There are a lot of military shows premiering this fall, but “The Brave” is a different sort of beast.
Starring Mike Vogel (“Under The Dome”) and Anne Heche (“Hung”, “Men In Trees”), the series does a deep dive into the clandestine world of undercover military soldiers. These aren’t just “normal” foot soldiers, either. This is special ops.
While D.I.A. Deputy Director Patricia Campbell (Heche) and her analysts operate out of Washington, D.C., using the most sophisticated surveillance equipment possible, Adam Dalton (Vogel) and the rest of his team conduct missions around the world, working to save the innocent and execute missions for the good of humanity.
The two teams are in constant communication while on a mission, separated by 5,000 miles, which provides some harrowing moments when the action’s amped up. Global News was at the Television Critics Association summer session, where the cast and production crew spoke candidly about the show. Here are four things to know about “The Brave”.
Unlike many military shows, “The Brave” is not serialized
Creator, executive producer and co-showrunner Dean Georgaris fully admits the show is a “mission of the week” series and says that he was inspired by beloved hospital series and serialized show “E.R”. He said he was always trying to keep up with the plot.
“That show for me was revelatory”, he said, adding he never missed an episode. “But we do not become a serialized show, because, again, we’re based in reality. The truth is, a team like this doesn’t get to go on some vengeance hunt. They don’t go rogue. These men and women go on and do other missions”.
Ultimately, this adds variety to the show, and “The Brave” isn’t bogged down by an excessively long and convoluted storyline. Every week, it’s a fresh start with the same teams.
“I think back to ’94 when “E.R” came out, and I think [another hospital show] Chicago Hope came out the same year, or a similar time”, said Georgaris. “And I get there’s room for lots of shows. We’re not worried about standing out. We’re focused on trying to do the best job with our approach, which is an immersive approach. We don’t cut away to characters at home”.
“I don’t think we really have a concern, actually”, said actor Demetrius Grosse, referring to the bounty of military shows starting up this year. “This isn’t your typical straightforward military show. While we highlight a very specific group of people who have tactical and military experience, and, yes, we interact with the Department of Defense, we deal with things that we don’t normally see that go into avoiding actual firefights and military conflict. So the thing that makes the show unique and special is that you see the behind-the-scenes things that you typically wouldn’t associate with military: espionage, code-switching, deep-cover kind of stuff”.
There is a lot of travel, which adds to its authenticity
Similarly, every week there’s a new place to travel to. In the first episode, the special ops team is working to bring home one of their own; an American surgeon, Dr. Kimberly Wells, is kidnapped to help save the head of a terrorist group, and Dalton’s team has to get in there and save her.
“We sent the cast to Morocco, and told them to follow someone in the marketplace”, said tech advisor Mikal Vega, whose ultimate goal was authenticity. Vega’s logic is if the cast members can successfully follow someone without them knowing, then their characters would be more legit. Being in the heart of a Moroccan market — a stranger in an unknown land — certainly made the show more real for the cast, and lends more credibility to their performances.
Episode 2 takes place in Nigeria, Episode 3 in the Ukraine, Episode 4 in Afghanistan and Episode 5 in Mexico. For the remainder of the episodes, we’re going to have to wait and see where they take place. The production crew and cast ended up interacting quite heavily with local people during shoots, inadvertently adding to “The Brave”s authenticity.
“The notion of exploring the relationship with the local people in that particular country, it was part of the process”, said Georgaris. “And, again, it’s not that we set out to do it. It’s actually how it works. Teams like this interface with Mexican intelligence when they’re in Mexico. They interface with the Nigerians when they’re in Nigeria. For example, there’s a hostage situation, and there’s a heroic stewardess inside that plane. She’s a woman of that country. So reality is our friend in this, and it gives us an opportunity to show that it’s not a team from one nation riding into the rescue with some point of view. It’s a group of people working together with the same goal”.
This is a diverse cast
Thankfully, this isn’t another military show with a bunch of white faces and one or two faces of colour. “The Brave” depicts real-life groups of people in the military called “cross-matrix units”.
