‘Six’: Kyle Schmid and Edwin Hodge Interview on Playing Navy SEALs

Six stars Kyle Schmid and Edwin Hodge
Kyle Schmid and Edwin Hodge star in ‘Six’ (Photo by HISTORY / Copyright 2017)

History’s new dramatic series Six is set to premiere on Wednesday, January 18, 2017 at 10pm ET/PT. Starring Walton Goggins, Kyle Schmid, Edwin Hodge, Barry Sloane, and Juan Pablo Raba, Six follows SEAL Team Six members as they attempt to rescue one of their own. Six was created by Oscar nominee William Broyles (Apollo 13) and military special operations veteran David Broyles, with retired Navy SEAL Mitchell Hall serving as the show’s technical advisor.

In support of Six‘s premiere, Kyle Schmid (‘Alex Caulder’) and Edwin Hodge (‘Robert Chase’) teamed up for a conference call to discuss season one, their characters, and how they approached their roles.

What did you do to get ready to play the roles, not just physically, but mentally?

Edwin Hodge: “We did a four-day intensive SEALFIT boot camp where we got a taste of what it’s like to go through Hell Week, which is a six-month process for actual candidates who are trying to become SEALs in reality. So, in doing so, the physical aspect of it all, the ‘Mitchell’ aspect of it all, the emotional aspect of it all as well, plays a lot into building our relationships on screen and off screen.

They worked us to the bone. They probably took us to the lowest levels we’ve ever experienced in our lives, only to move […]us back up and convince us with a new way of thinking and knowing that we can surpass a lot of brick walls that we feel that we’ve either put up for ourselves or other people put up for us. So it was definitely grueling, but was probably the best and most humbling process that we could have gone through to prepare for this show.”

Kyle Schmid: “I think we all learned a lot about ourselves and became very aware of our many little faults and were able to kind of move forward and become stronger. And I think it really goes to show in our performances how much we can trust one another when we’ve laughed and we’ve cried with each other. There weren’t any egos coming into play. We were just a bunch of human beings trying to get by with that material and for 40 SEALs, because they deserve it. We’re just trying to give them the respect they deserve with our performances and the material.”

How did shooting in Wilmington, North Carolina impact you and the rest of the cast?

Edwin Hodge: “You know, being somewhat isolated from our friends and family put us in a position that we had to be in and we had conversations every day with each other and got to hang out. Kyle and I became golf buddies[…]. It did definitely aid in us building the relationship in presenting and understanding what it is to be brothers or to be fathers or to be sons. Also with the female performers on the show, to be mothers. I think it takes a very honest person to get acclimated at first to those who are going to sit back and hopefully enjoy the show. Be those people in the military, or associated with the military, or everyday people who are just interested in what the daily lives of men and women in service are.

It is a heavy sacrifice for these men and women to go out and put their lives on the line for you and I. They do what we do, in part, to keep us safe and protect us from the outside forces that are coming in here. So, when we can actually humanize those people – give them a voice, give them a face, give them emotions – it makes it easier to better understand why they do what they do.

I am humbled to be a part of this show, but I really do think that the producers and the writers – everybody involved with it – did an amazing job with just keeping the show honest, which is what we wanted to do. I think that was our ultimate goal. That was the goal when we all sat down our first day of reading and wanted people to understand these people, be able to relate to these people. I just looked at them as like robots in a sense, you know? People who carried guns and go out there — like, these are your uncles, your brothers, your mother, your wives, your cousins – this is family. So, I’m really happy with what we’ve done.

It was a very inclusive project for everyone, and I think everyone will be proud of their work and what they see on the (screen).”

Kyle Schmid: “You know, I think a lot of us are still close with a lot of the crew and everybody else that worked on it from North Carolina. There are still people that I speak to on a regular basis that I met on the show. It was an incredible experience and they say that North Carolina is the most military-friendly state in America. We definitely saw people step up their standards with our long days and grueling hours and weather and everything else, and not complain and just put the next foot forward, and just enjoy watching this whole show develop into what it became. You’re working with families and friends and people that, quite honestly, have your back rain or shine. We developed a family out there, and that just goes to show you how lucky we were with the show.

You know, you really feel like pieces just kind of fall into place. Shout out to everybody in Wilmington. Thank you for everything that you guys gave us with the show and we miss you and love you.”

What surprised or shocked you the most about what SEALs are expected to do or about their training?

