Former Leigh star acting the part

SUPPORTERS of Leigh, Oldham and Swinton – plus others no doubt – will remember Mark Sheals as a bustling, all action prop that played in the 1980s and 90s.

Now Sheals, who also played for Wakefield, is forging a new career as an actor in film and television.

In March, Sheals welcomed the entire Leigh Centurions squad to the premier of “The Caravan”, the film in which he takes one of two lead roles. It’s his latest step on a fascinating journey since finishing his playing career following a second spell with Swinton.

Sheals has taken an unusual road into the world of acting, having spent the start of his adult life battling it out on Rugby League fields across Lancashire and Yorkshire.

“When I was at school I loved nothing more than to play sport and do drama,” he explained.

“When I left school I signed pro’ quite young and that takes you in a different direction – I ended up working for various chairmen who owned building companies and that type of thing.

“When I finished I had a little business and decided to try and get into acting. I was actually a self-employed salesman with Bukta sportswear, which had been brought back to Manchester as a kind of retro brand like Gola.

“I had a call from the set of the film ‘Rise of the Foot Soldier’ about getting some tracksuit tops, they invited me down and by the end of the day I was getting thrown around the room by some stuntmen in a big scene. It was a chance meeting type thing, but it gave me that kick to try and find out how to get into acting.”

Sheals wanted to do some background work to get a feel for the industry, and after a couple of days on “Shameless” was asked to audition for a more regular part that he got.

Since then he has appeared in “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” alongside Robert Downey Junior and Jude Law, in “The Weekender” about the Haicenda nightclub, “London Road” with Tom Hardy and an American Drama called “Galavant” that was produced by ABC and Disney.

“I’m really, really enjoying it. It can be difficult – I think I had seven jobs last year and then it’s gone a bit quiet until I start filming again in April on a film called ‘Stranegways Here We Come’.

“It can work like that – one minute you’re the flavour of the month, the next you’re sitting waiting for the phone to ring.”

* The full feature with Mark Sheals appears in the April edition of Rugby League World magazine, available now