If you’re a fan (like I am) of post-apocalyptic shows, then you probably know Graham Shiels from his stint on the CW’s The 100. He played a grounder named Quint who quickly developed bad blood with the shows fearless leader Clarke Griffin (Eliza Taylor). Now, although his time on the teen drama was cut short, a result of his character meeting his untimely demise at the hands of his Commander (Alycia Debnam-Carey) and a gruesome beast on the ground, we still loved to hate that loyal hothead.
If you’re not a fan of The 100 (please go home, you’re drunk, ha) then you might recognize Shiels from his roles on shows like Arrow, True Blood, General Hospital and Disney XD‘s Lab Rats. Shiels, who is as humble as he is handsome, can now be seen in Olympus, a fantasy series on Syfy.
The new adventure series chronicles the lives of several women and men, who were brave enough to banish the gods from Olympus to the underworld (one-way ticket to Hades? Yeah, I’ll pass on that trip). The show follows Hero (Tom York), as he navigates through his past which leads him to a connection to the gods themselves.
I recently caught up with Shiels about his role on Olympus, as well as his love of Greek mythology. We also got to chat about his time on The 100, and he dished about that super awkward time he starred in the most famous sex scene on True Blood.
MCKENZIE MORRELL: Hi Graham, thanks for chatting! What drew you to this role, what made you want to audition for Olympus?
GRAHAM SHIELS: I get giddy like a high-school cheerleader thinking about the Lord of the Rings, the HBO series Rome and Game of Thrones, and greek mythology in general so when my agent told me I could audition for OLYMPUS which would take the best elements of all, I felt like a kid on Halloween!
MM: Can you tell us about King Aegeus, the character you play on the Syfy series?
GS: King Aegeus is an actual King of Athens. He lived in 2000BC. Whether or not his son Theseus slew the Minotaur or not we can only guess. But the King Aegeus of OLYMPUS is an actual descendant of the gods. He was the Lexicon bearer, the key to the gates of Olympus and immortality. Sounds easy, right? Ah-ha! Not so… it’s a riddle locked in his soul which tortured him (much like the ring does in the Lord of the Rings) to the point where he had to get rid of it and passed it to the soul of his first born. This cowardly decision has haunted him his whole life. OLYMPUS starts at a point when Athens is under siege by King Minos of Crete and everything is crumbling around him.
MM: Were you knowledgeable or a fan of Greek history/mythology before landing the role?
GS: I was a huge Greek mythology geek as a child. Loved the old Jason and the Argonaut movies and reading voraciously about the Greeks. I loved the names of gods alone and what they represented. As an adult I fell in love, introduced by my parents, to the life’s work of Joseph Campbell. I watch his Bill Moyer DVDs over and over. They’re the only reason I belong to Netflix’s DVD delivery service!
MM: How does this character differ from any of the other roles you play– for example Liam on True Blood or Victor Krane in Lab Rats?
GS: King Aegeus is the most vulnerable character I’ve ever had the blessing to play on camera. On stage I’ve had the joy to play Antony in Julius Caesar, Hotspur in Henry IV Part 1, and even Edmund in King Lear, but on camera I’ve had a career based on arguably two-dimensional characters—other-worldly bad guys much like Liam, a vampire, on True Blood, and Victor Krane, a bionic genius evil billionaire on Lab Rats. King Aegeus changed all that and blew it out of the water. Here is a man, a King, who is in a fractured relationship with his sorceress wife, his now formidable son whom he abandoned, he’s under siege of his long-time enemy, and most of all he’s tortured in his soul by his ancestors who just so happen to be gods and aren’t going to be happy with him in the underworld. Things can only get worse for Aegeus unless he takes a drastic turn. So there’s a lot to play with there!
MM: Going back and forth from a CW show, to a Syfy show and a Disney show would you say you’ve faced any challenges with how to play for your audience?
