HISTORY’s new military combat drama series SIX, tells the story of Navy SEAL Team Six, modern American warriors, whose covert mission to eliminate a Taliban leader in Afghanistan goes awry when they uncover a U.S. citizen working with terrorists. The SEAL Team Six troop leader Richard ‘Rip’ Taggart is captured by Boko Haram and it’s up to his former SEAL Team Six brothers – led by Joe Graves, Alex Caulder and Ricky “Buddha” Ortiz – to put their differences aside to locate and rescue their former troop leader. OHSOGRAY participated on a recent press call with series stars Kyle Schmid (“Alex Calder”) and Edwin Hodge (“Robert Chase”).
SIX debuts Wednesday, January 18th at 10:00 pm/9:00 Central on History.
Did you meet with real Seals? How did you prepare to play these characters?
Edwin Hodge: Yes, we did. We did work with Veterans Seals. Our head lead consulted with Mitchell Hall — (infamous, in his words). Highly decorated, highly skilled. We did a four-day intensive SEALFIT boot camp, where we got a taste of what it’s like to go through Hell Week, which is a six-month process for actual candidates who are trying to become Seals in reality. So, in doing so, the physical aspect of it all, the Mitchell aspect of it all, the emotional aspect of it all as well, plays a lot into building our relationship on screen and off screen. They worked us to the bone. They probably took us to the lowest levels we’ve ever experienced in our lives, only to move those of us back up and convince us with a new way of thinking, and knowing that we can surpass a lot of brick walls that we feel that we’ve either put up for ourselves or other people put up for us. So, it was definitely grueling, but was probably the best and most humbling process that we could have gone through to prepare for this show.
Kyle Schmid: I think we all learned a lot about ourselves and became very aware of our many little faults and were able to kind of move forward and become stronger. And I think it really goes to show in our performances how much we can trust one another when we’ve laughed and we’ve cried with each other. There weren’t any egos coming into play. We were just a bunch of human beings trying to get by with that material and for forty Seals, because they deserve it. We’re just trying to give them the respect they deserve with our performances and the material.
How was it filming in a small town? Did help you get in character?
Edwin Hodge: Yes, honestly, I do. Being somewhat isolated from our friends and family put us in a position that we had to be in and we had conversations every day with each other and got to hang out. Kyle and I became golf buddies, so every other week, weekends, we were out there trying to figure our stakes out. It did definitely aid in us building the relationship in presenting and understanding what it is to be brothers. Or to be fathers. To be sons. Also with the female performers on the show, to be mothers. I think it takes a very honest person to get acclimated at first to those who are going to sit back and hopefully enjoy the show. Be those people in the military, or associated with the military, or everyday people who are just interested in what the daily lives of men and women in service are. It is a heavy sacrifice for these men and women to go out and put their lives on the line for you and I.
They do what we do, in part, to keep us safe and protect us from the outside forces that are coming in here. So, when we can actually humanize those people; give them a voice; give them a face; give them emotions, it makes it easier to better understand why they do what they do. The sacrifices in which they take their children’s lives, the children suffer and miss them so much. And they go there to be a man and a woman in service. I am humbled to be a part of this show, but I really do think that the producers and the writers – everybody involved with it – did an amazing job with just keeping the show honest. Which is what we wanted to do. I think that was our ultimate goal. That was the goal when we all sat down our first day of reading and wanted people to understand these people, be able to relate to these people, and I just looked at them as like robots in a sense, you know? People who carried guns and go out there — like, these are your uncles, your brothers, your mother, your wives, your cousins, like, this is family. So, I’m really happy with what we’ve done.
Edwin Hodge: The topography of Wilmington allowed us to really kind of make the environment authentic. The beaches in Wilmington are absolutely gorgeous. We were able to make the backlots of the studio and turn them into Nigeria. Set Design did an amazing job with everything from our weapons training to the trucks and the trees that they brought in. It was a very inclusive project for everyone, and I think everyone will be proud of their work and what they see on the scenes.
