Six stars Walton Goggins and Barry Sloane reveal the challenges of playing Navy SEALS on screen as they star in History’s military drama Six, which sees these modern American warriors embark on a covert mission to eliminate a Taliban leader in Afghanistan, only for events to go awry when they uncover a US citizen working with terrorists.
The series is produced by A+E Studios in association with Weinstein Television and distributed by A+E Networks.
Director Lesli Linka Glatter is behind the first two episodes of History’s Navy SEALs drama Six, which launches next month. She tells DQ more about the series, produced and distributed by A+E Studios, and how she pieced together one of her favourite scenes.
I’m pulled to certain kinds of themes. On Six, I was drawn to the fact that people are being put in extraordinary circumstances and are forced to deal with who they really are.
I’m very interested in the idea of what price you pay for serving your country. How do you balance a life of service with a personal life? That’s intriguing to me and it’s complicated, complex and multi-layered. It also takes some digging. Things are not what they appear. You have to dig deep to find out what’s going on.
We’re in the golden age of TV now. The amount of extraordinary storytelling going on in TV is really exciting and there’s been a real shift in television for directors. Now we have to make TV look like a feature film, but you only have a few days. On Homeland, for which I’m an executive producer/director, we shoot an episode in nine days. That’s a very challenging thing to do. With Six, we’re doing a military show and that’s also very challenging! You have to be very clear on what story you’re telling. You want to spend all your time on the dollar scenes, not the 25 cent scenes.
Whether you’re doing 12 episodes or eight episodes, like with Six, you want every one to be fantastic. We tried to set something up in the pilot showing that these men feel more in control when they’re in battle than they do at home. There’s a set of rules you follow in battle and you know your teammates have your back – whereas at home, you don’t have that same control.
Hopefully the material dictates what the director’s style will be. The material has to tell you what it is, rather than the director imposing something on top of it. I hope everything I do feels different. I wouldn’t compare Six with any other shows I’ve worked on like Twin Peaks, Homeland or Mad Men. They’ve all been completely different. That’s what excites me as a director. What interests me are stories about people and the choices they make.
On Six, we were exploring this idea that we’re used to seeing war footage from hand-held cameras. So we decided to do the opposite. Because the SEALs have a sense of control on a mission, we ended up shooting those scenes with a steadicam and dolly – and we used hand-held cameras for their home life, which is filled with unknowns and things there’s no way to control. We flipped it on its ear. That was something exciting to me and Bill Broyles, the writer.
It was amazing to work with our technical advisor Mitch Hall, a former SEAL who has worked on films such as Zero Dark Thirty. He’s an extraordinary guy. We had two other SEAL advisors who were there to ensure we were being true to what they do. It’s a story, not a documentary, but having them was really essential.
The first sequence we did with them was when the SEAL team was on a mission to take out a high-value target in a small village in Afghanistan. We went to the set and I asked Mitch what he would do if he had to enter the target’s building. He and the advisors walked me through it and it was extraordinary. I then shot the scene based on what they told me. The way the SEALs work is they get in and get out. They don’t want to be seen or heard; they don’t want to engage in a firefight. It’s very strategic and tactical. The movement is very balletic but, of course, they have guns. It was amazing for me to watch.
I just love being a storyteller. Even on the hard days, I’m grateful I do what I do.
Writer William Broyles Jr tells DQ how he leaned on his own military experience to deliver Six, History’s forthcoming original drama that centres on a group of elite Navy SEALs.
He’s made his name in feature films, with credits including Apollo 13, Cast Away, Planet of the Apes and Flags of Our Fathers.
But for his next project – History’s military drama Six – William Broyles Jr has turned to the small screen to tell the story of a group of Navy SEALs who must overcome adversity when their mission goes awry.
The eight-part series centres on the members of Navy SEAL Team Six, who are sent on a mission to Nigeria where an armed gang has attacked a school – at the same time taking hostage a former commander of the elite unit.
Broyles Jr has created the series with his son, David Broyles, with the pair executive producing the series alongside brothers Harvey and Bob Weinstein, Alfredo Barrios Jr, George W Perkins and Bruce C McKenna. McKenna, Barrios and Karen Campbell wrote the episodes with William and David Broyles, while Lesli Linka Glatter (Homeland, Mad Men) directed the first two episodes.
Despite his prominent movie background, Broyles Jr’s career started in television with ABC drama China Beach. Set during the Vietnam war, the show focused on the personal stories of the soldiers, their families and others involved.
This theme is also central to Six, which spends as much time with the Navy SEALs at home as it does in battle.
Both William and David Broyles are veterans – the latter having served in the SEALs and the US Army’s elite special operations unit Delta Force in Iraq and Afghanistan – and it is their unique relationship with the military that forms the bedrock of the drama.