Kyle Schmid: “I think our initial SEALFIT training was the most shocking for me. You know, we had all met the day of getting out there and had no idea what to expect. And, you know, we watched these movies – these kind of glamorized movies – that Hollywood makes and I think the most important thing to Bill and David Broyles was to keep some of the reality of these characters, as Edwin said, the humility and the humanism, the humanity to these characters. But I feel like a lot of the post-emotional stress that they are expected to handle with so little help from the government after they retire, or after they’ve finished these major missions, I think that’s what shocked me the most. You think that to go out there and do what these guys are expected to do, which is pretty much that grey area, and then to come home and have to deal with family and friends and this ‘normal life,’ that still strikes me as very unfair. I think it’s important for the government and people in America to realize that these guys sacrifice so much and come home asking for nothing in return.

I think it’s important to acknowledge the fact that they have sacrificed so much. I think it’s up to us to support them a lot more than we do. Have to shut my emotions up…”

Edwin Hodge: “Okay, how do I follow that answer? Kyle is absolutely 100% correct. I’m the product of two Marines so I’ve had to grow up kind of experiencing what it’s like to live with a vet. I have seen her struggles dealing with the VA and trying to get medical care, and so forth. So, I do have a personal touch fully constituted on this subject. We didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into. I don’t think we really, truly understood the meaning of sacrifice until we got into this project. It’s a lot. Mentally, it’s a lot.

Once you’ve taken a life, how do you know how to deal with that? They just live there; they can try to digest it and so forth, but a lot of the times they can’t deal with that situation until they get home. There’s no way. They’re still on the mission. They’ve still got to save lives. They’ve still got to evac; they’ve still got to focus on the go ahead. They don’t deal with most of this stuff until they come home. And guess what? The wives have to deal with it. Their children have to deal with it. Their parents have to deal with it. And there is no assistance because they truly, they don’t know. They’re not allowed to share this information with their family, so how are you truly as a family going to help your mother or your father? And if there is some government assistance to do the same, we leave them in shadows. They are voiceless. They are faceless. So, I think it is truly important to understand that they take on a great deal of responsibility that we would never even want. We have to help them when they come back. We just have to do it. That’s our responsibility. They’re out there risking their lives. We can give some type of assistance – monetary, financial, emotional, physical.”

Six Cast Photo
Jaylen Moore, Kyle Schmid, Barry Sloane, Walton Goggins, Juan Pablo Raba, Edwin Hodge, and Donny Boaz star in ‘Six’ (Photo by HISTORY / Copyright 2017)

How did you approach your characters?

Edwin Hodge: “As far as the emotional preparation, there was none. We were kind of thrown into this pit of fire and we had to learn how to deal with our emotions. When you are put in an extreme situation where your body is completely fatigued, your mind is completely fatigued, you feel like even though you have people there, you’re still kind of on this island by yourself. It just starts to get to you in a way where you actually have to start thinking of new ways to make yourself feel better about the situation. You know in Wilmington, they told us to turn off our phones for four days. We weren’t going to really have contact with our family members and so forth. And I found myself on the second night, I had to call my brother. I had to break down. I just needed somebody that I knew to tell me that everything was going to be okay, and that I can make it through. And, literally, that’s all my brother said. He was like, ‘You got this. Or whatever it is, man, you got this.’

The same thing with our cast mates. Every time I kept saying, ‘Man, I can’t do this. I can’t deal with it. I don’t know if I can do this,’ they were there. ‘I got you, bro. We got you.’ And I said I couldn’t do this a thousand times. A thousand times.”

Kyle Schmid: “And then you’d blink and it would be Edwin running up a mountain.”

Edwin Hodge: “I mean, it was crazy but you have to learn how to deal with yourself in that moment. And it was one of the greatest educational points that I took from SEALFIT. They tested us in ways that you could not even imagine. Myself, I’m not the greatest swimmer but somehow they had me walking on the bottom of the pool. And I’m tired and still doing that before my own eyes.

I was just in a bag of mixed emotions. I was scared; I didn’t know what was happening. And the coach, he repeated his instructions in a cadence that calmed me down. As I performed in the rhythm of that cadence, I learned to focus and center myself, and regain a bit of that fear that I was exuding. So, that is what the men and women have to deal with. They deal with themselves more than they’re dealing with everybody else. They’ll tell you, they’ll lose a brother in battle — or a sister in battle — and their first thing is doing it, in a moment – you don’t stay prepared for it. Then they get home and they have to deal with it. As much as the families are dealing with it, it’s an internal struggle that nobody will ever, ever understand. You just, you won’t. Getting prepared emotionally, we weren’t. We had to learn it. We had to, like I said, understand ourselves before we can figure out emotions we were going through. It was crazy.”