Kyle Schmid: Yes. And I think that goes for all of us who were part of this show that that worked from when we came to see it. I think a lot of us are still close with a lot of the crew and everybody else that worked on it from North Carolina. There are still people that I speak to on a regular basis that I met on the show. It was an incredible experience. And they say that North Carolina is the most military-friendly state in America. But we definitely saw people step up their standards with our long days and grueling hours and weather and everything else, and not complain, and just put the next foot forward, and just enjoy watching this whole show develop into what it became. And you’re working with families and friends and people that, quite honestly, have your back rain or shine. We developed a family out there. And that just goes to show you how lucky we were with the show. You really feel like pieces just kind of fall into place. Shout out to everybody in Wilmington. Thank you for everything that you guys gave us with the show and we miss you and love you.
In your research into what goes into the training for the Seals, was there anything that you found either shocking or surprising?
Kyle Schmid: I think our initial SEALFIT training was the most shocking for me. We had all met the day of getting out there and had no idea what to expect. We watched these movies – these kind of glamorized movies – that Hollywood makes, and I think the most important thing to Bill and David Broyles was to keep some of the reality of these characters, as Edwin said, the humility and the humanism, the humanity to these characters. But I feel like a lot of the post-emotional stress that they are expected to handle with so little help from the government after they retire, or after they’ve finished these major missions, I think that’s what shocked me the most. You think that to go out there and do what these guys are expected to do, which is pretty much that grey area. Then to come home and have to deal with family and friends and this “normal life,” that still strikes me as very unfair, and I think it’s important for the government and people in America to realize that these guys sacrifice so much, and come home asking for nothing in return. It’s important to acknowledge the fact that they have sacrificed so much, and I think it’s up to us to support them a lot more than we do. Have to shut my emotions up.
Edwin Hodge: Okay, how do I follow that answer? Edwin is absolutely 100% correct. I’m the product of two Marines, so I’ve had to grow up kind of experiencing what it’s like to live with a vet. I have seen her struggles dealing with the VA, and trying to get medical care, and so forth. So, it does have a — or I do have a — personal touch fully constituted on this subject. We didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into. I don’t think we really, truly understood the meaning of sacrifice until we got into this project. It’s a lot. Mentally, it’s a lot. Once you’ve taken a life, how do you know how to deal with that? They just live there, they can try to digest it and so forth, but a lot of the times, they can’t deal with that situation until they get home. There’s no way. They’re still on the mission. They’ve still got to save lives. They still got to evac, they still got to focus on the go ahead. They don’t deal with most of this stuff until they come home. And guess what? The wives have to deal with it. Their children have to deal with it. Their parents have to deal with it. And there is no assistance, because they truly, they don’t know, they’re not allowed to share this information with their family, so how are you truly as a family going to help your mother or your father?
If there is some government assistance to do the same, we leave them in shadows. They are voiceless. They are faceless. So, I think it is truly important to understand that they take on a great deal of responsibility that we would never even want. We have to help them when they come back. We just have to do it. That’s our responsibility. They’re out there risking their lives; we can give some type of assistance. Monetary, financial, emotional, physical. They’re trying to do a great job, which we they manage to fill in these wounded warriors, like the world just helping you just get back. But we have to do more. We just do.
Can you talk a little about the antagonists within the show?
Edwin Hodge: No, no, it’s fine. I mean, the villain is played by the lovely Dominic Adams. I’d say as far as the context and the subject of the show […] I think it is the best. With this up rise of terrorism, be it Islamic, be it civil, whatever you want to call it, it is a story that I’m sure a lot of people would like to hear. For me, it might give people a better understanding of why one would feel they need to take up an ideology in response to feeling like they are in the system; maybe they’re being the outsider. Hatred is fueled by the most simple ideas and they just evolve. People want to categorize Muslims as all bad. We can’t do that. We can’t do that with any culture or with any sex, or gender. We just can’t do that. So for us to tackle, a Muslim-American subject and this idea of a traitor and one trying against their own country, or what they should believe or so forth, it resonates strongly with the world that we’re living in and what we’re going through today, and this goes back to 9/11 and further.
