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The Last Ship - Series Finale - Interview with Jocko Sims

Their mission was simple. Find a cure. Stop the virus. Remedy a famine. The Nathan James and her crew saved the world for four seasons straight before going to war in season five to defend what they rebuilt. In the series finale tonight, that war came to its inevitable conclusion. Not everyone made it to the end, though, and the eleventh hour death of fan favorite Commander Carlton Burk was met with mixed reactions. Jocko Sims, the man behind Burk, shared his reflections on the final chapter of the show.

Ellys Cartin: Fans love romantic pairings, but The Last Ship fans have really embraced the friendships between the characters. How did real life reflect fiction for you, when it came to bonding with your castmates?

Jocko Sims: Kevin Michael Martin, who plays Miller, definitely was my best bud on set. We hit it off right away when I had to do a scene where I was yelling at his character for screwing up. We laughed so much that day and over the course of the episode. After seeing this and being entertained by the humor themselves, the writers made sure to pair us up for the next five years.

EC: What were some of your favorite scenes to film over the course of the show?

JS: I really enjoyed the big hotel kitchen fight scene in season two, where Ravit (Inbar Lavi), Chandler and I kicked some tail while protecting the president.

EC: From “Valkryie”’s oil rig to “Warriors”’ cellar, we saw Burk in some intense, dangerous situations. Any particularly grueling experiences for you as an actor?

JS: Season 1 was difficult because we had to wear actual gas masks. And when they’d run out of air, you immediately had to yank it off because you couldn’t breathe. Doing scenes in the sun and on water climbing from boat to boat wasn’t fun. We were thankful that the writers decided to “find the cure” so early in the series. We were glad to toss those masks.

EC: There have been many comments from fans about the way that your character, Lt. Burk, was killed off in the second-to-last episode of The Last Ship? In my own review, I had some harsh opinions about it. What is your take on how your character died?

JS: Yes, there have been many comments about it. Admittedly, dying by getting shot with an arrow by a random seven-year-old after saving the world for five seasons does seem like a bit of a smack to the back of the neck, at the very least. But that doesn’t bother me much. I can take it.

EC: Going into the final season, how were the major deaths brought up to the cast? Were you surprised by the deaths?

JS: At the beginning of the season, we were told that 5 major characters will be killed off. That was exciting, and seeing as this was likely going to be our final season, we were generally open minded about it. It felt like “Game of Thrones” and that made it fun every week. So I wasn’t shocked to see three series regulars get killed off. However, I was shocked to see that all three regulars were going to be black. Not sure that was thought through well.

EC: What is your opinion of whether racism influenced which characters died?

JS: I don’t think anyone in the writers’ room is racist, I just felt there was a lack of imagination when it came to the character deaths.
EC: From a creative standpoint, was killing these particular characters impactful in a good way? Especially when considering how much character development/emotional investment the show put into others?

JS: It was impactful in a way that you had seen two of them for 5 seasons. So you’re familiar with them. But I think it would have been far braver to kill off characters that graced the screen more or that had more chapter development.

EC: Care to elaborate?

JS: Let’s look at the characters in two groups. Let's call the first one “Group 1,” which would have most screen time/character development. In this group, you have the captain turned admiral..almost god-like Chandler. You have the tough-as-nails family-man in his sidekick, the XO, Slattery. You have Kara Foster, who has gone from Lieutenant to full on commandeering the title ship on the series. You have the father of her child, the superhero-like Danny Green who has been kicking ass for five seasons. You have the character who has had the most growth development out of anyone, Miller, who started out as a screwup, and has turned into a hero, only to lose his legs, (but definitely not his life!). You have the virtually invincible martial arts master, Wolf, who turns out to be exactly that: Invincible. And let’s not forget the amazingly written Sasha, the brains, the brawn, the beauty, and the love of Chandler. These characters are the ones that grace the screen the most, (Miller being the exception on that list) and the ones that the audience has had no choice but to attach themselves to the most.

Then you have the second group. You have Meylan, the character who was made a series regular for only eight episodes before he was killed. He got a good amount of screen time. But who he is the question that shall be unanswered. You have Burk, who started out in the first two seasons as part of “the heart of the ship,” and yet in terms of character development, has faded into oblivion from seasons three through five and seems almost nonexistent in season five. And you have Lieutenant Granderson, and Master Chief, both whom which have had character development similar to that Burk has had or the lack thereof, over the seasons.
If I may speak as a fan, I’m surprised to see that the most creative thing one can come up with is to make sure that everyone in that first group survives, and to take three series regulars to kill off in the second group. The race issue aside, I’m not sure that this is at all interesting. And when you factor in their race...which is impossible not to do...what message are you trying to send your audiences?

EC: In addition, they killed off two recurring characters, Garnett (Faye Masterson) and Doc Rios (Maximiliano Hernandez)...a woman and a Latino.

JS: It’s a strange move for the network to approve the scripts with those character deaths. Makes you wonder what the message is they are trying to send in a time where the industry is taking strides towards diversity. Or what message they want to send when kids are watching, and no matter the color of their own skin, they learn from this series that only white men can save them, evidently. And all of these decisions are made on a series that is ending. We will never see any of these characters continue their stories. So why make these choices?

EC: You star in a new show this fall that is making grown men and women in my workplace cry. My boss came up to me earlier this week to ask if I had seen the most recent episode. It also happens to have a diverse cast. For The Last Ship fans who haven’t been able to start it yet, what can you tell us about New Amsterdam and the character you play on that show?

JS: The show is based on a true story, and a memoir by Dr. Eric Manheimer, called “12 Patients: Life and Death at Bellevue Hospital.” He was the medical director there at the oldest public hospital in the country. Dr. Manheimer is the inspiration for our main character, Max Goodwin (Ryan Eggold), who comes in on his first day and fired the entire cardiac surgical department. After he reviews my file though, he realizes that I was the only one who didn’t perform unnecessary surgeries, and that I didn’t put billing above patient care. He then rehires me and puts me in charge. So my character, Dr. Floyd Reynolds, is the head of the cardiac surgical department.

EC: Regarding “New Amsterdam, I’d like to say that fans can catch up on Hulu! The first six episodes are waiting for you, and the show returns with an all-new episode this Tuesday. Anything else you'd like to say to fans, Jocko?

JS: Regarding the “The Last Ship,” I’d like to say that I will forever have incredible memories from my time on that show for the past 5 seasons. And I have made lifelong friendships, and I am forever grateful for that. And I am proud of the work that we were given to do on the show. However, I would be remiss not to mention, that regarding the ending, in a time when Hollywood has taken major strides towards diversity, I wish the writers and producers and the network would’ve been braver than to have all three series regulars they killed off be black, and to have killed off two recurring actors: one Latino, and one female. I encourage all creatives in Hollywood to think outside a world in which the white males, in a predominately white male cast, happen to all mysteriously survive a war to be the heroes left standing.

(...or Miller’s case. Lol)

EC's Note: I want to thank Jocko Sims for taking time out of his busy schedule (hit shows don't make themselves!) to speak candidly about The Last Ship. My review of the series finale will be posted on SpoilerTV this Tuesday.


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