KEVIN MICHAEL MARTIN 2016

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Ever since his first appearance in season one’s “Welcome to Gitmo”, Kevin Michael Martin has made an impact on “The Last Ship”, both in terms of its storylines and its fans. We have seen both the actor and the character “grow up”, so to speak, right in front of our eyes, and it has made for a fascinating journey.

When we catch up with Kevin, it’s late on a Monday afternoon in Hollywood, and he is in high spirits. Season four of “The Last Ship” has recently started filming, and he’s looking in great shape. Part of that may be down to the training diet that Bren Foster has him on, but it’s hard to tell. Naturally ebullient and friendly, we talk to Kevin about his role on “The Last Ship”, how he got his big break, and what we can expect to see from him in the future.

Scoring a role on a show such as “The Last Ship” is no mean feat, and we ask Kevin how he came to win the role. “I was flying back from a wedding in Chicago, and my manager called and said ‘there’s this two-episode character on a new show called ‘The Last Ship’, and you’re going to audition’, “ he explains. Funny thing was, my agents didn’t want me to. I had come off a couple of failed pilots, and they thought ‘you’re not gonna do a two-episode co-star’, it’s just not gonna happen. My manager says ‘I really think you need to do this.’

“I really connected with the role, because he had his mother, and you didn’t know whether he had lost any family in between.”

“So I got the script, I went in, and I had one scene I auditioned with, and two weeks later, I got the call that I was gonna do it. Two episodes turned into the whole season [aside from the pilot, which had been shot a year previous], and it got bigger and bigger, and now, somehow, I’m here in front of you!”

Going from two episodes to a series regular in the third season was an incredible growth in terms of the character. “I was the baby on the ship, and two episodes turned into every episode in the first season,” says Kevin. “I think there was a big opportunity for growth, because Miller was the young, naive go-getter, and he asked all the right questions that the audience wasn’t able to ask. As a newcomer, he was looking at things as an audience member would. He wouldn’t know a lot of what’s going on either! That allowed me to just be the goofy, quirky kid who is trying to be someone, and it just started to build! It was a little bit of timing, a little bit of luck, and the writers having faith in me.”

In some ways, perhaps Miller could be described as the eyes of the audience.

“As one of my buddies put it, ‘there’s some exposition there, and you’re able to ask the questions’,” says Kevin. “Then Burk, or Chandler, or Danny can preview where the mission’s going, because there’s no chance in hell – at that time – that Miller had any clue what was going on!”

 

Aside from his mother, we know relatively little about Eric Miller, and it’s interesting to hear him talk about how he sees Miller. “One of the best ways I connected with him was during the audition, he’s talking about how he misses his mom. My dad had passed a couple of years back, and I started to fill in my own backstory – you have to read between the lines – so he’s this Iowa farm boy, he didn’t go to school, he went right into the service, and his mom’s out there, as we see in season three, and he’s a go-getter!

“What’s awesome is that I like to goof around on set, and now the guys like to goof around with me, but at the end of season two and into season three, [Steven] Kane started to write some arrogant lines, some funny lines, some comedy lines, and he’s kind of the jokester, and the most loyal.”

“The new trajectory he’s going – as soon as Wolf took hold of Miller – I think the trajectory of him growing, physically, kind of sped up. He was tougher in season three, and you’ll see him far tougher in season four. The beard obviously helps a lot!”

Aaaah, the bromance between Wolf and Miller! Speaking of that, there are a few fan nicknames floating around out there for the two of them, the most prevalent being “Brevin” and “Wolfric”. Which one is it? Kevin laughs, shaking his head. “You know, the fans come up with a lot of quirky nicknames,” he grins. “I don’t want to speak for Bren, but whatever floats their boat is fine with us!”

However, it wasn’t just Kevin’s manager who pushed him towards the role of Miller. “I was obsessed with Michael Bay,” he states, his voice firm. “I’m obsessed with “Transformers”, I really like Shia [LaBeouf], I loved all of his work. When my agents told me that Michael Bay’s doing this, that was it. For me, it was kind of ironic. I was really thin when I started out – very thin – I’d just come off three comedy pilots, so drama wasn’t my go-to. I was a red-headed pre-pubescent child! I didn’t think playing a soldier was going to be my breakout role, but as soon as they told me it was Michael Bay, that was it. I wanted to do it. Then when I actually got it, I was like ‘oh shit, I didn’t see this coming!’”

Miller – and Kevin – have both grown up on our screens, but season three was a real turning point for Miller, having been held captive. An experience like that must change a person, and Miller is no different. “Oh, that was brutal,” he exclaims. “I remember there was a party because one of the individuals behind the camera was leaving the show. It was about three to four weeks before we started filming, and one of the guys grabbed me and says ‘you know you’re basically going to be in your underwear this season? You get kidnapped!’ I had no idea! And so I thought, if I’m going to go all the way forward, I wanted to trick the audience. I packed on twelve pounds of weight – partial muscle and partial weight – and I’m such a thin guy that I just hit the gym twice a day, and I put everything in my mouth that I could!