“I’d been to Vietnam myself and knew what it was like to be a warrior and to come home, but from David’s experience I learned what it was like to be the family at home, when someone you love is off at war and at risk,” Broyles Jr explains. “I thought it would be a great opportunity to do this project together because we both have this experience of being in two long, complex wars with not completely positive outcomes.
“Plus I didn’t want anybody else to do this show because I knew they’d screw it up! It’s an important show about what’s going on in the world right now.”
Like the writing team behind Six, the drama is also a family affair, showing the special bonds that form between members of a unit such as the SEALs. “These men, who are the elite of the elite, have been fighting together for years and have formed a close-knit family,” Broyles Jr says. “At the same time, they go back and forth between missions. They leave on one hour’s notice and go to somewhere extraordinarily dangerous, but they can’t tell anyone where they’re going. And when they come back, they can’t tell anybody where they’ve been.
“The transition between taking part in most intense warrior combat there is and taking out the garbage, fixing the car and taking the kids to school is incredible, and they do it overnight. This show is not just about the most elite military unit in the world, they are also trying to have a home life and that’s really difficult and complex. The price they pay is immense. They love it; they wouldn’t do anything else, but in terms of cost and sacrifice, their families are essentially at war as well.”
In a television landscape where superheroes can be found saving the world on a regular basis, Six also aims to show that the characters at the centre of this story still fret about the day-to-day problems we all face, despite the extraordinary pressures that come with being a Navy SEAL.
“These guys aren’t bulletproof superheroes, but they are heroes because they’re human and still have doubts and stresses at home,” Broyles Jr notes. “If their car breaks down, they might not be able to fix it until their next pay cheque, or their daughter might not be able to have extra tuition. Financial pressures are very real to them and they give up the American dream so the rest of us can live it.”
With William and David working behind the scenes, authenticity is key to the series. But the History drama – which is due to air in early 2017 after casting changes pushed back the original July debut – also employed two former SEALs as advisors, who were on hand to discuss everything from the story and wardrobe to props and the way scenes were shot.
“The combat is done in an incredibly authentic way,” Broyles Jr says. “We’re going to be deeply immersed in it, but also in the SEALs’ home life as well. You’re going to feel the bonds that these men share with each other and how they work almost non-verbally together.
“The filming style we used in the combat sequences is very personal because people live and die, and we decided to make the cameras very still and steady. It’s not like the usual hand-held confusion. But when they get home, that’s when the camera’s not so stable ¬– because they’re less confident at home than when they’re at work.”
Part of pre-production involved putting the cast – including Barry Sloane and Walter Goggins – through their paces at a SEAL bootcamp for five days, where they got a taste of the mental and physical exertion real SEALs endure on a daily basis.
“You can act being in combat but what you can’t act is that team bonding, the brotherhood, and they’ve told me they’re closer to their co-stars now than people they’ve known their whole lives, because they’ve seen each other at their most vulnerable,” William reveals. “It was a pretty intense process.”
William and David came on board Six after being approached by Harvey Weinstein, who came up with the idea of a show about SEAL Team Six after reading about Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram kidnapping schoolchildren in Africa. Each season of the show will focus on a different theatre of war, this first starting in Africa.
But despite Broyles Jr’s film credentials, and those of Weinstein, he says he couldn’t imagine doing Six on the big screen.
“The whole essence of the show is the ongoing effect of this experience on the characters and their families,” he explains. “To do that, you have to unfold it over time. TV gives you the chance to do the serialised storytelling Charles Dickens did so brilliantly, where the audience gets involved with the characters and the actors get involved in their characters and they exist over time, not just in a shooting schedule.
“That’s the beauty of quality TV these days – you can tell these stories over time with the depth and luxury of character development. I would never do this as a film, ever!”
The Television Critics Association’s Winter Press Tour, taking place this year between January 5 and 19, is a star-studded event during which broadcasters, producers, writers and actors talk about new programme launches, imminent cancellations, casting announcements and ideas for turning around underperforming shows. As such, it is one of the key dates in the scripted TV industry’s annual calendar.
A+E Networks-owned History is one of numerous networks to have unveiled new shows during the tour. The pick of the bunch is a 10-part series about the Knights Templar, the elite warriors of the Crusades. Knightfall is being produced by The Combine – the prodco from Jeremy Renner (The Avengers) and Don Handfield – alongside Midnight Radio and A+E Studios. It is expected that Renner will guest star in the show, with additional cast and production details to be announced.
