Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Interview: Catching Up With Charles Shaughnessy, Part 2

Charles Shaughnessy hasn’t been resting on his laurels since leaving his popular roles on “Days of Our Lives” (as Shane Donovan) and “The Nanny” (as Maxwell Sheffield). He is just as busy as ever, and he took the time to talk with me about his life in show business so far, along with all the surprising journeys and side roads he has taken along the way.

Many of Charles’ fans were thrilled when he popped up in the Season Two finale of AMC’s hit drama “Mad Men” as Saint John Powell (he stuck around for much of Season Three as well). Charles was thrilled to have the opportunity to work on the award-winning show. He tells me: “When I got cast in the second season of ‘Mad Men’ as Saint John Powell, an English businessman who ends up buying the ad agency, it was not a lot of air time for me, but it was a really interesting character.

“The first scene I had was in a restaurant with one of the guys from the agency. Behind the lines, you got a whole sense of who this guy is, this kind of steely predator behind this charming, bon vivant exterior. It was really fun going in and doing very short scenes while painting an interesting character. It was fantastic to act on the very cream of TV drama, working with the most incredible people in the most creative environment.”

And to think, Charles didn’t even start out with the goal of becoming an actor. “My goal when I was a kid in college was to be a lawyer — I was studying law — and I think I probably would have been miserable. So I’m glad I didn’t pursue that goal as hard as I could. Then the goal of acting popped up, and it’s been really good to me. Sure, one can say that one wants to be a big, successful movie star, but if that were the case, I wonder if I’d have the family that I have.”

How does Charles pick his projects? Well, he’s a smart cookie, this one. He explains: “I like to do any sort of work that keeps me engaged. Someone said to me recently, ‘You seem to have had a diverse career and have done a lot of different things.’ And I haven’t really. I’ve done just one thing my entire career, which is to entertain. Doing ‘The Nanny’ was a great job. I really get a kick out of it that to this day people from all over the world loved it. I met a man in New York from New Delhi, India, who told me he and his wife loved the show, and it made them laugh every week. That feels good.”

With all of his different show-biz exploits, Charles doesn’t see himself settling into any single genre — he plans to mix it up a bit. “I’ve had fantastic experiences from the most unlikely of places. Out of the blue, having never been trained in musical-theater comedy, I was doing a triple Tony Award winning Broadway musical called ‘Urinetown: The Musical.’ I had a fantastic experience living in New York for those six months. My family, who were dreading my move to NYC, had the best time. They came out to visit for Thanksgiving and for the holidays, and they still say that was the favorite time of their life so far.

“If you keep yourself open to it, amazing stuff happens. I just got done doing this bizarre show in Northern California for a friend, and it was completely crazy, but I met some great people and got to spend four weeks in Carmel in a beautiful house by the beach. You try to say yes to as much as you can and suck as much experience out of it as you can. I don’t understand anyone saying, ‘I don’t do TV’ or ‘I don’t do theater’ or ‘I don’t do animation.’ I think you have to do as much as you possibly can.”