Kyle Schmid: “I think with feelings some parts are compartmentalized – our emotions and our physical pain – so that we were able to perform regardless of what the environment was throwing at us. And that said, like Edwin was saying, we weren’t prepared for things that the scripts were throwing at us. The things that were thrown at us on set. I mean, we finished work sometimes and we’d have to go for a beer before we could go home, very much like SEALs do when they come back. We would go to rent something, or if been through something either we’d go and try to laugh about it or we’d go and we’d cry on one another’s shoulders, because we don’t know how else to cope with it. We weren’t prepared for what had just been thrown at us and sometimes it felt like we never would be.

At the same time, we’re developing our characters and trying to create these individual people. But it was just very, very difficult and I’m very thankful for the cast that surrounded us, because we were brothers. We had each other’s backs no matter what and it didn’t matter when we showed any sign of weakness because there would be somebody there right beside you to be strong. And when they weren’t strong, you were strong.”

Edwin Hodge: “You were strong.”

Kyle Schmid: “So we made it as a team. Right after SEALFIT, when we I guess you’d say graduated, we received our coin – our coin of accomplishment. All the men, we hugged each other and we just started bawling. You know, to know that that was the end result. We had to strengthen ourselves, we had to strengthen each other, and in doing so we enjoyed this lighthearted soft moment. That’s what it is for SEALs and that’s what it should be for us as we continue to do our jobs daily.”

Six is a pretty intense series. What drew you to it in the first place?

Kyle Schmid: “Well, I came into this project in the end of October of last year and read the original pilot script, which was basically a feature movie. I had never read anything like that for television, ever, in a million years. And then you look at the credentials of the people that are making the project. You have Bill Broyles and David and Lesli Linka Glatter, Alfredo (Barrios Jr), and Bruce McKenna, and everybody else involved. All of the arrows were kind of pointing to yes, this is going to be something incredible. And then you had cast that started to sign on and you just kind of began to get more and more excited.

What I think the producers did really well was cast a bunch of alpha males who were physically capable of doing these incredible tasks. And instead of expecting them to simply just act, they put us through this form of SEALFIT training that we’ve spoken about so much. That training allowed us to organically bond and become this family, this group of brothers. So instead of running around with a gun and trying to play police officer on another network show, which is what a lot of actors would die to do, this is an opportunity to actually push ourselves both mentally and physically and kind of see what we were actually capable of as human beings as an entirety. They broke us, mentally and physically. That was their job at SEALFIT. And we learned so, so much about ourselves and scared ourselves, and pushed ourselves.

We all came to a conclusion after all that that this was, regardless of what the show did, whether or not it was successful, that this was a moment in our lives that we would never forget that would change us ultimately for the rest of our lives. And so we’re all extremely thankful for the opportunities, but also for the fact that we have learned so much about ourselves and now have this brotherhood that will be there for the rest of our lives. So, I think following our gut emotions and gut feelings to take the part were all right, in my opinion.”

Edwin Hodge: “Yes. I’m the product of two Marines and for me this show was an opportunity to get a basic understanding of what they went through, who they were before I was born because I know who they are today. But again, like Kyle, it was an opportunity to test ourselves. It was an opportunity to push ourselves to a limit that most men would die to have this opportunity.

I remember the very first phone call that Barry and I had. We were on the line with Mitchell Hall, our consultant, and he was telling us everything that we were going through, what we had to go through in SEALFIT training. And I just remember 30 seconds later receiving a text from Barry, saying, ‘What the hell did we get ourselves into?’ My response was, ‘Brother, I don’t know.’ And I think that that fear, that excitement, the anticipation of what we were about to do, I think that is what ultimately led me to making this decision, because, yes, you could play a cop; yes, you could play a doctor or a lawyer on screen. But there would never — unless you’re doing a feature film — in my opinion, there really hasn’t been a show that will test you mentally, physically, and emotionally like this show has done for us. So for that reason, that is ultimately why I chose this role.”

Watch the ‘Six’ trailer: