North Texas actor sets sail for adventure on ‘The Last Ship’

Posted Thursday, Jun. 26, 2014  comments  Print Reprints

The Last Ship

• 8 p.m. Sunday


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When Chris Sheffield was a kid growing up in North Texas, he often worked as a print model and did TV commercials.

“I loved it because I had so much fun pretending,” he says. “I remember doing a G.I. Joe commercial for Hasbro when I was really young. I thought it was the coolest thing ever.”

Two decades later, as an adult actor with the same childlike fondness for make-believe, Sheffield has an even cooler job.

He’s portraying a sailor aboard a 9,000-ton Navy destroyer in the new TNT drama The Last Ship.

It’s a different branch of the military, and the size of the prop toy has changed exponentially. But fundamentally it’s all the same: He’s getting paid to pretend.

“It’s really unbelievable,” says Sheffield, who was born in Arlington and grew up in Grapevine. “I’m so lucky to be part of it.”

The mid-20s actor plays Communications Officer Will Mason in The Last Ship, which airs at 8 p.m. Sunday.

Sheffield has a lot of blink-and-you-might-miss-him moments throughout the early episodes, which focus mostly on stars Eric Dane (as the ship’s captain) and Rhona Mitra (as a scientist who’s developing a cure for a viral pandemic).

But Mason won’t remain tucked away manning the radio in the bowels of the ship for long.

“Mason’s storyline really kicks in during the second half of the season, from about Episode 5 to the very end,” Sheffield says. “Communication is hugely important on this show and in this story.

“Mason is the liaison between the outside world and what goes on in the ship. In many ways, what he hears steers where we go and where the captain decides we need to be.

“There’s also one episode in particular where Mason goes on a mission off the ship for the first time. There could even be some possible love in Mason’s future. We’ll have to wait and see.”

Sheffield also has a co-starring role in the upcoming movie The Maze Runner, based on novelist James Dashner’s bestselling sci-fi trilogy.

“I saw it a couple of weeks ago, and it’s so good,” he says. “The fandom for The Maze Runner is incredible and the response we’ve gotten on social media so far has been unbelievable. I can’t wait for everyone to see it.”

Sheffield made his feature-film debut 12 years ago in The Rookie. Billed simply as “Snow Covered Catcher,” he had two lines. He began his showbiz career in earnest seven years ago when, after graduating high school, he moved to Los Angeles.

Sheffield says that he wouldn’t be where he is now if he hadn’t gotten help along the way.

“I was working in a photography studio out of Bedford, a family friend’s business,” he recalls. “A random guy came in and we were talking. He asked me what I wanted to do after high school. I said I wanted to move to California and be an actor, but that I couldn’t afford it.

“He said he might know somebody who could help me.”

That led to his being introduced to actress Sally Struthers of All in the Family fame.

“I did not know who Sally Struthers was, but my mom sure did — she freaked out,” Sheffield says. “The next week, my mom, my dad and I flew out to meet her and Sally became like family. She took me in, and I lived there for four years.

“She allowed me to pursue my career, introduced me to wonderful people and was a huge artistic influence as well. She’s an amazing person. She has the biggest heart of anyone I have ever met. She changed my life.”

Sheffield had the grandest time filming the pilot for The Last Ship aboard an active Navy destroyer, the USS Halsey. Subsequent episodes have been shot mostly on a studio sound stage, but the cast and crew still often pop over to San Diego to film exteriors on the USS Dewey.

“The great thing about that, it’s not just being on the ship, but the fact that all of the extras you see are actual Navy sailors stationed on the USS Dewey,” he says. “To be able to sit next to them and talk to them and hear their stories, it’s incredible.

“It’s such an honor to portray and represent our brave men and women in the Armed Forces. It’s a responsibility that I can tell you all of the cast took very seriously.”

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