Exclusive Interview: Mark Sheppard, from ‘Battlestar Galactica’
Over the years, Mark Sheppard has developed quite a resume of memorable television characters: Bob the Caretaker (The X-Files), Badger (Firefly), Dr. Charles Walker (Medium), Ivan Erwich (24), and the aptly-named Chameleon (Special Unit 2). But his most recent work as Romo Lampkin on Battlestar Galactica has broadened his fan base in ways even he could not have imagined. As Gaius Baltar’s attorney in the climactic last three episodes of season three, Sheppard was dropped into a cauldron of simmering emotions and intense plot lines all coming to a head – yet he still feels compelled to compare Romo to someone as normal as Oliver, Eddie Albert’s character on Green Acres.
This week, Mark talked with BuddyTV, discussing at great length and in great depth his Battlestar Galactica character, Romo Lampkin. The full mp3 audio file is below, along with a transcript that has been edited due to length.
Mark Sheppard, from ‘Battlestar Galactica'” width=”200″ height=”299″ />
Today I am speaking with actor Mark Sheppard, who has played many different roles on many different television shows, most recently as Baltar’s smarmy lawyer Romo Lampkin on Battlestar Galactica…
I object your Honor. I object to the word “smarmy.” What gives you the idea I’m smarmy? What a terrible thing to say about somebody. Why do you think I’m smarmy?
Smarmy is…well, that’s how he’s perceived as being. That’s how you played him, right? Wasn’t that the intent?
Perceived as being by you, not perceived as being by me. He’s not smarmy in the slightest. The smartest man in the universe as far as I’m concerned. The last sane man in the universe.
Oh, that’s right. I did listen to your podcasts, by the way, which I thought were fabulous.
Why thank you.
I know it was a little difficult, especially the last two that you had to do on your own.
Yeah, I was just watching. I was enjoying it too much, I think.
Well, still. I know that you were actually a fan of Battlestar Galactica and watching the show before you were even approached for the role, and so, I mean, you had all sorts of great insights. It’s definitely beneficial that you knew what was going on going into it.
Yeah, I did. I was lucky enough to – I know both Ron [Moore] and David [Eick] through mutual friends. Ron used to be roommates with Rene Echevarria, who is now an executive producer on Medium, which I’ve just now done my third episode of Medium. So we were introduced that way. It actually all started with Javier [Grillo-Marxuach], who introduced me to Naren. Naren Shankar is a great friend of his, and Naren and Rene, and Ron all went to school together.
So, it’s all Javi’s fault?
So, thanks to the great Javier Grillo-Marxuach, I am introduced to a gaggle of friends who tend to keep me employed. Which is a rather wonderful thing.
Yeah, and I think he’s employed you in a gaggle of roles as well.
He has, some of which never made it to screen. But he’s definitely written some wonderful roles for me. I’ve had a lot of fun with Jav. He’s a great, great writer. That does help when people are writing for you. “Hey, I’ve written you something really good.” – and it’s terrible, would be really, really sad. But the Romo thing is fun. Sorry, what were you going to ask?
No, that’s alright.
It’s because you called me “smarmy” – I got the right to interrupt you now…forever. Smarmy…
I’ve got your dander up?
No, you just reduced a character of, I hope, somewhat reasonable depth and weight, as “smarmy.”
I’ve totally stereo-typed you. I’m sorry, your character.
Not stereo-typed – pigeon-holed is what you have.
I’ve pigeon-holed you. Well, you broke out of the pigeon-hole. And you have the rest of the conversation where you can defend him as being “non-smarmy” all you want.
No, I’ll just keep coming back to “smarmy” for the rest of the conversation. Go on. Ask me a question.
When I listened to those podcasts that you did, you mentioned that Romo is your favorite character that you’ve ever played. Is that true?
Yeah, I think so. There’s an awful lot to Romo. I mean there’s a lot to – I’ve been lucky enough to play some wonderful characters. And there’s a lot to a lot of them, if you know what I’m saying.
But as far as layers are concerned and possibilities are concerned, I think Romo is a truly wonderful character. Ron said something nice when he was in. He told me that they had written this, and said, “Oh by the way – I’ve got you something. Three episodes of Battlestar.” Which is a very bizarre way to startle me in his kitchen.
I’d like to be startled that way.
