The new ABC drama series Last Resort, from co-creators Shawn Ryan (The Shield) and Karl Gajdusek, tells a suspenseful, emotional and action-packed story about what happens when a U.S. submarine crew receives an order to fire nuclear weapons at a foreign country, and then ignores that order. With nowhere left to turn, Captain Marcus Chaplin (Andre Braugher) and XO Sam Kendal (Scott Speedman) take the sub on the run and bring the men and women of theColorado to an island where they will find refuge, as they try to clear their names and get back home.
During a recent interview to promote the series, actor Andre Braugher talked about what drew him to Last Resort, how tough their current timeslot is, what viewers can expect from the coming episodes, what he likes about his character, the feedback he’s getting from viewers, and his hope that it will take a long time to get to the heart of the show’s conspiracy. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
ANDRE BRAUGHER: No, it really wasn’t one factor. This is a show with a very ambitious premise, that could easily evolve into something kind of silly. But, Shawn Ryan has a craft for making very interesting, provocative television, and his abilities are apparent. Terriers and The Chicago Code were very good shows, even though they didn’t make it. The script was another consideration.
How hard is it for a serious drama to pull in people in your time slot, with these comedies surrounding you?
BRAUGHER: That question can probably be answered best by the people over at ABC, as well as our showrunners, who can really talk about the intricacies of scheduling. But, I feel that our show is strong enough to stand up against the comedies. The show gets stronger and stronger every week. We didn’t expect the pilot to make a big pop, so the question really becomes what is going to happen after that. And so, as each episode comes through, it seems as people are more interested in the numbers. Thankfully, the DVR numbers have been considered, whereas they weren’t always being considered. We can see that people are watching our show and the numbers grow very strong, after you include the DVR numbers. That’s the nature of television viewing these days. So, I think we’re in a good position, regardless of the competition.
What can you say to tease what’s coming up on the show?
BRAUGHER: There’s romance on the island. Other than that, we continue to try to tell the story, in a very down-to-earth way. There are lots of fires going on, and our nature is going to be transformed by this island because we are patriots and we’re a long way from home. So, things change and we’ve got to rethink what our relationships are and really rely on our character. That’s a hell of a test.
You’re well known for your ability to have long monologues with lots of layers and tones. Have you trained for that specialty?
BRAUGHER: I was classically trained, and that follows hard on the heels of my Shakespeare training. That was the anticipation of it. It’s hard to sustain that kind of monologue on a television show, so the stakes are very high and the subject matter is very compelling. There is really no place for monologues, so most of the monologues that we get in Last Resort are really about real things that are really compelling. Defending our actions to the world is where those speeches come in handy. Generally, television is a back and forth medium, so they aren’t a common feature of television, period. But, that’s where my training comes from.
In the last couple of years, you’ve gone from playing Owen Thoreau on Men of a Certain Age to the Captain on Last Resort, which are two very different roles. Did you undergo a lot of training to become Navy ready for Last Resort?
BRAUGHER: All the training I could really do was to maintain my health. I’m not the spring chicken I used to be. But, I work out with a trainer and I try to run a couple of times a week. So, the physical training was not so intense. I’ve done a lot of reading and a lot of talking to Naval officers, which is the part that seems most challenging.
What is it about Marcus Chaplin that you relate to and like the most?
BRAUGHER: Well, I like the fact that he’s thinking ahead. It’s the strategic part of Chaplin that’s fascinating to me. The fact that the next step may seem the next right one, but when you think several steps further out, it turns out to be a misstep. The negotiations are an important piece of theater. When I go back to the pilot, after they discover the bombers are coming to make a strike on their position and everyone is scrambling back to the boat, during that time when everyone is saying to themselves, “We’ve got to get the hell out of here, we’ve got to submerge the boat and we’ve got to run,” it’s at that point that Chaplin was thinking, in that 10-minute scramble back to the boat, “We’ve got to fire, and we’ve got to play this enormous game of chicken.” And then, after they backed down from this enormous game of chicken, they had to go even further and put the fear of god into them, so that they understand.
What sticks out most, in your mind, about working on the pilot episode?
BRAUGHER: What was going through my mind was that this really is an opportunity to do serialized television and explore a world that you usually don’t get to, in procedurals. Procedurals always stand alone. Every episode is essentially the same. That was true of Homicide. Each episode always opened with someone dead, and then we had to avenge that person. That’s typical of SVU, or the other cop shows that I’ve been on. But, to absolutely do a serial means we’re going to go forward and progress as characters, in terms of story. Shawn Ryan was able to do that brilliantly with The Shield, so I’m going to take my shot on trying to take on the challenge of living and breathing in this character and growing with this character. He’s going to be transformed, and I want to be there, every step of the way. Rather than developing a character and then freezing it, it’s just much more exciting to really live in this guy’s skin and go through the changes that he goes through. That’s what interested me when I looked at the pilot, along with (director) Martin Campbell and the pedigree of all the people involved, as well as the provocative nature of the script. This is something I want to be a part of.