The show was unveiled by Paul Buccieri, president of A&E and History, who said: “We are thrilled to partner with Jeremy Renner, The Combine, Midnight Radio and A+E Studios to tell the intriguing story of the Knights Templar, which has been shrouded in mystery until now. Premium scripted content continues to be a growing part of the History portfolio, with an eye towards quality historical fact-based storytelling, and Knightfall is the perfect fit for our brand.”
The channel also announced an eight-episode order for military action-drama Six, from A+E Studios and The Weinstein Company. Written by William Broyles (Castaway, Apollo 13, Jarhead) and David Broyles, a military special operations veteran, Six follows Navy SEAL Team Six, whose 2014 mission to eliminate a Taliban leader in Afghanistan goes awry when they uncover a US citizen working with the terrorists.
“The backdrop surrounding this elite team of American soldiers – from their lives at home to the bravery they display serving our country – provides an amazing canvas for stories that deserve to be told,” said Buccieri.
The Weinstein Company co-founder Harvey Weinstein added: “The idea originally came to me when I read about Boko Haram kidnapping schoolchildren in Africa. It brought on the idea of creating a series about the world of SEAL Team Six because the story felt as poignant and timely as ever. We brought in Bill (Broyles), whom I have long admired, along with David to write the pilot. They took my idea and developed a brilliant script for the project and added authenticity to the world in a way that only first-hand experience could possibly bring.”
Interestingly, Weinstein said the show will be set up as a kind of anthology drama – echoing a recent trend. “Each year will feature a different theatre of war – the first starting in Africa,” he explained.
There was also news of a greenlight at AMC, the US cablenet behind The Walking Dead and Into the Badlands. Reports coming out of the tour suggest AMC has ordered a 10-part series from Sonar Entertainment called The Son, based on the acclaimed oil industry-focused book of the same name by Philipp Meyer.
The series, which will involve Meyer as a co-writer, is about America’s birth as a superpower, told through the rise and fall of one Texan oil empire. It will be interesting to see how the show fares after ABC’s lack of success with Blood & Oil, another drama set within the US oil industry.
Elsewhere, there has been a lot of talk about Turner’s plans to refresh its cable networks TBS and TNT by shaking up their scripted content. At TCA, it was revealed that TNT is teaming up with M Night Shyamalan (Wayward Pines) to reboot HBO horror anthology series Tales from the Crypt. In the new TNT version, Shyamalan will curate a two-hour block made up of both long and short stories of suspense and horror.
“This is a new genre for us in our series efforts and a great chance to partner with M Night Shyamalan, whose blockbuster hit The Visit reminded movie audiences and critics this past summer that he truly is a master of horror,” said Sarah Aubrey, exec VP of original programming for TNT.
Shyamalan added: “To be part of such a beloved brand like Tales from the Crypt, something I grew up watching, and to also have the chance to push the boundaries of genre television as a whole, is an inspiring opportunity that I can’t wait to dive into.”
Meanwhile, with the massive success of the Fast and the Furious movie franchise, it was only a matter of time before one of US networks hit upon the idea of a TV drama based around cars. This week, it was revealed that Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson (who stars in the Fast franchise) is working with Fox on a new show called Boost Unit.
Described as “Fast and the Furious meets Rescue Me,” it will be written by Jonny Umansky and Zach Hyatt.
Over at ABC, there was official confirmation of another Marvel-based show in the shape of Marvel’s Most Wanted, a spin-off from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
On the streaming front, there was news from Hulu, which has ordered two 10-episode seasons of Chance, a psychological thriller in which Hugh Laurie will play a medical expert.
Set in San Francisco, the show follows forensic neuropsychiatrist Eldon Chance (Laurie) as he gets sucked into a violent and dangerous world of mistaken identity, police corruption and mental illness. For Laurie, it’s another opportunity to play a medical expert following the global success of Fox series House (2004-2012).
Hulu’s upcoming slate of originals also includes 11.22.63, a time-travel drama about the Kennedy assassination from Stephen King and JJ Abrams; The Path, starring Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul; and Shut Eye, which will explore “the underground world of LA storefront psychics and the crime syndicate that runs them.”
In terms of renewals, E! has ordered a third season of original scripted series The Royals, which stars Elizabeth Hurley as a fictional queen. A coproduction between Lionsgate and Universal Cable Productions, the show is now getting up to the volume of episodes that appeals to international and SVoD buyers.
In terms of shows that are coming to an end, SundanceTV has revealed that Rectify will finish after its upcoming fourth season. TNT, meanwhile, will call time on Rizzoli & Isles after its 13-episode seventh season, which will air this summer.
JJ Abrams also used the TCA tour to speculate that the fifth season of CBS crime/sci-fi series Person of Interest (which he executive produces) will be the last, though he would “love it to continue.”