It’s very, very weird. It was a very, very, very weird day. But it was kind of brilliant. I think he took great delight, and as I take great delight, in the fact that most of the time I tend to play what are termed “villains” – I don’t think of people as villains, but people with massively different agendas than the heroes usually in our pictures, especially in sci-fi. And this, I think, is very, very different. I think Romo is very, very different. I mean…somebody asked me, “Do you think he’s a cylon?” The first thing Eddie [Edward James Olmos] said was, “The first thing I’d be thinking was: he’s a cylon.” I’m like, but does it really matter? Does it matter whether he’s a cylon? It actually doesn’t. I mean, his principles are extraordinary. His logic is I think extraordinary.
It’s just because he’s very deliberate in the way that he executes what he does. As a character – the character is written very deliberately, in a manner that he has a very different set of moral values than the people around him. Which I think is an absolutely amazing thing to play. Plus being a kleptomaniac, you know – if you have a bizarre trait it doesn’t hurt along the way. Michael Angeli’s [writer] kind of brilliant when it comes to that kind of writing.
Oh yeah. He’s fantastic. I like what you said in one of the podcasts, I think it was for “Crossroads, Part 2,” you believe that Romo is truly the only sane person.
I got the quote. The “last sane man in the universe.”
“The last sane man…” I like that.
All the great characters, I think, that have ever been in films and on television have been the last sane man in the universe. I think there are two; my two favorite characters are usually the last sane man in the universe and the guy that sold everybody out before it started.
That was Badger, right?
No, no, no – the guy that sold it out before everything started is Gaius Baltar. Or Zachary Smith from Lost in Space. I mean, before the show starts, he’s already sold everybody out. I love those characters. Those are the great characters to play. The other one is the man who wanders through. Like the Eddie Albert in Green Acres character. I think Romo is like Eddie Albert in Green Acres. How’s that? He’s Oliver in Green Acres.
Oh really? There’s an interesting analogy. I was thinking he was more like the Jiminy Cricket.
He’s Apollo’s Jiminy Cricket – he was his conscience; he’s the one who brought that out, don’t you think?
Nah, I’m not Apollo’s conscience. I don’t think I have anything to do with Apollo’s conscience. No… but I like the fact that people have different opinions about where Romo is, and I think it’s kind of a brilliant thing about him is that – all you gotta remember is that his rules are different than anybody else’s. And I think the easiest way to remember it is – it’s the result that counts. It’s not the methodology by which one achieves the result. And if you look at Lee and Admiral Adama and the President – it’s all about the methodology. It’s agonizing about whether they’re doing the right thing while they’re doing it. And with Romo it’s like – f*ck it, just do it. What you need to do is achieve justice.
I mean, that’s the point. Is justice achieved at the end of “Crossroads, Part 2”? I think so. I think that’s the point. I think there should be no other outcome to the trial. And I think that is Romo’s job – by any means necessary.
Well also, he revealed the flaw in the system – the fact that there was no system anymore.
Right. You know, I think Jamie [Bamber] put it best in that lovely piece of writing and a lovely piece of acting with that section – I don’t know where the writing ends and the acting begins in that speech he has, but there’s a lovely piece where he says basically we’re a gang. Jamie was always talking about — these are rules for 51 billion people. This is a system for 51 billion people. This isn’t the system for the 40,000 people that are left. It’s not. It’s a completely different thing. You can’t run this type of system with a very quickly disintegrating human race. It needs to be looked at in a different way. The pomp and circumstance are there, and they’re all very caught up in the methodology.
And that’s the point. That’s why Romo wins. They’re all caught up in the romanticism of the trial. And it’s quite right. They want to throw [Baltar] out of the airlock so they can move on. That’s the point. And he didn’t do it. He didn’t do what they accused him of doing. He did do an awful lot of things, I mean, we know as viewers of the show – forget about what Romo knows. That’s a separate issue as well. But as viewers of the show, we know that he did something that we would all be guilty if we did it. …isn’t it?
But it is taken care of in “Taking a Break [From All Your Worries,” Episode 3.13]. It’s the greatest line – “it can’t be treason without intent.” If there’s no willful intent, it’s not treason. You understand what I’m saying? It’s a very important line. So morally yes – the moral substitute that is Baltar. It’s only…his brilliance is only marred by his guilt. He’d be a very different person if he didn’t spend his entire time going, “oh my god oh my god oh my god – I destroyed Caprica.”
Well, and if his motivations were less self-focused…maybe.
They have to be self-focused because it’s continuously self-preservation. I mean, one can be self-focused and one can be self-focused. I love his character in the context of he has no choice. He’s yet again another product of this society, which I think is fantastic. He’s privy to certain circumstances with Head Six [Tricia Helfer] and the stuff that happened on New Caprica and the subsequent stuff that happened with the cylons on the cylon ship.