GS: Going from Marvel feature film to HBO series to Jim Carrey comedy to Disney XD comedy to CW series to now a Syfy period drama speaking Received Pronunciation is a fantastic challenge to an actor and it’s what I’ve prepared my whole life for. Acting is acting is acting. The tasks may be different but the goal is always the same: to take the audience’s breath away. The medium, kids’ comedy or big budget action movie, is what changes. My level of belief and commitment in each has to be the same. It’s fun and a blessing to get to work in such varied genres.
MM: You also were on the CW’s The 100 as Quint, although you spent a short time on that series– did you enjoy playing a character in a post nuclear apocalyptic world?
GS: The 100 is a wonderful high concept sci-fi show that is very successful and very well done. It’s great because it has humanity. Two very talented and prolific friends of mine on the writing team—Aaron Ginsburg and Wade McIntyre, a fellow Yalie! The cast is spot on and the wardrobe department totally pimped me out—have you seen pics of my costume? I should’ve been in Mad Max!
MM: What is one misconception people often have about actors or the entertainment industry as a whole?
GS: There are many misconceptions about actors. Here in LA it’s that we’re all shallow and in it for the fame and money. But that’s not true of the actors I hang around with. I also teach acting here in LA. And the students I attract to me are very genuine in their aspirations.
Info at www.grahamshiels.com
We do it for the love and joy of the work itself. As for the money, bahahahahahaha! Mickey Rourke did construction after the 80’s. After he was a star. If an actor enters this craft with dreams of making lots of money they are sadly mislead. They should’ve been a stock-broker.
MM: Throughout your acting career, have you had any extremely embarrassing or awkward moments?
GS: The most awkward was when I did one of the most famous sex scenes in all of True Blood—famous because it was the very first sex scene with a vampire and a human. I was totally naked except for a sock. Then they took the woman out and replaced her with a boxing heavy bag wrapped in green felt (like a green screen) because they were going to speed up my motion. Well, there had to be someone to hold the bag in place. So there was a crew member there cowering around my knees out of the shot holding the bag in place as I thrusted against it like a dog. Right before Alan Ball called “action” this man said to me, “just don’t tea-bag me!”
MM: What would you say is your biggest pet peeve? Do you possess any quirks that irritate anyone in your life?
GS: My biggest pet peeve is entitlement and inconsideration in others. People posting political/social injustice stuff on their Facebook wall like they’re a holy savior and yet have never volunteered a day in their life. People on their cell phones in front of me when I’m out with them! Maybe I’m just from another generation but that is not cool. They say think globally, act locally. That’s a wonderful expression to live by. Too many people just think and speak globally but turn their nose up at their neighbors.
MM: You’re the voice of Leo in the BATTLEFIELD: HARDLINE video game, what’s that process like?
GS: Shooting the motion capture for BATTLEFIELD: HARDLINE was so much fun. I got to work with Kelly Hu and Nicholas Gonzales, who I worked with in True Blood. It was my first time doing mo-cap so it was an amazing experience to witness the amount of technology and money that goes into these games. And then to see what the possibilities are when they’ve got your images in their system. They can basically do anything with your images it’s incredible. I remember the make-up people putting 64 adhesive white dots on my face before we’d shoot and I was told each one of them cost $4. I felt really special.
MM: Name a snack that you couldn’t live without?
GS: Turkey jerky. Thank goodness for healthy teeth.
MM: Say there was an alien invasion, would you join them or try to escape?
GS: Alien invasion. It’s bound to happen, right? Easy answer is “it depends.” If the assumption here is that they’re hostile then I would join my fellow man defending this marvelous planet we so love to destroy called Earth. But not before I’d made as much love as possible.
MM: Favorite type of candy?
GS: Any kind of licorice. The good stuff you get at a place like Whole Foods is best, though.
MM: What’s next for you, I mean, you’re probably super busy with your current projects but can you tease any upcoming roles?
GS: Well, I’m disappointed to say I was going to be a part of this wonderful comedy, however, I have another project, one that I may or may not have been a part of already, that I’m going back to and so it has become a conflict.