With the show, we’re trying to make use of the facts. We’re not trying to — fully make you understand. But we want you to be informed and formulate a articulate opinion about what you’re seeing, why you’re seeing it, and how others perceive it. We are spoon-fed information that caters to us, specifically, and therefore there is a lot of ignorance that is presented in the world. And we take this man, and then we understand the reasons why he did what he did, then maybe we might be able to understand a lot of what we are, and why we do what we do. It’s a hard subject for people to deal with. Once the image of a criminal is present in that light, be it a darker skin, olive, with hair and a beard, you know, we look at him and, naturally, we’re like, oh, we fear it, but we have to eliminate that. We have to replace that misjudgment with articulate thinking and due process. It’s just very interesting. I just hope people – when they do see his story – that they don’t really vilify him. I wouldn’t want them to vilify him. I honestly want them to understand the character. Then Episode 8 at the end, if they want to vilify him, do that. But take that journey with him, you know? Take a journey with the Seals. Take a journey with the wives on the show. Take this journey so that you can just understand that this is what anybody ever wants in this world. They just want to be understood. And that’s just the take that I see.
How has it been working with History?
Kyle Schmid: Well, as somebody who pretty much watches History and Discovery channel, and that’s about it, I was kind of excited. I’m a big fan of Vikings, and I think that the producers, and the group of people they’ve brought together to make this show in particular, are very brave. We’re making the kind of TV that will compete with some of the best scripted television on cable. And we have better writers that have not only been nominated for Oscars, but have actually fought in Viet Nam and in Afghanistan and have a voice. So, History is making a move to put their name up there with all the big boys, if they aren’t already, in my opinion. I think that they’ve picked an incredible show to do that with, and a very brave show to do that with, for all the reasons that Edwin just outlined about our show. So, I’m very proud to be part of History.
Edwin Hodge: Yes, true love. I’ll piggyback off that. I think it’s great, because people will now be able to get a more genuine and authentic approach to watching television, I think. Networks are great but a lot of it is performance. The story was afoot, but with History, they are dedicated to the truth, and I think that will be present with a lot of this scripted programming. As Kyle said, Vikings is a huge hit. I really didn’t watch a lot of History channel, to be honest with you. I kind of flunked History in school. When I heard that it was going to be on the History channel, I was somewhat wavering, but when I heard about all of the people that were going to be involved with this project and I personally felt like there was just going to be something very, very special about this show. And History, in part, has done amazing by the actors, by the producers, writers; they’ve really given us a leash long enough for us to really expand and be creative and be genuine and forthright with our decisions. It was great, because while we were shooting, we kept getting all these emails, and I remember Kyle and I having a discussion like look, take the emails with a grain of salt. We’re happy they’re happy, but, like, don’t read anything into it. We’ll just leave it alone. It was nice to know that the network was really behind the show and that they were loving. The extra 110% that everybody was giving to make it successful was incredible.
How did you emotionally prepare for the role?
Edwin Hodge: As far as the emotional preparation, there was none. We were kind of thrown into this pit of fire. And we had to learn how to deal with our emotions. When you are put in an extreme situation where your body is completely fatigued, your mind is completely fatigued, you feel like even though you have people there, you’re still kind of on this island by yourself. It just starts to get to you in a way where you actually have to start thinking of new ways to make yourself feel better about the situation. In Wilmington, they told us to turn off our phones for four days. We weren’t going to really have contact with our family members and so forth. I found myself, on the second night, I had to call my brother. I had to break down. I just needed somebody that I knew to tell me that everything was going to be okay, and that I can make it through. And literally, that’s all my brother said. He was like, “You got this. Or whatever it is, man, you got this.” And sometimes it’s on you, you know? And the same thing with our castmates. Every time I kept saying, man I can’t do this; I can’t deal with it. I don’t know if I can do this, they were there. I got you, Bro. We got you. I said I couldn’t do this a thousand times.
Kyle Schmid: And then you’d blink, and it would be Edwin running up a mountain.
Edwin Hodge: I mean, it was crazy, but just you have to learn how to deal with yourself in that moment. It was one of the greatest educational points that I took from SEALFIT. They tested us in ways that you could not even imagine — myself, I’m not the greatest swimmer but somehow they had me walking on the bottom of the pool. I’m tired and still doing that before my own eyes. I was just in a bag of mixed emotions. I was scared – I didn’t know what was happening. And the coach, he repeated his instructions in a cadence that calmed me down. As I performed in the rhythm of that cadence, I learned to focus, and center myself, and regain a bit of that fear that I was exuding. So, that is what the men and women have to deal with. They deal with themselves more than they’re dealing with everybody else. They’ll tell you, they’ll lose a brother in battle — or a sister in battle — and their first thing is doing, in a moment, you don’t stay prepared for it. And then they get home and they have to deal with it. As much as the families are dealing with it, it’s an internal struggle that nobody will ever, ever understand. You just, you won’t. Getting prepared emotionally, we weren’t. We had to learn it. We had to – like I said – understand ourselves before we can figure out emotions we were going through. It was crazy.
