Premiere Preview: TNT’s The Last Ship [SET VISIT INTERVIEWS, PHOTOS & VIDEO]
Full steam ahead! TNT’s long awaited end-of-the-world-Naval adventure, The Last Ship, is ready to embark on its 10-episode journey. We visited the set and caught up with the creators and stars to get their thoughts on the show, the excitement and what its like to work with the Navy.
The Last Ship summary: Captain Tom Chandler and the crew of the USS Nathan James set out for the Arctic with two civilian virologists, Dr. Rachel Scott and Dr. Quincy Tophet, who claim to be studying birds. When they come under attack by a renegade team of Russian forces, Chandler learns these virologists are actually collecting samples of the source of a deadly virus that has wiped out over half the human population while theyâ€™ve been at sea. As they head home on the orders of the remaining U.S. government, Chandler and his crew realize that home is a shadow of what they left, and the safest place to develop a vaccine for this deadly disease is out at sea on their ship.
We had a chance to watch the pilot and promise that even though its on the small screen, with Executive Producer Michael Bay at the helm, it’s still full of plenty of big movie action. In fact, there is an impressive action sequence in the arctic that is both breath-taking and Â filled with enough helicopters, snowmobiles, guns and explosions to make it clear that this show is not holding back. However, it wasn’t just the action that enticed star Eric Dane to take the leading role.
Eric Dane: After 140 episodes of Grey’s Anatomy and my second baby on the way, I wanted to take some time of work and just be home. I’d run myself in to the ground for seven years. I met with Michael Bay and he pitched me this idea of this show they were doing and told me about these writers they had, he gave me the script, I went home, I read it and it was just something I had to do. It was honestly one of the best pilots I’ve ever read and I’ve read a lot of pilots.
And thanks to her recent interest in mold and spores, Mitra has a more-than-basic knowledge of virology and shared with us that Â this concept is not as far fetched as some might think.
Rhona Mitra: I do think the temperature of this particular theme and show in 2014 versus even 2004 or ten years prior to that, its a very different reality. And I think that we are all aware, given what it is we know about our world and how quickly epidemics and bacteria and various different viruses are taking over at a level where we don’t have the ability and we don’t have antibiotics even that can take care of whats really taking place at the moment and that’s common knowledge. Even if I wasn’t involved in this world, I think anybody who reads enough or geeks out on any of the podcasts that are out there and you really listen to what the evidence is, this is a real possibility. So I feel we can connect our self to this material and connect our self to this subject matter with it being a sort of fantasmijorical blob thing. This is the reality of what we’re dealing with. And its not a man in a turban, it’s not a terrorist attack, this is all stuff that is silently working its way around our globe and which way or form it comes is anybody’s guess, but I do believe its a reality.
Hank Steinberg: I don’t think we would’ve ever gotten on the ship if it wasn’t for the long and great history between Michael and the Navy. So that’s been an incredible asset for us. And there’s also a trust level that the navy has with him that they’re going to be portrayed in a favorable light and that’s the intention of our show, these people are heroic. They’re flawed characters and they have their problems and they have their arguments and there are tough decisions and they don’t always go right for the captain but in general, its a positive depiction of the brave men and women who are behaving honorably in a really terrible situation.
To ensure that all depictions are not only positive but true to life, the show has two or more naval advisers on set at all times. But this goes beyond just technical terms and uniform colors, according to one on-set adviser, the show also manages to avoid either overplaying or underplaying the relationships between the soldiers, which is a common pitfall for military shows.
Naval Advisor: One of the things that I’m really please that this show has gotten right is avoiding either extremes of the character trait. That is, you’ll either see it be very focused on first names ‘hey bob, hey joe, hey susie’ too loose. Or you’ll have the other end of that spectrum, an overly rigid, almost, I call it a Nutcracker Soldier view of military life. And in reality, its what’s in between. Its that ability to bring that familiar feeling that comes with being at sea with 200-300 of your closest friends and understanding how those relationships are brought together in a professional way. So we have the professional distance but the personal closeness. And this show does a better job than any show I’ve seen of conveying that.
They may be spot on when it comes to portraying military life, but that doesn’t mean the actors didn’t need some time to adjust to the nuances of their new roles.
Eric: First day I walked down the pier, I was in my full captain regale and I was getting saluted by everybody because I’m a well decorated captain and its a real uniform. And the captain at the time pulled me aside and said ‘listen kid, I gotta tell you, think of it them as saluting the uniform, they’re not saluting you, they’re saluting the uniform because I’ve got a couple people asking me who the asshole captain is on the pier who’s not returning salutes.’…but you haven’t lived until you’ve been saluted, it’s pretty cool.
But it wasn’t only the real soldiers who were taken by Dane’s dress whites. Mitra admits to having her own an Officer and a Gentleman moment, that resulted in Dane picking her up to recreate the famous Richard Gere/Debra Winger scene.
Rhona: Yes, I did, absolutely. I said this is happening. And we had a nice moment and sung the song.
And while Dane and Mitra haven’t actually been out to sea for months at a time, Dane did admit he could relate to the feelings his character has when it comes to missing his wife and kids.
Eric: Sometimes I leave for work in the morning before they’re awake and I come home after they’re asleep and I don’t like doing that for a day. So I’m thinking about Tom Chandler, he’s in the arctic, he’s gone for 4 months, he comes back and finds out this virus has decimated 80% of the world’s population. He finds out his family is still alive, in the very capable hands of my father but somewhere off in the woods and that’s in the back of my mind every single second, every single minute on screen, it’s got to be…if I have a hard time going a day without seeing my kids, I can only imagine what this guy is going through.
Each character may be facing his own personal and professional challenges, but when you have a cast led by acting heavy-weights like Eric Dane and Chuck star Adam Baldwin, the showrunners believe that’s part of the appeal.
Hank: I think the energy of having two very strong men is what gives the show a really great propulsion. And week to week, they’re very good friends as characters, but they disagree sometimes on what is the proper tactic to be taking, what the proper strategies are. Chandler’s character tends to go from his gut a little more, tends to be a little more of a risk taker. And the XO, I think is kind of classic as the number 2 person in charge tends to be a little more cautious , a little more by the book maybe because he hasn’t fully had the command of his own ship yet and that’s a great tension.
Adam Baldwin: Eric is our fearless leader and he is one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. He is a true professional. He is our department head. So shit rolls downhill and good stuff also. And he’s a nice man. Very well prepared. Perfect at his part.
And if you want proof, Â this reporter will tell you that on my way to the sound stage, I spotted Eric and Adam playing gin rummy while sitting outside their trailer in full uniform. It was a surprisingly refreshing site and one which led me to ask Baldwin who has the upper hand in these downtime showdowns.
Adam: I’ve been teaching him [gin rummy]. I understand he’s very good at Backgammon though so I think I’m gonna get a whipsaw.
The Last Ship series premiere airs this Sunday at 9/8c on TNT.
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