He’s privy to stuff that is mind-blowing, I think. And, I’m constantly in awe of the way this universe has been created by Ron and David and the rest of the writers. I just think it’s fantastic the way it is done. It’s constantly making questions; not giving answers.
It’s one of the things – I know you’re picking on me about listening to the podcasts, but I’ve listened to every one of Ron Moore’s podcasts. And I don’t even have to watch it with the episode because he gives so much background and so much thought. It’s impressive just to listen to how much he’s put into this, and we get this one scene, but there is so much more that’s not there.
That’s why on the last two podcasts I did, I didn’t go into much detail because, I’m going, “you know what, it’s been done.” He’s done it. He’s told everybody what it is. It would be awfully presumptuous of me to repeat it.
He’s kind of fantastic at it, which is what I was alluding to. Ron is very good at doing these things. It’s different when I’m sitting with – the one with me and Angeli. It’s just me and Angeli having a great deal of fun. And it’s nice to have Angeli bring other aspects of the episode. But yeah, there is so much going on. He (Ron) has such an overview, such a purview of the characters and the world. It’s fantastic to listen to – and it actually doesn’t disturb your watching of the show, which is kind of bizarre. John Frankenheimer did a movie called The Train – he did a commentary on the laserdisc for The Train and you can literally listen to his commentary and watch the movie at the same time and it’s fine. He gives you all this wonderful information. But yeah, the world is an incredible place. Ron and David’s world is an amazing place to play.
Ask me another question about the last sane man in the universe being smarmy.
How about that scene in the courtroom, in Baltar’s courtroom. Well, it’s not really a courtroom, but the big room they used.
The hanger bay.
The hanger bay that has been made to look like a courtroom. How was it being locked up with a bunch of the same actors in the same places for two to three days going over and over and over it? Was it fascinating for you?
That was two to three days? I thought that was more like a week. It was long – we were there a long time.
Was it like doing a play after awhile? Where you’re all in the same spots?
Yeah. It was like Twelve Angry Men. The takes were nine, eleven, fourteen minutes long. Each piece we did was between nine and fourteen minutes long, and [director Michael] Rymer would put up cameras, three cameras, and we’d shoot. And we’d shoot at the same intensity and the same ferocity from the beginning to end of whatever section we were doing. We’d go as far as we could go. So Jamie’s penultimate scene…Apollo’s penultimate scene – his wonderful speech at the end – actually the beginning of that take is the interrogation of Gaeta. So it starts with Chelah Horsdal, “Cassidy” starting the interrogation of Gaeta, and it goes all the way through to the end with “No further questions.”
And we did it all in a day. That was a day’s worth of shooting. And it was an amazing piece to do. And I remember Rymer looking at it and going, “Hold on a second, I, uh – our chapters are only nine minutes long. How the hell are we gonna get fourteen minutes into a nine-minute chapter?” That’s for the commercials. It was great.
I mean, what a place to play. Everybody was laughing at us. We’d have the factions, of course, where the chairs were, you could see the set – very, very cool set – and you know, there would be Jamie, James [Callis] and myself, and we’d revert to our natural accents while we were sitting there, jabbering on.
I know, it was the Brits’ Table, I saw. Y’all had the Brits’ Table where y’all were all “defensive.”
In a way, oh yes, absolutely. We’d be blah blah and laughing, then suddenly I’m Irish, Jamie’s American, and even James’ voice changes when he’s Baltar, which is interesting, fascinating. And the funniest thing is that everyone had to sit in the bleachers, so Mary [McDonnell] was sitting in the bleachers and the rest of ‘em were sitting in the bleachers. And Tahmoh [Penikett] was there behind me and Alessandro [Juliani] and all the rest of those guys, but they wouldn’t talk to us at times. It was getting very…there were factions. I think Mary was throwing stuff at us occasionally, “I’m not talking to you.” It was like the different camps.
It was like a very bizarre play. But it was extraordinarily intense – it wasn’t light at all. It was very, very, very good. It was very deep and very good. I mean, we – it was an amazing way to play. It was a lovely way to play, and it’s a set unlike any other set, and it was a group of actors unlike any other actors. Even from some of the actors who I would presume to say, it actually does them a great disservice to say, may not have been as experienced as some of the others. I mean, they’re all fantastic. They’re all fantastic. Without naming names, they’re people there that don’t have much dialog who I think are unbelievable. Unbelievable at what they do. So it’s a nice place to go to work. Does that answer your hanger deck question?
