Awards Daily talks to actor/entrepreneur A.J. Buckley about working on SEAL Team, his diaper bag business, and what it’s like to work with real-life military veterans on set.
A.J. Buckley, who plays Sonny Quinn on the CBS series SEAL Team, tackles chemical weapons and terrorists on screen. Off screen, he attempts to uncover a mission even more impossible: Finding a changing table in a men’s restroom.
“I went into a bathroom to change my daughter and there was no changing table in the actual bathroom, so I had to take off my shirt and lay it down on the floor and change her,” says Buckley. “And I had this idea, what if there was a diaper bag that had a built-in changing table in it?”
Buckley wasn’t impressed with the diaper bags that were available and wanted to create one that wasn’t only more functional, but that appealed to both Mom and Dad. PaperclipLife is a diaper bag company he started with his business partner Artie Baxter, that recently started transitioning into bags for travel, clutches, and fanny packs.
“I never thought in a million years I’d be playing a Navy SEAL and selling diaper bags.”
Making the SEAL Team
Five years ago, Buckley might not have been SEAL Team material.
“When I was on CSI New York, I was probably 145 or 150 pounds, and recurring on Supernatural at the time. I was really worried I was going to get typecast, so after that, I decided to get into the best shape of my life. I probably put on 30 pounds of muscle over the past five years, and it kind of prepared me in a weird sense for this opportunity.”
Today he works out twice a day to stay in tip-top shape, with the goal to represent the military community the best he can.
“I didn’t have any military background growing up. Hadn’t really shot a gun prior to this. The tech advisers on our show are all former SEAL team guys. Something I’m really proud of about our show is that we’ve hired so many veterans in the writers’ room, behind the camera, on set, so there’s a real sense of pride that we’re working daily alongside these men and women who served our country. There is a pressure in a sense that you want to represent this community that’s done so much for our country, in the proper light.”
On Working with Real-Life Veterans
Showrunners Chris Chulack and John Glenn encourage tech advisers to speak up if something on screen is coming off as inauthentic, including movements, learning how to shoot guns, how the team moves as a cohesive unit, understanding the dialogue, and what different acronyms mean.
“This season here we’ve really come back with muscle memory. Each episode you get a little more comfortable and the brotherhood becomes a little more tight, and that itself is something really special.”
The show practices what it preaches, demonstrating what it’s like for veterans to come back to the states and ease into a new sense of normal, while offering real-life veterans a chance to start their post-military career.
“When a lot of veterans come back, they don’t have a transferable trait and feel like they’re lost. They feel like they don’t know where to go to use the tools that they learned in the service and acclimate back to society and use those incredible gifts and talents that they have into a business setting. What’s great about this show is that we’ve really opened our doors. It’s a cool thing to see on set these veterans talking. These guys have met before but never physically; they’ve been on the same battlefields fighting the same fight. It’s pretty powerful stuff. I’m incredibly blessed and grateful to go to work with these guys every day.”
Season 2 of the CBS series involves more about what it’s like for the military to return from deployment.
“It really goes into how hard it is for these guys, the invisible wounds of war and the PTSD and what these guys go through, how they deal with family, how their family deals with them, and once they get comfortable, they get the call that they have to leave. What these men and women do every single day, it takes a special individual. To know that when you leave you might not come back is something I still can’t wrap my head around.”
Pure on Hulu
Aside from his work on SEAL Team, the half-Canadian Buckley also has a CBC series Pure coming to WGN America in 2019 and now streaming on Hulu.
“It’s based on a true story, where a group of Mennonites had this huge pipeline of coke and methamphetamines and they were hiding it in cheese wheels and wagon wheels and all sorts of crazy stuff.”
For the part of deadbeat alcoholic cop Bronco Novak, Buckley had to gain 20 pounds.
“I worked with this one trainer, Adrian Veinot, and we designed this plan where I gained all this weight, and over the course of three months, I was going to lose 25 to 30 pounds of what I put on to show the physical transformation over the course of the series. It’s a really compelling drama. It’s so different from what I’m playing now. A 1985 mustang, with a big handlebar mustache, pompadour hair. It was fun. It’s something I’m really proud of. I’m half-Canadian and for a Canadian series to be received so well, it’s really cool.”
SEAL Team airs on CBS on Wednesdays at 9 p.m.