Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Mark A. Sheppard makes loving the King Of Hell on 'Supernatural' so hot

Hell and back: Mark A. Sheppard plays Crowley, who always has a glint in his eye even if he is in serious trouble.

Hell and back: Mark A. Sheppard plays Crowley, who always has a glint in his eye even if he is in serious trouble.

Keep your brothers close, keep your enemy closer. For Dean and Sam Winchester on TV's long-running Supernatural hit show, he just happens to be the King Of Hell!

In a show called Supernatural, it is only, erm, natural that the heroes – demon hunters Dean and Sam Winchester, played by Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki – bump into more than a few demons roaming the night. No surprises either that in the course of the series’ nine seasons, a demon the Winchesters keep having to deal with – but can never seem to get rid of – is the King Of Hell.

What no one saw coming, however, was just how delicious the character would become in the hands of British actor Mark A. Sheppard, who has made the demon a fan favourite. 

Sheppard’s Crowley first appeared in Season Five as a crossroads demon – the deal-making kind summoned to make pacts which usually end with the demon taking your soul. In Season Six, he became the King Of Hell, presumably through some clever wheeling and dealing, and a mightily impressive sales pitch. Since then, Sheppard has made numerous appearances, the most coming in Seasons Eight and Nine. And he is to be a series regular in the upcoming Season 10.

In a telephone interview with the London-born Sheppard, who was making the call from Los Angeles, the 50-year-old shared that he had no idea he would be playing Crowley for so long when he first got the gig.

“(Producer) Ben Edlund created the character and Crowley is a fun person to play,” he offered. “I’ve known (producer and director) Kim Manners in the past and he had always said, 'You have to come to Supernatural. You love the boys. You have to come to Supernatural.' Unfortunately, the occasion never came up that I would do Supernatural. Not long ago, he passed. Then came the role of Crowley. I just thought, ‘You know what, I have to go do this.’ And it has been an amazing journey.”

Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki (right) are the stars of Supernatural.
Ackles and Padalecki.

One of the things Sheppard likes about Crowley is that there is always more than meets the eye when it comes to this demon, and one should take his words with a pinch of salt. Sheppard said the writers of the show have a lot fun writing Crowley’s witty dialogue and creating various scenarios for him, and Sheppard in turn has fun putting different nuances to the words, like conveying the character’s snarkiness in that oh-so-perfect condescending tone.

“He serves himself first,” said Sheppard of Crowley. “You always get the feeling he is one step ahead of the situation so it’s always fascinating to play him that way.”

Besides Supernatural, Sheppard has appeared in a number of other series including Battlestar Galactica reboot (as the lawyer Romo Lampkin), Leverage (as Interpol investigator James Sterling), The X-Files, Firefly, 24, Las Vegas, CSI: NY, Medium, Star Trek: Voyager, Charmed and Doctor Who.

Even over the phone, there is no mistaking the voice and the laugh – Sheppard talks and laughs just like Crowley. When asked if he shares any traits with Crowley, Sheppard answered in a deadpan voice, “Oh yeah. Running hell and murdering people. It’s what I do,” before laughing. “Hopefully, I don’t share any traits with Crowley. But I find it fascinating that he doesn’t follow any rules.”

According to Sheppard, Crowley is not really a bad guy as he has helped out the Winchester brothers more than once. Sure, he’s always done things for selfish reasons, whether they are bad deeds or (sometimes) good, but Sheppard insisted that Crowley is not your typical bad guy. “I don’t know if Crowley is evil... You can never be quite sure what he is doing; whether he is a benevolent being or malevolent being.”

Then there is the little experiment at the end of Season Eight when Sam injects Crowley with blood every hour so he can turn Crowley human. The jaw-dropping finale that had even its most ardent fans mouth agape with incredulity had Crowley babbling about a couple of HBO programmes and wanting to be loved. (Huh?) Well, in Season Nine, this character experiences more changes as the taste of humanity is coursing through his demon veins.

“What a wonderful way to end, with all the uncertainties,” said Sheppard of the finale. “Obviously the attemped humanisation of Crowley is going to have a profound effect and we’re just going to see what kind of effect that is when we go into Season Nine, you know. Hold your horses, it’s going to be a really interesting journey.”

Besides the supernatural element, at the core of the series is the relationships, with Sam and Dean’s being foremost. Once again, Season Nine will have the brothers fighting the good fight and yet not solving any problems in their own dysfunctional relationship. Well, in this season too, Crowley gets into the picture as he forms a kind of a working relationship with the Winchesters. “I think you are going to be surprised in Season Nine as to what relationships do and don’t develop as the season goes along.” 

Cryptic that may be, but tell us this, Mr Sheppard: does Crowley have the hots for one of the Winchester brothers? “For Sam? I don’t think so. I think he is probably more into Dean than he is into Sam.” And there’s that Crowley laugh again.

> "Supernatural" Season Nine premieres tonight at 10pm on AXN (Astro Ch 701/HD Ch 721).

Tags / Keywords: Entertainment , Mark A Sheppard , Supernatural , crowley , jensen ackles , jared padalecki


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