Oh yeah. That answers my hanger deck question. You’re being mean.
I am not. It’s just convenient for you to feel picked upon. Remember – “we’re looking for results. The methodology is of no importance.”
Now you’re getting all philosophical on me.
I’m getting a bit Romo on you, I think.
You’re “Romo”-ing me. It’s now a verb.
You know – well, if you’ve seen the stuff on the internet. It’s hysterical. It’s brilliant.
Yes, yes I have, as a matter of fact.
I was in London and I was doing some publicity and some other things. I was in a couple of conventions, and I actually went and played poker on television – on Sky. And they introduced me and played a three-minute clip of Battlestar. Which they don’t do on the Poker Channel. It’s not what they do. So they were all standing and watching it – and Sky had obviously given them the clip. They were like “wow, this is really cool.”
I came from that and arrived home and everything was real fun. There was a little bit of a buzz going. I had seen people at conventions in England and it was great to meet Battlestar fans in England. I arrived back and I called NBC and was like “I hear something’s going on at the Cineramadome in Hollywood – Can I get an invite?” And they were like “Of course!” And I show up and it went bananas. It went crazy. First of all, there were like 200 people with “More Romo” signs.
Which was the greatest thing I’ve ever seen. It was lovely. I was sitting with Eddie and Bob…the director, Bob Young, from – the director of fabulous episodes, he did the boxing episode.
He did that “Son Also Rises” one, your first one, too.
Correct. He did my introduction piece. Which – greatest respect to him – I think something that is post-Maelstrom…something that comes after an episode as big as Maelstrom is a helluva thing to follow. I mean, you’re gonna have pretty much of a downer episode and it was like a mausoleum on the set. It was extraordinary. But I think he made a very, very interesting study; it was the human study piece that really caught my eye.
So I’m with Bob and Ari, a young star with Eddie from court – fantastic Irish actor – and we got to watch “Crossroads, Part 2,” on the big screen. It’s incredible. And I’m just having this amazing day and red carpet, and…Lucy Lawless. Great pictures of Lucy Lawless hanging off me. Made my day. It’s lots of fun, press photos. And everybody was just so up, and the fans are so cool. And we did the big Q&A, and Eddie got up at the end and had me stand up and led a chant of “More Romo.” Which I will never forget and which I thought was absolutely fantastic. I felt much loved and much appreciated, you know? That’s what it’s about. I had an idea that the character was liked. It’s a great character – an amazing character to play. But I didn’t realize that it would have quite the impact that it had. You know?
Well, it was so different. It kind of put an everyman, you know, kind of a smarmy everyman, but an everyman nonetheless, in the middle of this universe that we already have established.
Wow. I like that. You see him as a “smarmy everyman.” That’s kind of interesting. No, I’m dead serious. It’s interesting to me. I wouldn’t – those two words would never enter my vocabulary. I’m not saying you’re wrong.
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.
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.
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…
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?
I can’t comprehend. Because I can’t imagine missing it.
What are your other shows that you like?
What are the other shows that I like?
Yeah, what’s your taste?
What’s my taste…I’m a big Lost fan.
Yeah. I loved the first season. The first season was great.
Now listen to you. See, I’m one of those die hard, from the beginning to end type people. And also I’m…well, you know I know Javi, and I know other people involved in it.
I auditioned for Sawyer.
Did you really?
Of course I did. Absolutely. It was great.
It was at the Georgian Hotel in Santa Monica. I auditioned for J.J. [Abrams]. He looked at me and goes, “You’re really good, aren’t you?” I said, “Thank you.”
“You’re really good?” “Well, thank you!” And then he just gave you the shaft.
Well, it’s a lot of fun. No, he just didn’t see it as me. I think, what’s his name, Josh is incredible! Great cast. Fabulous cast.
You were actually looking at doing series work? Cause most of the work you do is the character actor, guest star role type of stuff. Would you have signed on for five years, let’s go?
I’m sorry. Have you ever lived or worked with an actor in your life? What actor is not willing to sign on for five years of his life on a television show? Unless he’s a massive movie star. That’s what we do. I guest star on a lot of stuff, but I also am given choices in certain TV series, and I’ve been very close on a lot of big shows that I haven’t ended up doing. I just haven’t – I mean, as you know, I just finished doing the pilot for Bionic Woman, and we’ll see what my position is in that when that comes through. But that’s my life – my life is constantly going to network and finding out what show I’m going to be signed on to for the next five years. And in the interim, one guest stars and one does the rest of that stuff. It’s the nature of being a character lead is that you tend to do this kind of thing while looking for series. It is what it is. But I kind of like where I’m at. I’m the kind of guy – I don’t tend to do one episode anymore, which is nice. You know? Does that make sense?
