BY: PAULETTE COHN
MIKE VOGEL ON FORMING A BAND OF BROTHERS FOR NBC’S NEW MILITARY DRAMA THE BRAVE
From the studio that originally created Homeland comes a new NBC drama that combines the espionage element of the critically acclaimed series with the action of an elite, undercover military unit to form The Brave.
The Brave follows the exploits of Captain Adam Dalton (Mike Vogel) and his heroic Special Ops squad of highly trained undercover specialists as they carry out missions on the ground. His team is comprised of sniper Sgt. Jasmine ‘Jaz’ Khan (Natacha Karam), CPO Ezekiel “Preach” Carter (Demetrius Grosse), combat medic Sgt. Joseph “McG” McGuire (Noah Mills) and intelligence officer agent Amir Al-Raisani (Hadi Tabbal).
This team works hand-in-hand with deputy director Patricia Campbell (Anne Heche) of the D.I.A. [Defense Intelligence Agency] and her team of analysts, including veterans cultural specialist Noah Morgenthau (Tate Ellington) and mission coordinator Hannah Archer (Sofia Pernas), as they wield the world’s most advanced surveillance technology from headquarters in D.C.
In the premiere episode, Dalton and his squad take action when American doctor Kimberley Wells (guest star Alix Wilton-Regan) gets kidnapped by a group with terrorist ties, while back in D.C., Campbell and her D.I.A. team learn that Wells’ disappearance might have ties to something that could be catastrophic.
In an exclusive interview with Vogel, Parade.com had the opportunity to talk to the Under The Dome star about how this group of actors came together to form a band of brothers, his personal connection to the military, what he hopes the show accomplishes and more.
CBS has SEAL Team, The CW has Valor and NBC has The Brave. What do you think it is in the zeitgeist now that this is the time of the military drama?
As to what it is in the zeitgeist, I can’t predict as to why now. [Creator] Dean [Georgaris] has been working on this show for the last three years, so, to say that there was something that prompted it now, I’d be lying. This is when it came to fruition. What I am happy about is that these shows are having an opportunity.
I’m certainly not going to play the game of our show is better than this, is better than that. I want them all to find fantastic success because the more that these shows find success, the more opportunity that we have to shine a spotlight on (A) these real-life heroes and (B) the issues and troubles that are facing them once they come back from overseas. So, the more eyeballs that are aware of the military community and of the issues they’re facing, we can help resolve some of those issues. That’s what I want.
Your grandfathers fought in World War II—one was a tank commander and one was a Seabee. Is this role something that resonates with you because of your family’s history in the military service?
If you had asked my parents when I was a kid, “What’s Mike going to do when he grows up?” they would have told you I was heading into the Air Force. Flying was all I ever wanted to do, but there was a different path for me, so here I am. And I say all that to say not that I could have, would have, should have, I say all that to say it’s created in me an immense affinity, heart and reverence for those who do this job, who so sacrificially give up large parts of their lives, as our technical advisor Mikal [Vega] can attest to. He had to try to balance deployments and family, all of those things in one. It’s a tough thing. I thank God for them.
You’re filming the series in Albuquerque, and it’s hot in Albuquerque. What’s it like with all that equipment you have to wear?
The actor in you creeps up and goes, “Oh, man, I’m sweaty, it’s hot, wah, wah”, and then you quickly realize that the ambulance has left the station and these guys don’t get a chance to whine, “Oh, I’m hot. Oh, I’m sweaty”. It adds to the look; It adds to the reality of it.
After a while, you start to just not notice it because you’re so focused on what you’re doing, it becomes a part of the everyday life. Your body acclimates to Albuquerque. It’s certainly hot. It’s the humidity that kills me. I’m not good in humidity. I get cranky. I get drenched.
The cast, across the board, has been game for whatever’s put in front of them, whether that’s throwing on weight vests, running up mountains or whatever. It builds camaraderie, it builds teamwork, it builds relationships amongst the cast.
Are you SEALs? What is your squad?
Our unit, our team, is an Omega team. What they do is they pool from the best. They pool from Dev Group [Naval Special Warfare Development Group], Delta Force, MARSOC [United States Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command] and CIA. So, they bring the best of the best together for very mission-specific missions. Our characters come from very different backgrounds, but the tactics amongst these special operations units share a lot of similarities.
What do they have to learn about working together?
It’s important to move as a unit, as one organism, in conjunction with one another without even having to communicate. That’s what’s important. That comes from getting to know the person to your left and your right to the point that you know who that is even in darkness just by the way they move. And if they move a certain way, you can pick up on their signs. And this is what is really developed into them.
To that end, what did you do as actors to become this band of brothers?
Well, it started in Morocco. The first day we showed up, Mikal very gently and lightly started putting us through a little stretching and calisthenics, and I think, at that point, everyone was thinking, “Ah, this isn’t so bad”. Then for the next four hours, we found ourselves in a crouch, literally slow-walking across a field in Morocco learning hand signals, flanking maneuvers, immediate action drills.
Then we’d go right from that into a workout, and then right from that into how to tail someone, and then we’d go to an abandoned embassy and we’d practice room clearing, and how, as a unit, we would go through and enter doors, and clear rooms as a unit.
There’s a natural thing that happens, and it’s why the military is so successful in putting these units together. It breeds an environment where you don’t want to be left behind, and if someone is not putting out, the rest of the team becomes self-policing. They step in and confront that person and say, “Hey, pull your weight”. Fortunately, as a group, everyone has been on-board to becoming the best that they can possibly be. But there’s real attention to detail put into making sure that we are as authentic as we can possibly be.
Some of these guys had never held a weapon in their life. So, Mikal was tasked with the job of taking people of different proficiencies and ability levels and bringing them all up to snuff. And like he said, “I’m not asking you to become a marksman, but I am asking you to learn to do it right and to look like you’re doing it right”.
Thank God no one’s shooting back at us in real life. I can only imagine, through the various training things that we’ve gone through, what it would be like doing what we’re doing under the stress of fire and having your buddies wounded, or worse, and having to still push on.
Dean’s point about the show is that resiliency is what’s always fascinating, especially those in special operations. It is the ability to compartmentalize, push aside something that may be facing you that anyone else would end up in the fetal position with, to push that aside to be able to accomplish the goal that’s in front of you to survive, and to deal with that other stuff later. It’s something that is featured front and center in our show, that resiliency.
Talk a little bit about your journey. I first noticed you on Pan Am, and then you went to Bates Motel, then Under The Dome, and now on The Brave, you are the leader of this unit. Is there something as an actor that correlates to coming to the top?
Even before all those, I was in the film world for seven or eight years before I started doing TV. But from all of those experiences, I think the first thing I realize is I’m old. [jokes] You realize how long you’ve been around. But that experience all comes forward now to where I look and I go, “Oh, right. I’m the guy that they’re looking to for what’s happening next”.
Dean, wisely, has run this show almost like a military unit, where he’ll disseminate some information to me to pass on to the unit, so, even in the off-screen time, it’s functioning as a unit would, to get us accustomed to that way of life.
But, yeah, it’s a fun part to come to this time in my career and go, “I’ve been around a bit. I’ve done some things, and to some degree, I know what I’m talking about”. At the same time, I’m always learning, always absorbing. Every experience is a new one. I’m humbled as hell to have the cast that I have with me there. Anne bringing the experience that she has to this show, and these two worlds, the D.I.A. and then our unit in the field kind of meeting, and everyone coming from, as Mikal says, the same place of service.
That selflessness is what’s going to lend to a good show. When you service that thing that’s higher than yourself, all that other stuff seems to weed itself out.