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Face of Defense: Soldier Shares Knowledge, Experience with Actors

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

CHARLESTON AIR FORCE BASE, S.C., May 16, 2008 – The road to Hollywood is rarely paved with combat boots and camouflage, but a Hollywood of sorts is exactly where one soldier landed.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Capt. Gavin McCulley hugs his TV “wife” while playing an extra in Lifetime Network’s top-rated "Army Wives." Typically, McCulley can be found making sure all the extras are accurately portraying Army life. Defense Department photo by Samantha L. Quigley
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Army Capt. Gavin McCulley, assigned to 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group, out of Fort Bragg, N.C., thought he’d use his terminal leave time before permanently separating from the military to start his own business. His choice of locales was Charleston, which happens to be where Lifetime Network’s top-rated “Army Wives” drama is filmed.

His plan, however, has been put on the back burner for the time being after a friend who works on “Army Wives,” introduced him to the show’s producer.

“After a long conversation with the producer [about] all the things that I had seen about the show that I could help them improve, she hired me,” he said.

Now McCulley, who occasionally serves as an extra on the show, spends his days on the set ensuring scenes are as true to life as possible.

He keeps an eye out for misused jargon, breech of military protocols, and especially uniform issues. Improperly worn berets caught more than one viewer’s attention last season.

Those types of details are ingrained in servicemembers who take much of their military knowledge for granted, McCulley said. For civilians, however, it can be completely foreign.

“Even though they’re making their best efforts to try and understand what it is we do and how we do it, there’s ultimately going to be gaps in the ability to read and understand versus what we have [lived],” he said.

The cast and crew have made great strides this season in making the Army life they portray on the show as close as they can to the real thing.

“Everybody’s absolutely committed to making this the most authentic representation of Army life as possible,” McCulley said. “I’ve got to say, I’m really proud of it. I have immense pride in everything that has gone on in all the episodes.

“I can honestly say that they do a very good job of representing our world,” he added.

McCulley is realistic about just how authentic the show can be, however. “It is drama, and it is television, and there is some artistic license,” he said.

Though it worked for him, McCulley said taking the military path to arrive in “Hollywood” isn’t a sure thing.

“If you want to do military advising and you’re in the military right now, I’d say watch these military shows and make a list of what you find wrong and send them in,” he said. “If you’re the type of person who comes up with clear-headed corrections to help make the show better, then they’re more likely to come looking for you and ask you for your advice.”

Viewers can check out McCulley’s handy work when the new season of “Army Wives” begins June 8. The show airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on Lifetime Network.

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