Yeah. Well, it gives you more of a chance to give your character an arc, as opposed to just being there for the dressing. For the show.
They’re picking them for me. I mean, what’s been really weird is the last four, five jobs that I’ve done have been all written for me.
I’d take that.
Yeah, they’ve all been written for me. 24 was written by Evan Katz for me and I’d work with him before. They’ve seen me for some other roles and other seasons and they went “no, no, no, no – we’ve got something, we’ve got an idea and we’ll run with this.” And they created the Yellow Tie Man, the Ivan Erwich character, and I remember getting it. “Great they’ve written me something!” Then I get the script and it says “Yellow Tie Man” – I’m like, “what are you doing to me?” And I don’t have any dialog in the first episode. They’re like, “Don’t worry, it’s gonna be great.” I love Evan, he’s a great man. I did Special Unit 2 for him. I played The Chameleon in Special Unit 2, which was his show. It was a good show. There’s a lot of that. The Without a Trace was a consolation role – I was supposed to go play it again. Medium was a, you know, I’ve now been on three –
You’ve done three of them.
I’ve done three seasons, yeah absolutely. It was funny, somebody said, “you coming back?” Absolutely, of course I’m coming back. I’m Glenn’s favorite sociopath, I think. Glenn Gordon Caron’s gotta write me a new episode. It’s hard to bring me back. It’s hard to work it out in those situations.
And Romo – it was a wonderful thing. There was talk a year or so ago of playing a cylon – there was a cylon role for me and we just couldn’t do it. I was doing Medium and I couldn’t get out of doing the Medium episode. And Rene and Ron spent two weeks trying to jockey the schedules to have me do it, and I felt my chance had come and went at Battlestar. I thought…it was terrible. I was miserable. And I’m in Ron’s kitchen, a year later, and I just finished another Medium, and I was talking about something and I said, “I have something for you.” And he said, “Oh, I have something for you.” I said, “What?” He said, “Three episodes of Battlestar.” I said “What? What the hell are you talking about?” My phone rings and it’s my agent, and he’s like, “Hey Mark” and I’m like “I’m in Ron Moore’s kitchen. I’ll call you back.” He’s like, “Oh, so you know.” I’m like, “Okay yes. Ron you can’t do this. You have to do this over the phone. You can’t do this in person.” I nearly burst into tears. He’s just so wonderful. You know, he’s just such a wonderful guy. He and David had decided what they thought they wanted me to do and put it together and made it happen.
And that’s a fantastic way to do stuff. You know? A fantastic way to work. Now I just have to parlay that into something else. If we could just get people to watch it, it would be great.
Well, I wish I could answer that great mystery, because it still stumps me.
Well like Eddie says, it’s gonna be on DVD forever. I’m sure it’ll end up on HD-DVD or Blu-Ray. It’ll be there forever and people will go “this is the greatest series that nobody watched the first time out.” You know?
I can’t wait for my kids to get old enough to watch it. I remember introducing them to, I mean, I’ve introduced them to Star Wars and so many other things – yeah because of DVDs. They’ll still be able to – they’ll get to watch these things that I enjoyed 20 years ago, whatever, and it’s fantastic. And they’ll definitely be watching Battlestar one day.
But there was something amazing about going to the Cineramadome and watching it projected. I mean it was huge – you know the Cineramadome is one of the biggest cinemas there is. The last film I saw there was The Wild Bunch – you know, 65 or 70 millimeter print of The Wild Bunch. Incredible movie theater. Massive dome in the middle of Hollywood. And “Crossroads 2” up on that screen. And Eddie’s right, he said, “This is the way it was supposed to be seen.” I said, “You know what, you’re absolutely right.” It really is incredibly cinematic. It’s kind of moving to sit in a room and watch something that big. I shan’t forget it. It’s an amazing thing to watch in a cinema – in a giant cinema like that.
I’m a lucky man. I’ve played a lot of interesting characters. But “Third Cop From the Left” — I don’t think is going to happen for me. “Good Guy”? Who knows now. Like Ron said, “You know, we’ve seen you play bad guys, and I think this is a little different for you.” I think this is Ron’s idea of a good guy. Romo. And you know the argument about the name, right? The Romo Lampkin name.
You got that on the podcast.
