The devil received his due at Emerald City Comicon in Seattle in the form of cheers and applause from appreciative fans of The CW’s Supernatural. The devil in this case was, of course, actor Mark Sheppard (Doctor Who, Battlestar Galactica), who plays the demon Crowley on the long-running series.
Joined by former co-star Jim Beaver, who portrayed Bobby Singer, the two appeared onstage in the Grand Ballroom to discuss their roles on the fan-favorite drama and answer audience questions. Actress Clare Kramer (Glory from Buffy the Vampire Slayer) moderated the fun, keeping the King of Hell and the show’s surly father figure civil in the process.
Asked how he ended up on Supernatural, Sheppard explained that he knew writer-producer Ben Edlund, who felt he would be great in the role. Of course, when he received the first script, he was taken aback. As he explained, “OK, opening scene – I’m kissing a 70-year-old man at the crossroads. Yup, OK. Trial by fire …”
The two actors next were given a playful question: If either of them could play any other character on the show, who would it be? Beaver turned to Sheppard with a grin and said, “I think it would be interesting to see us switch characters … but you’d need a better beard.”
More laughter ensured when they were asked for theme song possibilities for their characters. Sheppard’s choice was fairly obvious: “Mr. Crowley” by Ozzy Osbourne. Beaver struggled with the question until his co-star suggested the Duck Dynasty theme song.
Both actors have had lengthy careers, so they were then asked about their favorite acting experiences outside of Supernatural. “I remember wanting to do West Wing so bad,” Singer recalled, “and then I did it so badly.” In the end, however, he said his role as Whitny Ellsworth on Deadwood probably tops the list.
Sheppard appeared more troubled by the question, although audience members shouted out plenty of suggestions, from Firefly to Battlestar Galactica. The actor looked around at the crowd and replied, “I don’t want to dis any fanhoods here. How can I make you all happy?”
He then said how fortunate he felt to have such a career, and confessed to enjoying pretty much all of his roles. Sheppard said he’s worked with a lot of great people, and it’s clear when they’re having fun on sets. “If the gag reels are genuinely funny, then you know people have been having a good time,” he said.
Sheppard went on to talk about the kinds of roles he enjoys playing, dividing them into two categories. First, “characters who are screwed before they even start.” He listed Dr. Zachary Smith of Lost in Space or William H. Macy in Fargo. Second, he he has fun with characters who believe “they’re the last sane man in the universe, like Eddie Albert in Green Acres.”
From the actor’s perspective, Crowley falls into the latter category. An audience member questioned that, saying the character wants to cause destruction and can’t be sane due to his evil nature. However, Sheppard explained that Crowley is trying to get the world to make sense from his perspective, not from an evil one. “I’ve never played a bad character,” he added.
Somewhat on the flip side, the next person to the microphone said he appreciated the way Beaver’s character acted as a benevolent father figure, and then asked if the actor ever gave his younger stars (Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles) any fatherly advice. Beaver shook his head and said he didn’t for a couple of reasons: “For one thing, I’m younger than them. And two, they wouldn’t use it anyway … or understand it.”
“We’re just friends who work together. We’re colleagues,” he continued. “I would never presume to tell them anything fatherly … although, I did send them emails when their first children were born. I gave them the same advice I was given when my first child was born: ‘Welcome to not ever not being scared.’”
On the topic of being frightened, the two were asked whether they believe in the supernatural. After contemplating the question, Sheppard replied, “I think it would be really sad if the universe was only as big as my imagination.”
“And it would be really small,” Beaver added with a wink.
In making the world of Supernatural look supernatural, the actors are required to work on many scenes where special effects are added later. When asked what the experience was like, Beaver simply answered, “Tedious.”
Sheppard nodded, but then confessed, “One of my favorite scenes was just me cutting my own head off. To achieve this, it was body double, green screen, split screen – so we did every version we could possibly do. I’m torturing me, going around me, being mean, and then I get pissed off and cut my own head off with a machete.”
A fan then asked the actors what was their favorite scene in which they appeared together. Beaver arched an eyebrow and looked at Sheppard, replying, “Well, I can tell you what it wasn’t …”
The audience roared with laughter at the reference to the Season 5 episode in which Bobby surrenders his soul to Crowley, a deal sealed by the customary kiss. “Yes, we have kissed,” Sheppard added. “And he has the softest lips.”
The next person to the microphone mentioned that Crowley makes a lot of jokes about being friends with the Winchester brothers, and was curious whether the character actually might feel a fondness for Sam and Dean. “Like a favorite wart?” Sheppard asked.
“Actually, I think you’re going to find out what that’s all about as we go on,” he continued. “I think that stuff with Crowley went better for the boys when he was the benevolent Crowley, although they were very aware of how dangerous he was and how self-serving he was. But I think that’s what a lot of this season is about. I think a lot of this season is about the fact that when they tried to make me human, there was a byproduct to it. Since they stopped, how much of that stayed? How much of that is there? I think you’ll be seeing that as the season moves forward. It’s kind of a liability for Crowley to have any human emotions.”
Those following Supernatural know that Beaver’s character was killed, so one fan asked the actor what he thinks Bobby Singer is doing in heaven. Beaver contemplated this for a moment and said, “If I tell you, then they won’t let me stay up in heaven. It involves a hot tub …”
When a television series airs for many seasons, it’s always possible a character might die -- although for a show like Supernatural (nine seasons and counting), death is virtually inevitable. The two actors joined the cast at different times, so they were asked what it was like to become part of a show for six or seven seasons knowing their character could be killed off at any time.
“I seem to have a long history of getting killed on lots of shows, but this is the only one I could come back on,” Beaver replied. “I think I’ve been dead three times, but that’s the great thing about Supernatural – there’s always a possibility that you might come back.”
“I’m not dead yet!” Sheppard interjected. “Being around for six or seven seasons would take me into Season 11, so from your lips …”
As all things must come to an end, so did the panel. But before it was time to go, the two were asked what they thought the finale of Supernatural might look like. The actors looked at each other, and then Beaver turned to the audience. “I think it’s a camera on both of our backs as we walk across an airport saying, ‘I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship …’”