Kyle Schmid: Yes, I think feelings are – some parts compartmentalized our emotions and our physical pain so that we were able to perform regardless of what the environment was throwing at us. That said, like Edwin was saying, we weren’t prepared for things that the scripts were throwing at us. The things that were thrown at us on set. I mean, we finished work sometimes, and we’d have to go for a beer before we could go home, very much like Seals do when they come back. And we would go to rent something, or been through something, and either we’d go and try to laugh about it, or we’d go and we’d cry on one another’s shoulders, because we don’t know how else to cope with it – we weren’t prepared for what had just been thrown at us and sometimes it felt like we never would be. So, at the same time, we’re developing our characters and trying to create these individual people but it was just very, very difficult, and I’m very thankful for the cast that surrounded us, because we were brothers. We had each other’s backs no matter what, and it didn’t matter when we showed any sign of weakness because there would be somebody there right beside you to be strong, and when they weren’t strong, you were strong.
Edwin Hodge: You were strong.
Kyle Schmid: So we made it as a team. Right after SEALFIT, when we — I guess you’d say graduated, we received our coin – our coin of accomplishment. We – all the men, we hugged each other, and we just started bawling. You know, to know that that was the end result. We had to strengthen ourselves, we had to strengthen each other, and in doing so, we enjoyed this light-hearted soft moment, and that’s what it is. For Seals, and that’s what it should be for us as we continue to do our jobs daily.
What drew you to this project?
Kyle Schmid: Well, I came into this project in the end of October of last year and read the original pilot script, which was basically a feature movie. I had never read anything like that for television, ever, in a million years. Then you look at the credentials of the people that are making the project. And you have Bill Broyles and David and Lesli Linka Glatter, and Alfredo, and Bruce McKenna, and everybody else involved. All of the arrows were kind of pointing to yes, this is going to be something incredible. Then you had cast that started to sign on and you just kind of began to get more and more excited. What I think the producers did really well was cast a bunch of alpha males who were physically capable of doing these incredible tasks. And instead of expecting them to simply just act, they put us through this form of SEALFIT training that we’ve spoken about so much. That training allowed us to organically bond and become this family, this group of brothers. Instead of running around with a gun and trying to play police officer on another network show, which is what a lot of actors would die to do, this is an opportunity to actually push ourselves both mentally and physically and kind of see what we were actually capable of as human beings as an entirety. They broke us, mentally and physically.
That was their job at SEALFIT. And we learned so, so much about ourselves and scared ourselves, and pushed ourselves. We all came to a conclusion after all that that this was, regardless of what the show did, whether or not it was successful, that this was a moment in our lives that we would never forget that would change us ultimately for the rest of our lives. We’re all extremely thankful for the opportunities, but also for the fact that we have learned so much about ourselves and now have this brotherhood that will be there for the rest of our lives. So, I think following our gut emotions and gut feelings to take the part were all right, in my opinion.
Edwin Hodge: Yes. I’m the product of two marines and for me this show was an opportunity to get a basic understanding of what they went through. Who they were before I was born because I know who they are today. But again, like Kyle, it was an opportunity to test ourselves. It was an opportunity to push ourselves to a limit that most men would die to have this opportunity. I remember the very first phone call that Barry and I had. We were on the line with Mitchell Hall, our consultant, and he was telling us everything that we were going through, what we had to go through in SEALFIT training. And I just remember 30 seconds later receiving a text from Barry, saying “what the hell did we get ourselves into?” My response was, “Brother, I don’t know.” That fear, that excitement, the anticipation of what we were about to do, I think that is what ultimately led me to making this decision, because, yes, you could play a cop; yes, you could play a doctor or a lawyer on screen. But there would never — unless you’re doing a feature film — in my opinion, there really hasn’t been a show that will test you mentally, physically and emotionally like this show has done for us. So for that reason, that is ultimately why I chose this role.