think he’s a politician. I think he’s one of the best human politicians there is, you know?

Would you compare him with Zarek?

Yeah, I would compare him more with Zarek, than I would compare him with the other attorney.

Yeah, I mean to me he came across more of looking at the situation and playing it against its parts to the benefit of – like you said – whatever it is he’s trying to get at. Which at that point was justice.

The viewer’s problem with Romo is just his moral ambiguity. He’s not doing it the right way – that makes us comfortable. But what he’s doing is absolutely correct. That’s the point. He’s circumventing the procedure. He’s just jumping to the conclusion – you can dick around doing this all day, but the point being is that he’s not guilty. That’s the point of those three episodes – he’s not guilty. And if you find him guilty, then you’re destroying the very thing I believe in. That’s what I think. That’s what I think Romo is. Romo’s saying, “Not only is he not guilty, but it is essential that we prove that. Because otherwise the entire fabric of our society falls to pieces.”

Exactly. And I think -- maybe the audience was meant to be uncomfortable with Romo’s methods, but yes, in the end, have to take that acceptance that he’s right.

Totally! He’s got a pair of glasses and a cat and a big blue coat. How much more disarming do you need to be? You need to be a fool. And if he came in a clown costume it would have been the same thing.

And the cane.

Well, the cane is something else. The cane was…people ask me this question all the time. It’s an amazing question because it – you know how good the writing is on Battlestar, okay? And Michael Angeli wrote the episode "The Son Also Rises," and I love Michael Angeli – I think he’s one of the most amazing writers. And they go, so what of it is yours and what of it was in the script? Which I always think is the most amazing question to ask an actor. And I’m like, so what do you really wanting to know? Well, is everything you did, is it on paper? And I’m like, well not really – not everything I did is on paper. It comes to life – it evolves from the paper. But what people need to understand is that it wouldn’t exist unless it had been written. It would never, unless it had been written.

The cane is something that was mine. That was my thing. The cane was a result of Rymer coming up to me and saying, “You think he should have a cane? You think he should have like crutches …what do you think?” That was literally what the question was. Rymer’s first thing, “Well, you’ve been blown up. What do you wanna be? Or do you just want to walk in?” “No, a cane’s great.” He’s like “two canes?” And I was “no, just one cane. One cane.” And that was the beginning of it. Now, that wasn’t scripted straight from the start, but that is with Michael Taylor [writer] and I sitting there going, where’s Rymer’s visual of this? And yeah, okay we like that idea, and then Michael Taylor, who’s episode is “Crossroads, Part 1,” going, “yeah that works with what I want.” So, you know, the cane is a suggestion kind of sorted down through a few people and it comes to me. And they found me a cane and I liked it, and you know, that’s great. And then it became about using the cane for something other than it being a cane. And Rymer came and said, “you don’t really need a cane” – but that’s the entire point. He was, “Yeah, whatever, I have no idea what you’re doing.” He was kind of brilliant that way, when he’d let me go off on a weird tangent whenver I wanted to – it’s hard to explain.

But when it came down to the end, when Jamie and I had an exchange, and only one part of the exchange still exists, which is the glasses and the cane. Originally what happens is that I give him Baltar’s pen again – I actually stole it in the last scene when we left with “I’m sure you’ll fall on your feet.” I actually stole his pen again, just for something to do, and then gave it to Lee. And Lee laughs, and as I turned to Lee, he gave me back my glasses. Because I’d been blown up and we hadn’t seen my glasses, but – that’s why we’re smiling through the whole thing – but Ron, rather brilliantly, he recut it, and took out the first two and just left it as the third one, which is me putting the glasses on and leaving and then him discovering the cane. Which is what happened, but it just took out the first two beats.

Well, also, you kind of disappeared when he looked up.

Oh, that’s fantastic. I love that. I love that – that’s a complete –

He looks down at the cane, looks up and you’re gone. I love that, too. It’s like POOF.

No, you see me disappear. It’s bizarre. Two people cross, and you have no idea where I went. And Rymer – I remember doing the take, and Rymer went, “oh my god -- he disappeared.” It was a perfect happening. I literally disappear on camera. I don’t disappear off camera. It’s bizarre.

And I disappear five minutes before the lights go out, which I think is always kind of brilliant. But the cane thing – the lack of the limp. I remember Ron was in the hallway, and I looked at him and went, “Ron, Ron, Ron” and he’s like “Yes” – I said, “Can I put the cane down and walk off, and lose the limp.” And he goes, “Hmmm…yes.” And walks away. And that’s that. And people are like, “Wow, you came up with that idea.” And I’m, “Yes, I came up with that idea.” But that idea comes from who Angeli wrote in the beginning, who Ron steered with that, who developed through Michael Taylor’s concepts of who Romo is and where Romo fits in a trial, and [executive producer] Mark Verheiden – all three of those guys, pointed me towards that. That’s what’s great about Battlestar, you know? I may have come up with that, but I owe it to them.

Giving credit where credit is due.

Absolutely. People like to take credit for things that they really shouldn’t take a lot of credit for. I mean it is – the cane is my invention, the walkaway is my invention. But I think it’s a total logical answer to everything – I leave with what I came in with.

That’s perfect.

I’ve actually gone off to get my cat probably at that point, I decided.

So I know you can’t tell us if Romo is going to be in next season, but, from the sounds of it, would you like that to happen? Like before it all ends?

