Mark Sheppard stands prepared for a throng of people, hidden behind large gray curtains that frame the area of his photo opportunity space. So many people bought a pass to take a photograph with him that he cheerfully added a second time in the evening to facilitate his fans. He greets my photo companion and I with a smile and says simply, “love your shirt” to my friend who is wearing a Crowley King of Hell T-shirt. We joke and smile, telling Sheppard we like his shirt too. Sheppard after all is wearing an 11th Doctor shirt that references his time on Doctor Who during the Matt Smith era.
If the show is Science Fiction, chances are Mark Sheppard has been on it. He has been in everything from X-Files to Battlestar Galactica, but is best known for his portrayal as the demon Crowley on the surprising CW hit show Supernatural.
For those who have never attended a panel with Mark Sheppard, be warned that he is quick-witted, sarcastic and loves fan interaction seemingly as much as breathing. He instructs those lining up in the rows to ask questions that, “I will let you ask me questions and then do everything I can not to answer them.” Sheppard keeps true to his word, teasing fans as they stutter and show him their nervousness, but all the while in a loving fashion that evokes friendship. When one girl tells Sheppard “you’re fantastic” he merely responds with “well of course I am.”
“I’m the guy you play catch up for,” Sheppard jokes, referring to the fans who are currently trying to watch everything he has ever been in via Netflix. The internet streaming service currently has a great chunk of his acting catalog, including his portrayal as Badger on Firefly.
When one young woman approaches the microphone, Sheppard has just been handed a cup of black tea. She says quietly over the microphone “I like tea too.” Sheppard slides off the stage, walks towards the girl and hands her the cup of tea. “You should try it,” he offers. The girl shakes a little, but takes the cup and a sip. Sheppard hugs her for being a good sport as the crowd cries “awwwww.” At his panel not even the crowd is safe. Sheppard turns to the rest of the audience and proudly says, “if you’re going to do it, do it with conviction!” Over the next hour he spends a good deal of time hugging fans as they ask questions, partly to calm their nervousness and partly to heighten it.
“I get to blow a pinwheel at someone while I’m torturing them; it’s insane,” he says speaking of his work as Crowley on Supernatural. He tells the audience that although Crowley was introduced with the song Everybody Plays the Fool, he was been instructed originally that directors told him his character would be listening instead to Norwegian Death Metal. Sheppard tells the fans that he feels Crowley is always listening to Norwegian Death Metal.
When he asks the audience what they thought of the most recent season finale, he suddenly stops and looks around when people indicate that they haven’t watched it. “Rule 721 of Science Fiction: You don’t go down to the pub if you don’t want to know the score.” Sheppard, however, does not spoil the finale for Supernatural fans not yet caught up. He even tells one fan who is referencing Battlestar Galactica, “I’ll take you outside and kill you if you spoil it.”
Sheppard is delighted with the state of things for the nerd culture these days. He indicates a young man in the audience dressed in a shirt from one of the many fandoms Sheppard has participated in and states “twenty years ago you would have been beaten up for wearing that.” He speaks of his time at school, of his love for science fiction and then smirks. “Now we are a monetized asset. Now they are pandering to us.” He discusses the fact that so much has changed because fans are now showing the world what they love and what they want. “If that’s what you want to see, write it. Maybe I’ll come back and act in it.”