I heard Michael Angeli say it. How he satisfied the two – Ron and David.
He’s ridden that fence for as long as he could. Eick is a huge Cowboys fan – I mean HUGE Cowboys fan. But he was actually certain it was for Tony Romo and he won’t hear anything else. That’s it. He doesn’t care about what anybody else says about it. That’s what it is. So I’m like “yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever.” So it’s kind of fun.
Have you got any other questions for me?
The only thing I have left is asking if you are working on anything right now or do you have anything else down the pipe?
Well, as we say – I’m not sure what my position will be with Bionic, but I have an extraordinary character in Bionic Woman, which David was kind enough to write for me. A lovely, lovely piece, and I want to see how that emerges a little…
How that shows up. I mean there’s been some sneak – people have released some sneak news about it, so people have an idea of who or what I’m playing. They’ve all got the name wrong, which is great, but – not my name, the character’s name. But it’s interesting. Have you seen the pilot?
No. I haven’t.
I have not. I’m not one of those privileged people.
No, no – I’m just curious with regards to the proliferation on the internet. I’m sure there’s stuff out there. Have you seen any of the clips? You should check it out. It’s an extraordinary piece.
I’ve seen the stuff on NBC yeah. NBC has little blips for the Fall Preview shows, and that’s all I’ve seen.
Well there’s some stuff out there that’s pretty amazing. I just think it is a really interesting reimagining. I mean David was a very smart man when it comes to that. He put a very different voice to this, and a very different look to this. And Michelle Ryan is amazing. She’s a great girl. I remember watching her on the English show Eastenders – you know, this little girl, 15-years old. I always remember her being slightly different than everybody else – she was slightly more interesting and slightly different. It wasn’t really her job being in a soap. And then to see her in this, you’re like “Oh okay, she’s great.” She’s really good.
There you go.
Quite a surprise, you know what I mean? I have a few other bits and pieces being talked about.
None of which you can talk about.
That’s the nature of – I’m Mr. Event Programming, I guess. I appear in events. So I have to be very careful about what I announce.
I could see that. That’s not too bad of a place to be in though.
I’m going to go to a bunch of conventions this year. Which is going to be fun.
I know. You’re going to go to Dragon*Con and I will see you there.
First time ever going to Dragon*Con. You’re going to be there?
Dragon*Con will amaze you. I was there last year. I was there with Aaron [Douglas], Tahmoh, and James [Callis] – and oh we had so much fun.
Oh that’s going to be great.
So much fun.
Tahmoh is most definitely the master of ceremonies in Vancouver. My God, he can’t go anywhere. Everybody knows him. Everybody.
That’s fun. I love it. I truly love it. The fans are the greatest. I mean, really the greatest. I’ve been lucky with Firefly and all the other stuff I’ve done over the years, and X-Files and everything else. I’ve had some lovely, lovely encounters with fans. I’ve been very lucky in that manner. And I love seeing the people. I’m going to do Dragon*Con. I’m going to go to ComicCon next month and Jav will be there so…
But we’ll take a troll around ComicCon and Verheiden will be there and it will be nice to see some people, having done Romo, it will be nice to walk around and see. And I’ve a little charity work to do for some Browncoats. They have a little charity thing going on. So if anybody’s listening to this or reading this, come and say hi if you see us at any of the conventions. You have to say hello and introduce yourself, and we’ll have a good time. I’m doing GenCon – I’m going with my dad to GenCon. You know my dad is a well known character actor [W. Morgan Sheppard]?
He’s an actor. Yeah. That’s fantastic.
Everything from Babylon 5 to Star Trek 6 to…my God, Elvira. He was the star in an Elvira movie. Fabulous, fabulous actor.
He’s never done a convention, so I was, “That’s great, let’s go do one.” So we’re going to go do a signing together.
Oh that will be fun.
So, we’ll be doing that and floating around a few others. I’m going to see plenty of fans this year. So if I never work again, as you know some actors never do, and if I never get to play Romo or if I never get to do Bionic Woman again, and I end up, you know, destitiute – I’ll always have conventions and the fans to have something to talk about.
You most definitely will.
Thank you so much. I don’t want to keep you any longer.
Are you telling me to shut up now? Is that your way of getting rid of me?
No…I’m trying to let you get back to your life and your family. I’m being nice and considerate.
There you go – it’s better than me being smarmy. I appreciate that.
You’ll always be smarmy to me.
It’s been a pleasure.
Thank you very much Mark and I look forward to seeing you soon.
All the best.
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