The stars of “The Pacific” had to endure a grueling boot camp before they started filming, then spent 10 months in brutal heat, rain and humidity while shooting the 10-part miniseries.
James Badge Dale, Joe Mazzello and Jon Seda also had one extra burden: They all played real-life U.S. Marines who served in the Pacific theater of World War II. Memoirs by Robert Leckie (whom Dale plays) and Eugene Sledge (Mazzello) are part of the source material for “The Pacific,” and John Basilone (Seda) was a Medal of Honor winner who became well-known back home.
“It’s interesting. Actors, we sit around and create these characters — most of them are fictional, and you have a lot of room to play,” Dale tells Zap2it. “You concentrate on the story you’re creating. But now you have this other element of, this is a real man who lived through extraordinary circumstances, and we’re telling a story of cultural significance. And it’s also based on his words. … As an actor, I felt a tremendous amount of responsibility. I talked to Jon Seda and Joe Mazzello about it, and they felt it too. There’s a certain weight we had to carry.”
Listen to Seda tell part of Basilone’s story, and you’ll understand why:
“In regard to Basilone and his story, it’s just so emotional,” Seda adds. “The responsibility is huge. Basilone is looked at as a pretty big hero amongst the Marines. … I just took everything I researched and learned about him and kind of stored it, and just tried to find the humanity in him.”
Mazzello uses the word “responsibility” too in talking about Sledge — something that hit home for him after he met with Sledge’s family.
“You always want to please the director, the producers, the people who are making the movie,” he says. “But when you speak to the man you’re playing’s son, you speak to his wife, it’s a whole other sense of obligation. They put a lot of trust in me. They said, We’ll let you tell the story of our father, the greatest man we’ve ever known and our personal hero, and we’re going to let you show everyone who he was. When that’s put on you, you feel it every single day.”
“The Pacific” premieres at 9 p.m. ET Sunday (March 14) on HBO.
Photo credits: Jon Seda as John Basilone and the real-life Basilone/HBO