Actor Seth Gabel (“Dirty Sexy Money,” “Fringe“) plays Lieutenant Danny Sefton in “Allegiance,” a military drama loosely based on a true story experienced by the film’s writer/director, Michael Connors, while he was in the National Guard.
Sefton is faced with very difficult decisions when one of his men is forced to deploy even though that guardsman’s son might be dying. Sefton has also been given the opportunity to be relieved of duty, but his men feel betrayed by his imminent departure as they prepare to deploy without him. What will he do? Well, you’ll have to watch the movie to find out. It’s coming out on DVD and blu-ray Jan. 15, 2013.
I had a chance to talk with Seth about his role and how privileged he felt to be part of this important story. It’s Connors’ first feature and also stars Aidan Quinn, Dominic Fumusa, and Bow Wow. (Gabel, incidentally, is married to Ron Howard’s daughter, Bryce Howard, who was in ”The Help.”)
How did the role and film come to you, Seth?
I was sent the script and liked it a lot. I sat down with Sean Mullin, the producer, and Mike Connors, the director. We had lunch together and talked a lot about it and talked about their experience in the National Guard and at Ground Zero. I really fell in love with the idea of being a part of a project that was going to be so authentic and so based on their real life experience.
And I felt like the perspective from which they were viewing the military and the experience of the war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan was going to be a really unique perspective that we hadn’t been privy to before, especially since it was National Guard and not the actual Army. The circumstance of them signing on to protect our land domestically and then confronting the challenge of being sent overseas I thought was a really important story to tell.
Did you have a chance to do research with other members of the military besides the producer and director?
Yes, Sean and Mike put me in touch with a lot of former Green Berets and former Navy Seals. I got to sit down with a current National Guard unit and talk to their commanding officer and their executive officer and get a lot of firsthand feedback of what it’s like to be a leader of soldiers, of taking care of your unit, and what their experience was like actually facing that conflict, if you will, of whether or not to go overseas.
The film is a cathartic process that I think Mike [Connors] went through and is probably still going through now with the film being out…. I wanted to be as authentic as possible and really make sure that I didn’t play an “idea” of a soldier or National Guardsman. But I had a real sense of the burden that’s put on your shoulders and a real sense of the lightness and ease of going through the day-to-day logistics of being a soldier and how you interact socially with the other people in your unit. Mike was incredibly generous about his experience and was always giving feedback on what would be real and what would he do in that moment.
What was the experience of working with Aidan Quinn?
I had just worked with Aidan Quinn in “Jonah Hex.” He was playing President Grant; I was playing his adviser. So, we had gotten some time in establishing a dynamic where he was my superior and I was serving under him. When we shot together on this, I felt very comfortable with him and had a sense of his process, which is incredibly unique. And I hope to be able to replicate it one day. But he puts total faith in the director and the editor of the film, and every take that he does will be completely different from the last take but also equally truthful and honest and appropriate for the scene. He leaves it up to post-production to decide what his performance is going to be, which I think is a tremendous act of faith.
How do you work? Are you more method, or do you work more outside in?
[Laughter] I work in a meandering, anxiety-filled way. I will kind of circle around simultaneously from the outside and the inside and try to find a point where the two worlds meet.
What was it like to work with Bow Wow? I thought he was excellent in the film.
He is so comfortable with being bold and taking risks and working hard that he’s just a pleasure to work with.
What do you think you would do if you were faced with your character’s circumstances?
It depends. When you’re building a family, if you have a wife, and you’re going to have kids, and you have a job at home, and you risk losing all of those things … it makes it a really difficult decision about where your loyalties lie, especially if you have a personal opinion about the war that you’re going off to fight and that you didn’t initially sign off for that war. The rules changed around you that would then cause you to go over there…. It really forces you to confront and deal with what your real values are and what it is that you’re investing in in the long term for your life.
Note that the trailer below includes the original name of the film, “Recalled.”