Would I like to play the smarmiest man in the universe, who is the last sane man in the universe?

Play one more scene? Yes, the smarmiest sane man.

Yes, the smarmy everyman. I think you mean Tom Zarek. There you go – the smarmy everyman is Tom Zarek.

He’s got too much agenda.

He does. That’s what I love about the show. I have no idea. If I was asked to do so, I mean of course. The last thing I would ever do is…

Insert yourself?

Nah, no no. The last thing I’d ever do is discuss it. ‘Cause if I did have an idea, if I was or if I had any idea that I definitely wasn’t – what a terrible thing to spoil, either way. I mean it’s going to be a terrific season no matter what. Whether Romo surfaces or doesn’t surface. It’s going to be an amazing thing to watch. I’ll be watching it whether I’m in it or not. You know? No question. And in fact, I’ll put it this way – if I never got to play Romo again, it’s still been a great thing to do.

Oh yeah. Do you like that they gave them an ending? [Referring to the announcement that Battlestar Galactica will end after next season.[

I very rarely ask Ron or David about Battlestar, in that context. It’s kind of the best way that I can be friendly with them is not to discuss anything, unless I’m working. If I’m working, then absolutely. When I was doing Bionic Woman, I’d ask David anything. But when I’m not doing it, I don’t discuss it with them. It’s much easier to stay away from those subjects. But I remember asking Ron, I was like, before the season was picked up, I said, “So, are you gonna do another one?” And he goes, “Well, it depends. If we do 22, I think that’s it.” And I said, “Why?” And he said, “I think I’m in my third act. What else…”

That was his vision.

“…where else am I supposed to go? It has to be what it has to be.” He wasn’t – I make him sound like he didn’t know what he was saying, but he absolutely did know what he was saying. And he was very, very, very sure of how he wants this to be. I love the fact that I don’t know what that’s going to be.

Well, as sure as he was of creating the universe, I would like to assume, and I believe it is a good assumption, that he knows how he wants it to end just as well. And giving him that leeway to end it in the way he wants to with enough time to do it properly.

I think it’s amazing. And they could be lying! They were lying about Starbuck, for God’s sake. I mean, who knows?

Listen to you!

I mean, it’s a bunch of people who’ve lied to you every year.

Bunch of Hollywood people.

They’re certainly not Hollywood people. But they’re very good at lying. Who knows what kind of agenda they have? I mean, it might be the biggest lie they perpetrated. It will be brilliant – either way it will work. They’ve flummoxed us every year, and it would be kind of fantastic. Wouldn’t it be great to find out that they’re doing a year afterwards?

Oh, I would still watch it.

If there was a purpose, only if –

As long as it was Ron and David, and not being some conflagration after those guys left…

If they’re going to hand it off to Mark Burnett.

No! Survivor: Battlestar Galactica.

Yeah. Battlestar - Galapagos. No, you know what? I love the fact that as a fan of the show I have complete and utter faith in what they do with the show. I mean I love watching and listening to them discussing -- when they were doing the Q&A at the Cineramadome and talking about the wonderful mistakes. Just talking about character mistakes that they’ve made. I think it’s a fantastic thing. And I remember doing the Round Table podcast – the three hour Round Table podcast in Vancouver, where I wasn’t allowed to talk.

That was awesome!

I couldn’t say what I was doing, it was hysterical. And listening to Ron truly express his feelings about what he’s done – not just be clever and coy about his creation. But to actually go, “You know, I wish I hadn’t done this so much,” or “Maybe if I’d done that, it would have been better.” I remember discussing “33” – I mean we talked about 33 as an episode – the most amazing episode of television, period. And I love the fact that I was lucky enough to be privy to seeing a lot of cuts of the last three episodes of season three. It’s just I so happened to be around, and it was lovely to be invited to see different versions of the shows. And what was fantastic was to watch the incarnations as they went from almost individual films – three individual films, to three cohesive Battlestar episodes. Which…it took an incredible amount of work from an incredible amount of people to achieve – and once you see how much gets lost…what has to be removed…how much has to be massaged and changed – its fantastic. And I looked and I remembered seeing it and going “aw man, this bit’s missing and that bit’s missing and what’s going on here.” Then I remember seeing the final cut and saying “Oh…this is Battlestar.” It is Battlestar. It’s gone from these amazingly complicated, you know, pools of stuff, great oceans of stuff -- to these beautiful cohesive episodes. I think the end of season three is a fantastic ending. It’s not the end of season one, it’s not the end of season two. You know, very hard to do those things. And I think they left us in the most extraordinary place, don’t you?

Oh yeah, it was definitely a “WHAT?”

But, I got a “what” from the year before -- “One Year Later”? I wanted to kill him! I remember seeing Ron right after it aired, and he was just giggling. I was like, “Is that you?” And he was, “Oh yeah. Oh yeah.” He’s really – he’s a very dry gentle human being. Lovely, lovely man. But he’s a very smart human being, too. I have a lot of faith in him with regard to his show. David Eick is the same. Don’t ever mistake that man for somebody who doesn’t know what’s going on. He’s very, very sharp. They’ve got a great team of writers. They’ve got an amazing, amazing group of actors.

You know, I got a lovely note from David once, and it was right after he’d seen the cut of Crossroads. He was like “fabulous performance” or whatever, “pity nobody’s fucking watching it.” And it’s the most damning thing to think that there’s so much stuff going on on television and that’s not being watched, you know?

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