“You do the research, and you find what are known as cross-matrix units”, said Georgaris. “They’re populated with men and women, with people of different religions and different backgrounds. And so I felt a little bit like someone who had stumbled onto a gold mine, in terms of through these great real characters, a diverse group of people … didn’t have to force it… and would allow all of us as writers to really tell a lot of different stories, as opposed to getting pigeonholed into ‘There’s a mission, we shoot some guns, and then we tell some drama somewhere else.’ One of those [ideas] that landed in your lap”.
In an addition that’s sorely lacking on primetime TV, a Muslim character is part of the team. Normally we see Muslims on the enemy lines when it comes to military shows.
“Amir, the character I play, who happens to be a practising Muslim character on the show, he is a subject of the story”, said Hadi Tabbal. “He is one of the heroes. When you put a character like that on TV, that is actually a subject that you’re empathizing with, and a subject of conversation also, and not just an object of observation. You’re not objectifying his character. I think that is extremely different from a lot of other depictions that we see on TV that vilify or draw this wide brush stroke … Amir doesn’t represent Islam. He is a very specific character. He has a secular background. He has a very specific relationship to his religion, so the specificity of that is what makes it very different”.
“[This is] a show that we are still all working towards a common goal, regardless of those backgrounds ethnically, religiously, whatever it is”, agreed Vogel. “We all want that same outcome of peace. We’re all coming together and the world is being united on a global stage in helping to bring that about”.
Above all, “The Brave” wants to pay homage to the members of the military
“The Brave”, above all, wants to tell the story of military heroes who we may or may not acknowledge in our day-to-day lives.
“One of the things that’s just so exciting for all of us is, it just so happens the real men and women who do this, that’s what these people are like”, said Georgaris. “They are resourceful; they are inspirational. And so all we have to do is channel who they are”.
“One of the other things that will have this show stand out is where the creators are coming from, all the way down from the top level, down to the grips … and that’s coming from a place of service where it’s honouring the men and women who do this job on a day-to-day basis”, said Vega. “And that becomes something that’s readily apparent in the relationship between the cast, the creators, and everybody that’s on the set. It stands out from any other job I’ve done in Hollywood”.
Heche’s role, while she may be back in D.C. and perceivably “safe and sound” from the action on the ground, carries with it a lot of responsibility as well. After all, the military members in the field are entirely dependent on her. She is essentially the eyes and ears of the team and is responsible for their lives.
“Being a part of this group of people who are representing and honouring our military … and the people who have chosen with their lives to give to others and dedicate their lives to saving others is extraordinary”, said Heche. “I think I’m fascinated by people who sacrifice themselves. When I first spoke to Dean about this project, he was very interested in talking about the humanity. Who are the people who give up their lives for others, and how are they affected by the decision that they have to make every day? What is the toll that it takes to serve your country and put that first above all else?
I think that’s a really complicated human being, and I think this group of people, these actors, the team of producers, care so much. I think we all feel that it’s a really great gift to be able to portray people who sacrifice their lives for us. This human being that I’ve been asked to play is one of the most extraordinary women that I think I’ve ever been able to dive into”.
Vogel agrees, adding his role is a bucket-list check.
“This one, for me, is a bucket‑list opportunity in my career”, he said. “Just getting the opportunity to pay homage to my family members, some of my nearest and dearest friends that come out of this community, making sure that we do them justice. There’s a great quote: it’s debatable whether it was George Orwell or Rudyard Kipling who said, “People sleep well in their beds at night because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf”. And I’d like to add to that. I think we understand it in America, having the freedom of opinion and thought and speech, and to come from many different viewpoints, that’s the beauty that makes up our country. We are afforded that opportunity because rough men and women stand ready to do violence on our behalf and protect that right. So, for me, to have the ability to step into that and in some minuscule, tiny way contribute to their real‑life heroics is an honour, and I’m humbled by it”.