By Keith Davis
Ryan Phillippe sat down with USANetwork.com to discuss the first season of his new conspiracy-action drama Shooter, premiering Tuesday, Nov. 15 at 10/9c. Check out the exclusive interview and get the dish on what to expect this season on Shooter.
USA Network: Can you give us your view on Shooter, what type of show it is, and what viewers can expect?
Ryan Phillippe: It's a conspiracy action thriller and one I think kicks a lot of ass. I play Bob Lee Swagger, who's a former Marine Special Ops sniper, who has been discharged after injury. He was shot and sent home with honors. At the time we meet him now, he's living a pretty peaceful life with his wife and daughter in the Pacific Northwest, hunting, maybe doing a little construction here and there, but he's moved on with his life and made peace with his past. Then Omar Epps' character, Isaac Johnson, his commanding officer when he was enlisted, shows up and asks him to help prevent an assassination.
USA Network: What's it like working with Omar Epps?
Phillippe: It's kind of like working with me. We're very similar personalities. It's such a nice thing to know when you're going to get down into a scene with a dude that they're going to bring it and they're going to be prepared. We still have our laughs and we talk hip hop and we do all this other stuff. We talk kids. We both have kids around the same age. There's a lot of those personal things that we connect on too, but as far as the work goes, and I think why we have chemistry, is there's this mutual respect.
USA Network: What about Bob Lee Swagger makes him such a compelling character for you to play?
Phillippe: Bob Lee is not a superhero. He's not Iron Man or Daredevil or whatever, but there is an element to this first season of it being somewhat of an origin story where we start out with the guy who's out of the service. Then over the course of the season, we see him come back into his abilities and to his skills. This conspiracy reawakens the marine within. It reawakens the soldier within. As the season goes on, you get to see more and more of the compliment of what he's capable of. That's fun for me to play.
USA Network: Could you talk a little bit about Bob Lee's wife, Julie Swagger, and how family value themes are being portrayed?
Phillippe: I think it's a great thing to talk about because it's also different from the book and from the movie. In Mark Wahlberg's version, he didn't have a wife and kid. I think what that allows us is many things. First of all, it grounds the show dramatically and raises the stakes in a lot of ways. Also it gives you some insight into what it's like to be a military wife or the daughter of a solider in whatever capacity and to see the struggles that they experience. For Julie, Bob Lee was discharged after being wounded and, in her mind, that was the end of her having to worry about her husband dying. Then, she's kicked right back into the same feeling, the same situation, the same fears. I find that to be really compelling.
USA Network: That scene in the first episode, where you take that dive out the window onto the car, was that all you?
Phillippe: I'm doing all of my own stunts, so all of that stuff is me. I said, "If I'm doing this thing I want to do my own stunts. I want that to be a calling card of the show." I think the audience is really smart. They're looking for that stuntman, for the person not being the actor, and I'm physical enough and have a background in fighting.
I had to do an entire rehearsal day jumping off the building that wasn't even on camera. In total, I probably had to do 10 jumps off of that building and every single time, my palms were sweating. I have a small plastic eye hook and cable on my back that I can't see, and when I'm about to take that leap off the building, there's no pad below, there's nothing else. I'm on the descender. It's up to the guy controlling the hydraulics to keep me alive, but your brain thinks you're committing suicide. Your brain is telling you not to do it. Even the stunt guys who were there going through it with me said, "We still get sweaty palms." They also said it was the highest fall they've ever seen a non-stunt person do.
USA Network: That had to be a really high adrenaline rush for you then.
Phillippe: Absolutely. I was never more relieved than when they said we could move on. After I did the tenth jump, I was ready for that to be my last one. I was like, "Okay, no."
USA Network: Did you have any special training to learn about and shoot the guns?
Phillippe: Yeah, absolutely. It's important to me too. Having done a lot of military-themed projects, working with veterans charities like I do, and also coming from a military family the way I do, that authenticity and the attention to detail behind the technique of being a sniper, I wanted to make sure it was perfect. I want the guys watching who were Marine snipers to be looking for the mistakes. That's how good I want it to be.
USA Network: How would you rate your current sniper skills and abilities?
Ryan: That's kind of a hard one for me to say because doing it on the range and in a controlled environment is a whole other ballgame. I've taken the time to study and learn all the mechanics that go into being a good sniper. You have to gently squeeze the trigger at the very end of your exhale. Even your heartbeat can throw off the shot. There's a whole meditative aspect to being a sniper and a mindset that I was really trying to get into. Sometimes these dudes are told to go to a position and not move for 48 hours. That means going to the bathroom where you are... It's another level of human being that can handle and pull off some of these things. I'm just trying to pay tribute to them.
USA Network: If there was one thing you would want viewers to get from the show, what would that be?
Ryan: Thrills. Thrills. I'm excited for people to see me whoop some ass.
See pictures from the premiere episode:
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.