The History Channel is taking its next shot at a scripted series after the success of Vikings and judging by the first episode of #Six, it's a home run. Six is based off of the real events of SEAL Team Six — an elite counter-terrorist unit in the Navy given unlimited resources by the United States military to train and execute high priority and dangerous missions. In 2011, the members of SEAL Team Six were behind the raid and killing of Osama Bin Laden in Pakitstan by order of President Obama.
Six brings to light in a very realistic way the drama of leaving a life behind while going to fight to the death (if duty calls) with your brothers and sisters in service. It also reveals the thin line that is so lightly drawn between where both lives meet. Many war-centric entertainment often focuses too much on either the life at home or the battle overseas, where Six bridges the gap seamlessly through intense (and often graphic) #action and heightened emotion. In fact, there were more action sequences than I anticipated — and I liked it.
The diverse on-screen SEAL Team Six is comprised of Revenge's Barry Sloane as Joe "Bear" Graves, Kyle Schmid as Alex Caulder, Agents of SHIELD's Juan Pablo Raba as Ricky "Buddha" Ortiz, Justified's Walton Goggins as Robert "RIP" Taggart, and Edwin Hodge as Robert Chase. Together this team must find a way to bring their troubled comrade Taggart home after he is captured by terrorist organization Boko Haram in Nigeria.
It may seem like a cut and dry war drama, but Six is so much more. I had a chance to speak with actor Jaylen Moore, who is one of the main members of SEAL Team Six on the show as Armin "Fishbait" Khan. His character is the very first Muslim-American Navy SEAL to be featured in a lead role on television — which, to say the least, is groundbreaking. Moore brings a humanity to the team that is much needed in times of heavy fire on screen.
Jaylen is himself an Afghani-American in real life, with immigrant parents from Afghanistan. As an actor and a person, filming Six had a huge impact on his life. They didn't just play the roles — they lived them. Jaylen explained:
"When I first met the guys in SEAL Fit training, we were six strangers, and within hours we were brothers. The SEALs put us through their simulations of B.U.D.S. (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEALs) which is normally six months. We had a week of it, but it was the hardest thing any of us have ever had to do in our lives. When you all are getting sprayed in the face with ice water at three in the morning, you tend to bond."
The real life military training the actors received shows from the get-go in the pilot. The team flows naturally together, and their actions on screen never appear forced or out of place. "It brought together such a tight camaraderie that it now translates on screen," Jaylen said.
Jaylen and his co-stars may have endured only a moment of what real Navy SEALs experience, but still one of the defining moments for his character was when his SEAL instructors pushed him mentally to the brim-testing his will to go beyond his own pain and suffering and take on the persona of a United States Navy SEAL.
"Every time we felt like giving up, the SEAL instructors would ask us 'Do you even think you have the right to give up? Do you understand the men you are portraying on screen?'. They would throw in our face 'I had a buddy who had his leg blown off by an IED and he would kill to have both legs and a swollen knee like you Jaylen.'"
Many might recognize Jaylen's co-star, Walton Goggins, known for his roles in series such as Justified and Sons of Anarchy. Goggins joined the cast a little after the rest of the team, but Jaylen assured it had no affect on the relationship the on-screen SEAL Team Six formed.
"Walton Goggins was such a professional and so committed and so generous in his acting and what he gave us. It was the best experience to learn from him."
All in all, Six is a gripping war drama with human elements that make it a compelling watch. It presses the boundaries of cable television much like shows such as The Walking Dead with intense and graphic action sequences and a few heart to heart moments in between. The History Channel and cast also take special efforts during Six and its commercials to recognize the real-life men and women in our military that sacrifice and have sacrificed so much. Any show or channel that does that is a two thumbs up from me.
Six airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on the History Channel.