Chris Sheffield’s filmography alone could delineate a young Hollywood hotshot with sights set on cars, women, and the typical late night appearance. Yet, the 26-year-old Texas-born is anything but, driven by the high of fulfilling a dream rather than being famous. Appearing in the highly-anticipated teen adventure-drama The Maze Runner, based on the novel of the same name, Sheffield opens up about working alongside tomorrow’s biggest stars, upcoming projects, and the idea of being a “celebrity.”
"As a kid, I was always so full of this creative energy and an overachieving imagination. I remember I would always run around the house pretending to be everything from a secret agent super hero to a bus driver," Sheffield reflects of his early interest in performance. He speaks in a subdued tone, not too quiet yet far from show-y. "I would put on skits for my class in fourth grade pretending to be a terrible news anchor. I started in the industry in Dallas, TX doing commercials, then one day I asked my parents if I could take an acting class and they said ‘Absolutely! So when I was 10 years old I took my first acting class with Nancy Chartier, who is still one of my close friends and mentors." His first gig was "Alice in Wonderland" at a local theater in which he portrayed the King of Hearts.
Fast forward to 2014. Sheffield is on a fast track to superstardom with the Michael Bay-executive produced The Last Ship on TNT in the summer and the aforementioned The Maze Runner nearing its September 19th premiere, for which he was the very last member casted. “Wes Ball and the producers were already in Louisiana prepping the film, so I actually never met them before filming,” Sheffield affirms of the late fourth quarter gig. The further you discuss with the star, one thing becomes evident. In true gentleman form, he likes to shed the spotlight on those around him. “I am so thankful and lucky to have a wonderful relationship with the casting director, Denise Chamian, and had been in for her before. I love her. I went in, got a callback, which was on tape for Wes and the producers, few days later I heard that I got the job and was heading to Louisiana!” Recalling vividly of his audition, Sheffield details a story of a hybrid scene of the chase/banishment/changing. “I remember imagining Chuck in that moment looking at me being banished and thinking ‘you’re going to let this happen too? Please help me!…’ and that really affected me.”
Having not read the novel before filming and booking the audition literally the night before could have spelled disaster for the actor, but Sheffield purchased the book before officially landing the role - just in case. “I still can’t believe I was given the opportunity to bring such a distinct character that readers know, and hopefully love, to life. So grateful,” Sheffield continues. The role itself is an interesting one as the cast’s real life chemistry permeates onto the big screen. “What was so interesting as an actor with this role too was that when we arrive in the glade our memories are wiped except for our names which eventually come to us. So all we know as these characters are the experiences and people in the Glade and as a runner in the maze. All we have is each other.” This statement rings true for Sheffield, who sees his co-workers more like family. Think of it as “growing up” in the game together.
"I do remember Wes talking to Ki Hong and I about the true friendship and partnership that Minho and Ben have as runners, which really affects us both come banishment time. It was the true friendships that formed with all of us that developed naturally during filming," Sheffield passionately states. The actor is at turning point in his life in which his next move can make his career. The Maze Runner features tomorrow’s leading men and women including Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario (sole female), and Will Poulter. Fortunately for Sheffield, he’s in great company. “Honestly, no lie - we are all friends, no - FAMILY for life. I always say, I feel so lucky to even be associated with this group of great actors, but more importantly these are the kind of human beings I always want to be associated with. We genuinely have such a bond for life.” Sheffield proceeds to reveal his two favorite moments on the project: meeting everyone for the first time and leaving with a new members to his family. “I was the last to arrive at the hotel and they were all in the lobby and they didn’t know I was there for filming, so I just walked up to them (kind of nervously) and said ‘Hey…. I’m Chris… I play Ben…’ They all ran up to me and hugged me. I was also the first to wrap on the film. After an all night shoot, we all got back to the hotel around 6:30a and they all stayed up to hang out with me until a car came to take me to airport at 7:30a. As the car pulled away, they all mooned me and yelled to me! I have it on video and it’s the best goodbye ever,” the doe-eyed actor illustrates of the film’s behind-the-scenes camaraderie. Moments like these are what Sheffield lives for, even if he has to enter “new families” per set.
As for fans of The Maze Runner, early reviews have noted its ability to engage with its story-driven focus while maintaining the tropes that make YA popular for its demographic. Sheffield opines that being a little “dark” and “edgy” adds to the genre. “Yes I do think that brought a bit of difference in the role and especially the story. In adapting the book to film, Ben is strategically used to truly establish how dangerous, unpredictable and dark things can and will get within this place. In order to accomplish this successfully, Ben became a runner,” Sheffield discloses. Among the strongest and fastest individuals in the Glade, a momentous scene involving Ben offers a true moment of emotional weight in which a “decision will set the tone of the movie. ”It also helps Thomas enter in the film because he steps up and fills a void that is left after the banishment. Plus, I loved those bits of running and action that I got to do with Dyl!,” exclaims Sheffield. Under the helm of Wes Ball, Sheffield remarks of the director’s passion, skill, kindness, and overall fervor the for the film. “His childlike enthusiasm and imagination are unmatched and crucial to tell this story. Working with him and this cast and crew was a dream and all that hard work and passion shows in the film. Also, James Dashner approves and he is THE man! Love that guy. Can’t wait for all of The Maze Runner fandom to see it!”
Continuing his mean streak this fall and early 2015, Sheffield is on board two portray characters in two starkly contrasting programs. He will first be seen on MTV’s Happyland on its second episode this September (premieres September 30th). The show centers on the behind-the-scenes antics of an amusement park. On NBC’s Aquarius, viewers will get a chance to see Sheffield in a dramatic turn as the son of David Duchovny’s character. Their relationship is…complicated to say the least. Duchovny is a 1960’s detective tracking down a serial killer who we come know as Charles Manson before his infamous Manson family murders. “The show is so well written and quite gritty. On the show, I play Walt Hodiak, the son of David’s character. I have been having a blast on the show and working with David is great.”
While keeping his head on his shoulders despite the perks of this thing called fame, Sheffield assures fans everywhere he’s in it for the right reasons. ”I just love to imagine and create and collaborate. I’m in the stage of my career where I keep my head down and do great work with whatever comes my way. I count my blessings. I never wanted to be famous just for people to know who I am. I want them to be affected by my work instead. Everything like the glamour, that’s not what I’m in it for. I’d rather have a normal life maintained while doing what I love,” Sheffield coyly states as he continues to speak appreciatively of his projects and cast mates.