I recently had the opportunity to send actor Emerson Brooks (Adm. Joe Meylan from TNT’s The Last Ship) some questions about himself and the show. He kindly wrote me back, so without further ado, here are his answers:
SMS: Hello, Emerson! Thanks for taking the time for this email interview. It’s a pleasure to “meet” you! I’m trying to research your bio to come up with good questions and… wow. That’s some bio. With a mix of business, engineering, and service in the army, how did acting emerge as what you really wanted to do?
Emerson Brooks: I sort of just happened into it by chance. I was in Washington, DC working for an engineer of a major aerospace firm when I decided I needed a hobby. I was working a lot and needed a little more balance. A hobby that has nothing to do with computers or engineering. So, on a whim, I decided I would audition for some local theater. I was just hoping to see if I could make it through an audition. I had no expectation that I would actually be cast in a play! From there I did more plays, some local and regional commercials. It was really eye opening and fun. Clearly, I fell in love with it and it led me to where I am today.
SMS: It looks like your background in the military has impacted a lot of your casting. Is that a fair observation? What do you like about the tough guy / military roles that appear often on your resume?
Emerson Brooks: It’s an honor anytime I get the opportunity to represent the armed forces on film. A lot of my friends still serve, so I do my best to represent them well. Due to my US Army experience, I will always have the ability to portray a “military bearing” naturally. This gives me a slight advantage when it come to the casting of those types of roles.
SMS: Can you tell me where this new season of The Last Ship finds now Admiral Joe Meylan? What’s he up to?
Emerson Brooks: Meylan has gone from the captain of a doomed naval destroyer, to second in command of Nathan James and now finds himself the head of all naval forces and leading a joint military command.
SMS: Your character holds a very interesting place in the show’s lineup of characters. He’s sharp. He’s competent. He’s loyal to the US and to the people he serves with. But – this show just isn’t about Joe Meylan. He’s not quite as fleshed out as Chandler and Slattery. Can you tell me something about Joe that you used to prep for playing the character that the TV audience will never know? Like, he hates cats or enjoys restoring boats… something like that.
Emerson Brooks: Haha, that’s a great question no one has asked before. Joe is guided by a principle that informs all the decisions he makes: Family, country, Navy. In that order. I imagine If he wasn’t trying to save North America from an invasion by Gran Colombia, he’d like to do nothing more than coach his kids (of which he has three) soccer teams and make dinner for his wife. They are his compass, his true north.
SMS: What’s something about Joe or playing Joe that you actually -dislike-?
Emerson Brooks: I can’t stand how devilishly handsome the writers made him. I mean come on, I thought Chandler was supposed to be the good looking one. Just kidding, I can honestly say there was nothing I disliked about playing the role. It was a dream role that I will be forever grateful to Steven Kane and TNT for giving me the opportunity to play.
SMS: Going back to that loyalty aspect of Joe. When he met him, he was told to take command of Nathan James. He did, but eventually gave it back because he believed in Chandler and what was going on right then, right there. This season, that loyalty appears as strong as ever, even with the president second guessing Chandler’s resolve. If push comes to shove again, where do you think Joe lands? Would he follow orders or stick with Chandler? What goes through an officer’s head in moments like that?
Emerson Brooks: To be precise, he gave back command of Nathan James at the tip of a rifle barrel, not of his own free will. He did subsequently see the reasoning behind Chandlers actions and was willing to give him a chance, even though he felt he may be disobeying the orders of the President. Chandler was right, the president was compromised, and Meylan was able to see that in a dangerous world, it isn’t all back and white. There is often a grey area where the hard decisions are made. This applies to the real world as well. At the end of the day, Meylan will do what he feels is the right, just action to take. Same with the army officer that still lives inside of me.
SMS: From the viewer’s perspective, The Last Ship looks well made, and done with enough attention to little things to make the whole thing feel plausible – without getting stuck in details and minutia. I still describe it to people as the template for a great military TV show to people that haven’t watched it yet. Can you describe your experience on The Last Ship?
Emerson Brooks: That is a good observation and a difficult needle to thread, so to speak. We have brilliant writers that are able to blend the theatrical fantastic with the real world the Navy lives in. We also have an advisor from the Navy on set at all times because our first mission is to get it right when it comes to representing our country.
SMS: Any chance we’ll see Admiral Joe at sea before the end of the season?
Emerson Brooks: A very good chance. The question is, how does he go from a land based command center to naval vessel? It’s going to be a fun ride.
SMS: Now that The Last Ship has finished filming, where else can we find you? Any upcoming projects you’d like to tell me about? Anything secret?
Emerson Brooks: A few secrets I can’t disclose, but I am writing this from an airplane on my way home from an exciting shoot for Macgyver on CBS. I will also be making an appearance in Arrested Development and The Orville. Make sure to tune in!
SMS: Thanks, Emerson, for taking the time to answer these questions. I wish you luck and look forward to seeing Admiral Joe for the next few Sundays on TNT.
Emerson Brooks: Thank you!
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