Every episode of NBC's The Night Shift (airing Thursday at 10pm ET/PT) takes an interest in military and veterans issues, but this week's show ("Keep the Faith," airing August 10th) gives veterans a special emphasis by casting veterans in guest roles and hiring them to write and direct the show.
THE NIGH SHIFT -- "Keep The Faith" Episode 407 -- Pictured: (l-r) Eoin Macken as TC Callahan, Josh Kelly as Xavier Arnold, Jill Flint as Jordan Alexander -- (Photo by: John Britt/NBC)
Seventeen veterans from all five branches are credited at the end of the episode. Writer/producer Brian Anthony is an Army veteran. Director Timothy Busfield is a Navy veteran also known from his acting roles in Revenge of the Nerds and on The West Wing and Thirtysomething. Guest star Dan Lauria (The Wonder Years) is a Marine veteran. Guest star Josh Kelly (Jarhead 2: Field of Fire) is former Army Ranger. Guest star J.W. Cortes (Gotham) is a Marine. Wes Chatham (In the Valley of Elah, Hunger Games) is a Navy veteran. Yvonne Valadez (in her first big role) is an Army veteran. Military advisor and Army veteran Toby Montoya also gets a credit.
THE NIGH SHIFT -- "Keep The Faith" Episode 407 -- Pictured: (l-r) Tanaya Beatty as Shannon Rivera, Dan Lauria as Douglas Stratton, Robert Bailey, Jr. as Paul Cummings -- (Photo by: John Britt/NBC)
Dan Lauria plays Douglas Stratton, a Vietnam War P.O.W. who shows up in the ER looking for relief from an untreated war injury. He's haunted by his experiences at the Hanoi Hilton and what he perceives as his failure to stand up to North Vietnamese torture. Doctors Scott Clemmens (Scott Wolf) and Paul Cummings (Robert Bailey Jr.) use the hospital's new connection to the VA to bring in other prisoners of war to give Stratton some support and a sense that later generations learned from his trials in Vietnam. The show cast three real prisoners of war for the scene: Hank Hughes (Afghanistan), Paul Atkins (Vietnam) and Rose Estrada (Desert Storm). We've got a clip below.
Josh Kelly stars as Xavier Arnold, a politician who's using his military service to advance his career but the story he tells doesn't match reality. Injured by a radical religious protestor (think Westboro Baptist Church) at a veteran's funeral, he ends up in the ER. Dr. Drew Alister knows the truth and Arnold's appearance causes Drew to flash back to Afghanistan and the incident that inspired him to become a doctor.
THE NIGH SHIFT -- "Keep The Faith" Episode 407 -- Pictured: (l-r) Mark Consuelos as Cain Diaz, Jill Flint as Jordan Alexander, Wes Chatham as Clark, JR Lemon as Kenny Fournette -- (Photo by: John Britt/NBC)
An injured protester (Wes Chatham) turns out to be an undercover FBI agent and Yvonne Valadez is a former military photographer who's slowly going blind. It's all the emergency drama that the show's fans love with a special emphasis on military heroes. This would feel like a stunt if the show didn't do this kind of thing every week.
My interview with Toby Montoya took place during the filming of this episode back in June and we published it just before I returned for a second visit a couple of weeks ago. It seemed like everyone on set had read the story and were genuinely excited that a guy like Toby was getting this kind of attention.
I had a chance to speak with more members of the cast and crew and we'll have another feature before the show wraps up its fourth season in three weeks.