He plays the characters you love to hate. Some actors are so prolific they pop up as secondary characters for years, fitting nicely in the background, and you could easily overlook them. Then inexplicably they have a breakout role and show up in everything you watch. Beginning in 1992, genre actor Mark Sheppard started to amass a volume character roles starting with Silk Stalkings but not until 2005 with Monk did he hit his stride that continues to this day. Featured in several TV series per year, in the past three years you could almost change from channel to channel and catch him on multiple series within a single season. And you know what you’ll usually get with Sheppard: a whole lotta deceit, manipulation, sometimes smarmy, menacing, cunning, sinister and sometimes downright evil. Other than his facial hair, he also looks the same in each series so if you doze off and wake up to Sheppard’s unmistakable sneer, you could easily confuse which Sheppard character you’re watching. And his appearance has remained basically the same over the years–you could post a photo for each series below, shuffle them, and you’d have a tough time telling the difference (Star Trek make-up aside). And we like it that way.
Here’s a rundown of his most notable appearances (he’s performed in even more TV series and films) and read on and you might see that his various characters tend to follow a similar, dark theme:
The X-Files (1993). As the sinister Cecil L’Ively/Ben the Caretaker, he uses the ability to control fire to murder several British dignitaries, and moves along to the United States where his efforts are foiled by Mulder and Scully.
Star Trek: Voyager (2000). As Leucon, he plays the Brunali father of Icheb, the boy who was once a member of The Borg. Seemingly a meek and kind father, he actually sent his own son away infected with pathogens in an attempt to kill The Borg. Luckily, Seven of Nine saves Icheb as Leucon again tries to kidnap Icheb and return him to The Borg.
Charmed (2002). As Arnon the Aggressor, he plays a demon trying to to kill a retired elder, ultimately destroyed by Piper after the Charmed Ones become superheroes.
Firefly (2002). As the psychotic Badger, he plays a small time crook turned criminal operation, “business man,” cargo smuggler who convinces the crew of the Serenity to salvage stolen property.
Monk (2005). As Chris Downey the gravedigger, he is unmasked by detective Monk for framing kung fu movie star Sonny Chow. Once Monk figures it out, Downey knocks him unconscious and buries him alive.
24 (2006). As Ivan Erwich, he plays a Dawn Brigade Russian separatist working for Vladimir Bierko in smuggling canisters of nerve gas, ultimately killed by his own man Bierko.
Without a Trace (2006). As Ioannis “Johnny” Patani he plays a shifty crime boss, but for once is not revealed as the kidnapper in an episode.
Medium (2005-06). As Dr. Charles Walker/Jack Walker, he plays a doctor who is revealed by Allison to be a serial killer and then comes back from the dead to haunt Allison and possess vaguely psychic people and turn them into serial killers in a creepy Jack the Ripper-ish story. A shocking, stunning performance, it is my nominee for Sheppard as his most sinister and creepy character.
Bionic Woman (2007). As Anthony Anthros, he plays a developer of bionic technology.
In Plain Sight (2008). As the often talked about Russell, he gets Mary Shannon’s sister Brandi in over her head and involved in a drug sale, which sets the tone of the Brandi/Mary relationship for the coming seasons.
Burn Notice (2009). Sheppard plays the villain of the week yet again. Michael agrees to help a woman deal with a stalker, Sheppard’s Tom Prescott, only to learn that he is not really a stalker at all, but the leader of a full-scale bank robbery. Michael and recurring baddie Bly become hostages. As Fiona blows up the getaway truck Prescott offs his entire gang, to then be caught by the police.
Battlestar Galactica (2007-09). As Romo Lampkin, Sheppard gets to fully flush out and develop a character over several episodes that becomes one of the highlights of the entire series. Lampkin once had everything, great family, great career, as a lawyer on Caprica, until the Cylon strike that turns the galaxy upside down. He is smart, manipulative and deceitful, and yet we like him anyway, when he is stuck defending the even more questionable Gaius Baltar, then serving as counsel to Tom Zarek when he takes over, he is ultimately appointed President of the Colonies. One episode he’ll annoy you and the next you sympathize with Lampkin’s lot in life. Lampkin became Sheppard’s stand-out role.
Dollhouse (2009). As FBI agent Graham Tanaka, he refuses to believe in the existence of the Dollhouse. Here we see him again with Battlestar Galactica’s Tahmoh Penikett, who plays the ex-FBI agent assigned to the Dollhouse.
White Collar (2009). As Curtis Hagen, he plays a crook caught by Neal Caffrey and Peter Burke in the series pilot.
Leverage (2008-10). As Jim Sterling, former colleague and rival of Timothy Hutton’s Nate, Sheppard appears again with Jeri Ryan, and gets to challenge the entire Leverage team. Fun to see him spar with Nate–it’s a great recurring role for Sheppard.
Chuck (2010). On Chuck he is revealed to be the director of the spy organization The Ring. As you guess, he nails the role.
Warehouse 13 (2009-10). As regent, Benedict Valda presses Saul Rubinek’s Artie and the rest of Warehouse 13 team to further pursue the shady dealings of Artie’s old friend and former regent, MacPherson.
Doctor Who (2011). Six months after Sheppard’s FBI agent Canton Everett Delaware III quits the force, he is called by President Nixon to investigate mysterious telephone calls Nixon is receiving, ultimately revealed as the man who got Nixon to record everything in the Oval Office. He meets up with the Eleventh Doctor and they transport to Florida to investigate the little girl making the calls. Since this is a recent episode I’ll avoid spoilers, but Canton provides a satisfying double cross involving the creepy turn-away-and-forget’em aliens known as The Silence. Here we finally get to see the noble side of a Sheppard character. Here’s the character I would most like to see him return to play.
Supernatural (2009-11). As the evil Crowley, he initially weasels his way in to assist the Winchester brothers Sam and Dean, only to later to be revealed as having darker intentions.
Lucky for us, we can gamble on more appearances by Sheppard in his current series and can look forward to his next surprise appearance.