“As we filmed, I stopped eating as much. They [the kidnappers] were feeding us healthily, but not every day at four hour increments, and so I stopped eating as much, so that’s how I played the role. Mentally, it was tough. We’d show up at five in the morning, it was 36 degrees [2 Celsius] outside, and we had little Under Armour shirts and pants underneath, but, other than that, what you saw was what you saw. We had sandals on and we were freezing! I think we all got sick after filming that. When we were getting whipped, sometimes he really whacked you! It was cold, so you definitely felt it then!

“After we were done, and we went back on the soundstage, it was warm and comfortable, we had our cast chairs, there were no heaters… The first time we came back was that scene in the mess hall where we all get fed, and I remember Steven Kane’s right hand lady [Katie Swain], who wrote the episode, she came up to me and says ‘this is going to be daunting for you.’ I thought, one of the jackasses of the show, while kidnapped, is now going to be the one breaking down. It was tough. I remember wiping away the tears when they called ‘cut’, and she came up to me and gave me a hug, and said ‘thank you’. I said ‘no, thank you, because Miller’s never going back to who he was before.’ I think you saw that towards the end of season three. This year? Tougher than ever. Tougher, bigger, grizzlier than ever, because of all he went through in season three. I think he was tougher in season three, because of what Wolf taught him.”

Every character has their defining moment, but what is Miller’s, at least so far, in Kevin’s eyes? “I think that [the scene in the mess] is one of his defining moments, but who knows what’s to come in season four and five? That scene where he’s stripped down and whipped – he lost his sense of self there, and you see him broken, both physically and mentally, when he comes back. There’s also a defining moment in season one where he’s on the verge of death, and he gives Burk a pound when he thinks he’s going to die. Those are the defining moments so far, but I’d like to think there’s another one coming in seasons four and five.”

The Last ShipWith Miller developing so rapidly throughout the first three seasons, it’s clear to see that Kevin has also developed as an actor as the character takes on new traits and dimensions. “It’s made me tougher,” he grins. “And I get whipped! Now I know how that feels! I know how to handle myself in action sequences, I do my own stunts when I can, I can handle a gun, which I didn’t really know how to do before beginning shooting. I can deal with a lot of overwhelming commotion, explosions and stunts that are dangerous on set at one time. It’s a lot of work to get everything right, to get everything safe, to be able to see all the commotion going on around you and stay in the moment is something I will take away with me forever.

“You’ve gotta wonder if you’ll ever be on such a high-powered set as this again, because it’s like a movie every day. It’s insane. You should see all the moving pieces!”

“When Jocko and I were walking off set on Friday, which was a pretty physically demanding day, we looked at our chairs, and I said ‘it’s insane. We shouldn’t take this for granted that we get to do this every day for work. He kinda smiled and smacked me, and we continue walking!”

First party Jimmy and I threw at the new place where the little bro showed up. We had a drink in honor of you Pops. #brothers

A photo posted by Kevin Michael Martin (@kevin_m_martin) on

“The Last Ship” isn’t the only iron Kevin has had in the fire, in terms of acting. He had a production company that he set up with the younger of his brothers, Jack. “We set up a production company, made some films, won some awards, and we started to have creative differences and started to butt heads. When the show came along, and USC started to pick up for him, we decided to stop the production. It was better for now to focus individually, and come back together stronger. For the first time ever, about seven or eight months ago, I helped him with a little project before he graduated USC. Some big production company looked at it, and said how well he did.

“Now, the hope would be that Jack and I create our own content, and the middle brother manages or produces our projects. We’re developing a script at the moment, a funny comedy. He would direct it, I would be in it, and we would probably shoot it after ‘The Last Ship’ is done filming next year. We’re starting to brainstorm names, and we’re going to start working together again. It’s tough to do things with family sometimes! There were things going through the walls at some points!”

It’s clear that Kevin is the head joker on set, the recent prank with Bren’s chair being a prime example. “Usually, if it’s something really bad, it’s Jocko and I behind it,” Kevin admits. “I’m trying to think of some of the crazy things we’ve done! People are pretty focused. It’s a fast moving show, so if you prank someone, you’ve gotta know that everyone’s willing to have fun with that. I really have no idea what Bren’s capable of in terms of getting back!

In something that never aired, Ness [Bautista] and I gave Jocko a broken gun, and he had to load it and look all cool in front of the camera, and we broke character. We had to turn away, because he couldn’t cock it properly. That’s the kinda stuff we mess with. I’m worried that it’s going to get out of hand this year, because you always have to top yourself. The fact that Jocko and I already started with Bren, and we’re only in week two… we figure by the end of filming season five, it’s gonna be pretty drastic! When we got to set, we just decided to do that. We don’t really map them out, it’s just an environment thing. When we see an opportunity, we take it. Bren has said he’s going to take revenge, and I can’t wait to see what it is! I get excited.”

