Epic World War II drama The Pacific, which follows the entwined journeys of three U.S. Marines over the vast landscape of the Pacific, airs on Sky Movies and Sky Movies HD from April 5th. Star James Badge Dale discusses his role as real-life soldier Robert Leckie:
How did you get into the role?
I got a phone call from HBO one day -it had been a long audition process that lasted about six months. I got a phone call saying, “You wanna come to Australia”. And I think that was a life-changer right there. We’re talking about a year of production in Australia. And y’know, Robert Leckie, he wrote a lot. He wrote a memoir called Helmet For My Pillow, about his time in the Pacific theater.
He also wrote a book of short stories or vignettes about his childhood growing up in a household of five older sister. It was just invaluable source material to be able to sit down and be able to read about your character, to be able to read about his childhood, and these stories that he looked back on as real formative stories of him as a man. I also had the pleasure of spending time with his wife Vera Leckie and his daughter Joan Leckie and they would sit me down and feed me lunch and tell stories.
Did you approach this character differently because he was a real person?
It’s different. It’s different. Approaching him because he was a real man who wrote about this. This is a real story and his words, his version of events, he was there. And meeting his family… where is that line between honouring him and playing this man and then also creating your own character, so normally the creation happens within me. Through a writer and through a director, y’know, we can all come to a consensus, but this is a different situation. It was a tight rope act. Finding yourself in situations where you say, “Ok, would he have done this?”. Did Robert do this, would he have done this or what is right for the story? Do I need to take some kind of creative license here to help the story along?
How did you build up your relationship with the other actors? Did boot camp help?
Absolutely. I think you spend nine days out in the mud together, y’know, you can get pretty close. Or you can be at each others throats. But they cast very well. All of us seemed to be of like mind and heart. Everybody treated the project with a lot of respect. It’s a special experience to be together for that long and to do things together for that long. You grow a bond. And we all got along very well from the outset.
What kind of impact do you think The Pacific will have on your career?
Um, y’know, probably serving French fries at drive-thrus hugely. Or go back to changing oil in people’s cars man. I don’t know. I’ve been lucky enough to work in this business for a little while and what I’ve learned is that expectations will kill you. It was such an honour and a privilege to play this role and to be a part of this. I feel like I’ve reaped all the benefits I can ask for, y’know? And if someone can connect with the story, then my job is done. If a veteran can look at me and say, “Listen, I think you guys did a good job and that’s what it was like. You reminded me of a certain time”. Or if we can get the story right.
What have you learned from your time on The Pacific?
Working on The Pacific I learned a lot about breaking barriers. I learned a lot about myself and what type of strength I have, or don’t have. If you asked me could I do it again or would I do it again, I don’t know if I could do it again. (Looks off wistfully) That’s a hard question. Can we move on to the next question?
How do you think The Pacific will be received and why do you think people should watch it?
(Smiles) Why should we see The Pacific? I hope people will watch The Pacific and learn a little bit more about themselves and a little bit more about history – American history and world history. But I think more importantly, our show is about price. Our show is about men who went through a certain circumstance that is part of human nature, which I believe nobody should have to go through, but it is part of human nature and it happens in each generation. But how did they get through it? How did they get through it? What price did they pay?
Do you think there’s now less of a difference between the quality of television shows and films?
Absolutely, I think that’s down to a number of things but I think the gap between television and film has gotten a lot smaller and what’s important is a good project is a good project and a good story is a good story. Good storytellers are good storytellers, so whether the medium is television or the medium is a movie theatre, it doesn’t matter as long as you take care. As long as you care about what you do and you take care with it.