‘SEAL Team’ is one show that’s earned respect, from those who know, for its authentic portrayal of US military operations, and the close brotherhood forged in battle. Actor Judd Lormand plays the man who leads from the operations room, which has given him a real-life respect for those who keep calm and stay effective under intense pressure. RSNG spoke to him behind the scenes of Season Two, currently being shown on CBS and Sky One, to find out why he thinks this story needs to be told…
RSNG Your character in SEAL Team is the strategist who directs the operations from HQ – has playing him taught you any real-life lessons?
JUDD LORMAND, ACTOR ‘It's actually helped me a lot in real life. Blackburn, he can't get worked up. He can't let his emotions, his temper, get the best of him because it doesn't do any good. He's got to be continuously thinking and so now, in real life, when the flight gets cancelled or this and that is happening, I think it's really helped me over the last year or so not to get worked up. Not to get stressed. I say: “Well, just Blackburn it, Judd”. What would Blackburn do? Just take a deep breath, figure out the next step.’
‘What would Blackburn do? Just take a deep breath, figure out the next step’
RSNG Did talking to real-life commanders teach you that?
JD ‘It was kind of my choice in the beginning to keep this guy level-headed, keep him even keeled. Then, when I spoke with a couple of lieutenant commanders, I realised I'm on the right track because they were telling me the most important thing is: not to lose your cool. I had this army guy tell me: “You have to play with the cards you're dealt and you're dealt different cards every single mission, so you do the best that you can.” These guys that I talked to were extremely tough, extremely rigid guys but they were super sensitive as well and that really helped me to put the final touches on Blackburn, as far as who he is.’
RSNG Do you mean being sensitive to the changing situation on the ground?
JD ‘Yes, and mostly sensitive to what the guys are doing on the ground because the lieutenant commander has been in those shoes before. He’s dodged the bullets and so he’s sensitive to what they're going through and he's also sensitive to what they're going through at home. By the time they became officers, by the time they became a lieutenant commander, they knew the issues that these guys were dealing with in the field and at home.’
RSNG How does it feel to be representing those kind of stories about an active combat unit, which is doing a job right now? Is there a kind of pressure on you to keep it authentic?
JD ‘Without a doubt, there's a pressure but the good news is that we all share that burden, top to bottom, cast, writers, crew – everyone is looking out to tell these stories but we want to tell them as authentically as possible. We actually have a Navy SEAL in our writers’ room and we've got all these different Special Forces guys on set with us. We are all in step as far as attempting to do something very authentic and very needed. I think more people need to see these stories about what these guys go through.’
RSNG I guess we hear the headlines but there’s not often the human story behind it?
JD ‘Correct, and I’ve always been a supporter of our troops and any country’s troops, who make the conscious decision to say: “You know what I’m going to defend our country.” I think that's just an incredible service and I was always wanting to say: “Thank you for your service.” But one of the aspects that I never looked at was have we ever told the person who's serving or going overseas, have we ever told their husband or wife: “Thank you for your service?” Because it’s a family job. If I knew that ten people would watch the show and become aware of what the families go through when their loved one leaves, then I'd say I'm a happy guy.’
RSNG In terms of the feedback that you're getting from SEALs and military guys, has there been a specific example of where you've got something really right?
JD ‘It's a lot of little things. Our Veterans Day weekend here in the US, we spent some time over at the Rams game in a suite area with a bunch of veterans, just talking to them for the entire game. It’s always something different that they point out specifically – without a doubt, they all appreciate the authenticity. Just the other day, a couple of guys, were saying: “Man, when you guys cross, when you guys breach a room, you guys are on point, it's awesome.” They always want to know about our training because apparently most of the time, we're getting it right and that is like the best compliment in the world when one of those guys who has done this real-life job says: “Man, you guys are nailing it.”
RSNG Obviously your character's role is a bit different, but did you have to do any particular training?
JD ‘Every now and then I'll have to go on the field, but typically most of our training is done on the fly because we've got dozens of real vets on our crew. From the prop department to the set deck guys, we've got so many vets, but then we also have these guys who their job is to come in and train us on the fly. For instance, I'd already been trained on how to carry a gun.’
‘Then we’re shooting a scene where I'm carrying a weapon and I've got to get into this little military vehicle and I want to make sure I'm doing it right. So I have to pull someone aside and say: “Hey, can you show me how to get into the car without doing something stupid with my weapon?” We pause before shooting and we work it out – it's terrific. I feel like I've been in a year-and-a-half-long training camp!’
‘We do most of our stuff live – you've got to get earplugs when you come to the set of SEAL Team!’
RSNG How realistic do the pyrotechnics and everything else feel?
JD ‘Pretty darned real. Obviously we're firing blanks but we are firing on set, it's not like we're just pretending to shoot a gun and then you add the bang in post-production. We do most of our stuff live, in the moment, and it’s awesome, man. You've got to get your earplugs when you come to the set of SEAL Team!’
RSNG It’s got to help with the authenticity because you react to those kinetic sounds?
JD ‘Yes, we react to all that and I love getting to be on the set when they are shooting some of that, so that I can feel it. When an explosion happens, when the guns are firing. I've been up there enough for that, so that now when I'm in command, yes, I can feel it.’
RSNG How about fitness training, have you had to work on that?
JD ‘Early on into shooting the first season, someone said: “You may have to go out on the field with the guys,” and I thought, oh great, that will be fun. So starting in October of last year, man, I went on just a crazy mission personally, to get in the best shape in my life. I work out four days a week with weights, three or four days a week with cardio and just trying to squeeze that in on a shoot day where you have to catch a flight after you're shooting is challenging in itself.’
‘And I track my carb intake, I do a lot of carb cycling. So three days of very low carbs, high protein and fat, and then three days where you do a little bit of carbs – also intermittent fasting where you eat only eight hours of the day, I do a lot of that as well.’
RSNG What results did you get from that?
JD ‘I started out at like 18.4% bodyfat when I first went to my nutritionist in October of last year and the lowest I got down to was ten. Right now, I'm sitting at about 11% because I've had a lot of travel lately and that makes it tougher! But I'm still trying to maintain that 9-10% level at all times. It feels great whenever you put in the work, and it takes a few months or whatever, but people start to notice and then you feel better just all round.’
RSNG How does it feel for you at this point in the process of the series and how do you feel you’ve developed the character?
JD ‘So I've worked really hard on just creating the Blackburn that is laser focused and wants nothing more than to get his guys out safely, efficiently with an accomplished mission. I want to win but I want to do it safely. With each challenge, I've learned that Blackburn is not afraid to reach into his bag of tricks every now and then! I'm really looking forward to the latter half of Season 2 because I think everyone's getting a good sense of what Blackburn does but not too many people are sure of who he is. I think towards the end of this season, we'll start seeing some of that and it's going to develop even more, which I'm excited about.’
RSNG What been your experience of working with David Boreanaz, who plays Jason Hayes in SEAL Team?
JD ‘Let's put it this way, he's been on primetime television now for 20 years and there's a reason for it. It's not just because he's a charming guy. He knows what he's doing. He's professional. He gets in there and gets his work done. The first thing I really respected about David, after a couple of episodes in, was just how much of a family guy he is at home and the fact that when he's at work, he's there to work. He has fun working. He puts in the time like everyone else but then he's also a family man – a lot of respect for right off the bat to that. And he treats everyone on the crew with respect – it’s great to see someone like that, a veteran of television, who still treats everyone with respect.’
WHAT NEXT? Watch the teaser for SEAL Team Season 2.
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