BRAUGHER: Well, Robert is a very intense guy, and this is what happens when patriots clash is. We’re both very passionate about what it is that we’re doing, and we’re both supremely concerned about the health and welfare of our crew. I would have to say that Chaplin needs Prosser very much, not only because he exercises discipline over the crew, but it’s because he is a touchstone for the crew. If the chief of the boat thinks that it’s right, then the guys have a tendency to fall in line, so Prosser is very important to Chaplin. For Chaplin, it is important that Prosser understands that our whole goal here is to get back home, in safety. After last week’s episode, in which the Secretary of Defense basically said to blow the boat underwater and kill all of these sailors, I think we understand that going home in this state would be perilous, so we’re looking for the opportunity to go home safely and stand trial. So, I ask Prosser to make sure that we get home because it is important to get all of these men and women back home. We may disagree, but I think we do understand that the whole point is to get back home.
What do you enjoy about the relationship between Marcus and Sam (Scott Speedman)?
BRAUGHER: Scott is stepping into his own, right now, just in terms of being 37 years old. He’s at his physical, energetic prime, and he’s maturing as an actor. So, it’s quite a pleasure to work with him and to see him growing, right before my very eyes. When it comes to Marcus and Sam, it’s a relationship of admiration. It was hinted at, in the pilot, that I had recommended him to go to Washington, D.C. to get behind a desk because I felt as though he was a superior officer and he would best serve the Navy as a commander from ashore and not as an XO. Part of that storyline is his unwillingness to go back to shore because he feels that he owes me something because of what happened in North Korea. But, Marcus protects his men. It has nothing to do with being repaid. It’s a mentor and father/son relationship. It’s a relationship with two men that admire each other and want the best for each other. So, that’s what we’re working on, on a character level and an actor level. It seems like a good thing, and I’m looking forward to exploring that relationship for as long as we go, this year and then, hopefully, the next year after that.
Have you and the other cast members heard from military people about the characters you’re playing, the premise and how provocative it is?
BRAUGHER: Well, it’s provocative as well as being far-fetched. They comment on that, as well. In all the comments that I’ve heard, what they really like is the fact that we are getting inside the head of Navy men and women and exploring the issues that are important to them. The premise is ambitious, to say the least, and our job, every week, really is to fill in that ambitious premise with some very down-to-earth, honest, raw, detailed acting and storytelling. It’s one thing to have an ambitious premise, but it’s another thing to drift off into a fantasyland behind that premise. What we’re dedicated to is making sure that it’s honest and it’s raw, it’s down-to-earth and it’s compelling. So far, that has worked, and that’s our great goal, along with delivering the action, every week. We want to give the broadcast television audience a movie, every week. That’s a tall order, but so far, we’ve succeeded and we’re really looking forward to seeing how far we can go with this thing.
BRAUGHER: That, I can’t tell you. That’s really a question for the creators. In terms of backstory and unraveling the conspiracy in Washington, D.C., I don’t think you ever want to fully unravel it because then you have nowhere left to go. Once they show you the puppet master, the game is over. I am not speaking for the creators, but I’m hoping we take a good long time to get to the heart of this conspiracy, and that it takes as many twists and turns as necessary to get to that heart. Once we do get to the heart of this conspiracy, it’s game over.
Since there is a unique type of conflict in the series that’s also tied to patriotism, how does that challenge you, as an actor?
BRAUGHER: Well, I think all the roles I’ve played really center around either the great conflict or how the great conflict affects the people that I love. When I go back to any of the mini-series or series that I’ve done, the heart and soul of the show always centers around how the people that we love are affected by our decisions. I’ve been cast often as a hard-nosed, hyper-confident guy. The main consideration on this show is how to help the people that I love, live with the decisions that are necessary for our survival. It’s a challenge that I’ve taken on before.
If this show should be lucky enough to get to five years, do you think you guys will ever get off the island and into Washington,D.C.?
BRAUGHER: I anticipate surfacing in the Chesapeake and taking a drive down the Beltway to D.C., where I can surrender myself honorably for my court martial, but that’s far off in the future. Survival really is the question now. There is basically a world war starting with bombing of Pakistan, and this is the most dangerous time, at the beginning of the war. We’re looking for a lot of different things. We’re looking for breathing room, we’re looking for food and water, we’re looking for peace on the island, we’re looking for peace on the boat, we’re looking for a great patron who can protect and shield us from the United States, and we’re also looking to get to the heart of this mystery, so that we can clear our names and return home. We’re patriots and we’re designed to return home, not to be devious or traitors or pirates on the high seas.
Last Resort airs on Thursday nights on ABC.