To prepare for his role as a SEALs commander on the History Channel’s Six, actor Barry Sloane didn’t have to go through the same Hell Week that SEALs do. But he certainly got a taste of it. Sloane and fellow cast members had physical challenges that included running two miles in under 10 minutes and doing as many pushups, pull-ups, and squats as they could do in two minutes each.
“It was basically how a Navy SEAL at entry level would train, but it’s a bit of a blur,” says Sloane, 37, who plays Joe “Bear” Graves on the show. Season two aired on Memorial Day and will dive more into the psyche of Sloane’s character.
Sloane’s training, which was led by a former SEAL, also included long and grueling hikes, sleep deprivation, being cold and wet, constant physical exertion over long periods, and the leadership aspects that go along with working together as a team in a physical challenge. (A group of the cast has also run a Tough Mudder and trained for the event to raise money for Student Veterans of America.)
“It really was all-encompassing for the mind and body,” Sloane says. “The body will follow the mind. It’s capable of so much more than you’re able to imagine.”
A main part of the effectiveness of the training, he says, is the group aspect. You’re not just going to the gym and getting reps done but working with a group to make sure they finish the task, too, even if that physical challenge, like a long hike in snow-covered mountains, is a difficult one.
“Looking at the guy to the left and the guy to the right and seeing they’re ok, it’s not that bad,” Sloane says.
The training that he and the cast did was meant not just to get them in muscle-popping shape for the show, but also to help them understand the mentality that SEALs have as they go through extreme training.
Sloane’s running pace varies throughout the year (as do his push-up and pull-up numbers), but during peak training, he was hitting mile times in the 5:30 to 6:30 range.
“If you’ve got a Navy SEAL behind you, you go faster,” says Sloane, who was born and raised in Liverpool, England, and also starred in the ABC drama Revenge.
In the show, Sloane’s character doesn’t just revolve around special-forces leadership, but how a man balances two very different lives—at home and in the SEALs.
“Not a lot of people can relate to being a member of the military at the elite level like that—Team Six—but a lot of it is relatable as a human being,” he says, discussing the psychology of balancing issues and struggles at home and on the job.
What Sloane took away from his physical prep work wasn’t just the gains he made physically, but the admiration that has developed for the elite military people he worked with during training.
“I got to delve into the military life, just getting to know them as normal people—not super heroes,” he says. “Just standing alongside them and seeing how normal and down to earth and funny they were. They’re incredible people. It’s a selfless job to do. I admire whose real life is putting their life on the line like that.”
And for more great Q&As with your favorite stars, don’t miss The Best Life Interview with Jon Hamm.
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