We couldn’t resist reminding Kevin about the incident with a certain golf cart. We’ve heard Jocko and Bren’s take on it, now it’s his turn. “We got yelled at for that, we got in trouble for that,” he admits, his voice sheepish. “Jocko and I saw this golf cart, and Jocko’s like ‘we should just drive it’. So we started driving it, and then Bren hopped on, and we hit some kind of speed bump. I don’t know if the cart broke, but when they found out that the three of us were driving around in the cart recklessly… well, not only the cart could break, but one of us could break… no-one else has been driving a golf cart since!

Stole the golf cart from production…did not see that pothole though. @jockosims @brenfosterreal

A video posted by Kevin Michael Martin (@kevin_m_martin) on

“The greatest thing is since I’m the baby, I don’t really get blamed for a lot,” he says, his voice mischievous. “I’m just like, ‘they made me do it!’ That’s kinda what we go with! People on social media started telling Bren to get back at Jocko for moving his chair, but… I asked Jocko to film it as I moved it over! This is fantastic! I love that part of it.”

Life on set isn’t all fun and games, though, and a typical day on set for Kevin can be long and gruelling. “I go in early, get my makeup done – I like to get my makeup done right away – get in there, get out, let the women do what they gotta do. I go away, and I always bring a DVD – it can be ‘Transformers’ – but I’ll sit there and I’ll watch a movie. I like to get excited. Everyone else has their own preparation, but I‘m still a kid about this, so I like to get excited when I’m on set. So I’ll watch a movie, they’ll call you up for a rehearsal, we rehearse – usually, it’s an action sequence – all the guys get together, transpo brings us up to the location, do the rehearsal, then we’re there.

“Especially if it’s on location, we’re not by our trailers, we’re there. So we’re usually eating food and just goofing around constantly. The best part is that, sometimes when we’re on location we don’t have cell service, so we’re forced to just goof around with one another the whole time. Filming, goof around, filming, goof around. The greatest thing is when we need to be focused, that’s it. We never disrespect each other. The second it’s time to go, it’s like an unsaid ‘stop’. But the second we find an opportunity to break back out of it, we do.

“It’s funny because we all text each other, and one of the guys who was killed [on screen], Ness, and he said ‘don’t take this for granted. I’ve worked on a couple of shows since we wrapped, and what we had with the SEAL guys is such a rarity.’ I love spending time with them, it’s great.”

With seasons four and five shooting back to back, however, the schedule is about to get a whole lot more intense. “It’s going to be a massive exhaustion,” admits Kevin. “It’s gonna be extremely intense. I remember when [Steven] Kane emailed us, and he said ‘grow some beards’ – that’s all I can say about that right now – and told us what it entailed, I started hitting the gym harder than ever. I wanted to be in bigger shape, but I also wanted to be in stamina shape. I knew it was going to be long days, long hours. Sometimes, I work four days in a week, sometimes I don’t work for a week and a half, but the crew is there day in, day out, so I just thought be kind to everyone, be healthy, get sleep, come to set ready to work, and know that your boys and you are gonna butt heads a little bit, and that’s just gonna happen sometimes. As long as you have that mental outlook, you’re lucky. You’re lucky to be working for a year.”

Of course, we don’t want any spoilers, but we can’t resist asking Kevin what his ideal future for Miller would be. He thinks for a few moments. “I want to say to get a babe of a girlfriend, but… I’d like him to meet his mom. I’d like him to re-meet his mother. When you think about it, it’s been a long time. They kind of established that he is aware that she is alive, but I just want for him to finally be able to hold her in his arms again. You can hope it’s coming, but if it doesn’t you just gotta trust that the writers just don’t see it as the focal point, and that’s okay. I hope that he gets to see his mother again, on screen, in person, before the show’s over.”

Of course, Kevin’s not all about “The Last Ship”. We ask what is coming up for him, besides the show. “I’ve had some other bites from some comedy shows, and schedule wise, it doesn’t work out. I’m getting ready to work on a film with my brother, but that’s another year out. In terms of anything else, it’s impossible. When you’re working on a show for a year straight – and we film a lot, because action sequences that take up two to three minutes on screen can take two to three days to film because we have to be taught all the movements and where to shoot. Although I want to work on other stuff, it doesn’t work out. I want to be focused, I’ve got a big beard and it’s kinda hard to go work on other stuff when I look a little bit more dramatic at the moment. I’m trying to stay focused on the show. I’m happy to stay focused on just one project for now. A year straight in a physically demanding show, you don’t want to spread yourself too thin.”

Well, it looks like Kevin has plenty more in store for us as Miller, and beyond. We can’t wait to see what is coming next!

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And you can read another EXCLUSIVE Interview with Kevin Michael Martin talking about the show, his career, ambitions & much more, in January 2017’s issue of Film & TV Magazine.

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