Exclusive: Actor Jocko Sims on why The Last Ship scares him
Actor Jocko Sims, who plays Lt. Carlton Burk on The Last Ship, admits it. The Last Ship scares him, he said in an exclusive interview with SYFY WIRE. The science fiction series, which has been picked up for a fifth season, airs on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET.
The Last Ship explores the very real possibility of what happens when a virus is weaponized and wipes out a good chunk of the human population on Earth. The series follows the adventures of the crew of the USS Nathan James, including Lt. Burk, as they find the cure, figure out a way to distribute it, stop an overthrow of the America government, and now, in the show's fourth season, are trying to find a solution when the virus jumps to the world's crops, leaving the human race facing starvation.
Sims (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes), who is an actor, producer, and director, talked with SYFY WIRE about Burk, why there's a little Game of Thrones in the series, and why he finds the events that have played out on his series “creepy.”
Four seasons! And a fifth coming up. What a great run so far.
Thank you very much. It's going very well. It's incredible. I didn't even imagine being a part of it this long, and it's been great so far.
You never know on this show. You could get killed off at any time.
I always say, “It's like Game of Thrones on this show." You never know. And I mean that from number one on down. In the next coming seasons, no one is safe.
I know you have another season after this. Have you finished filming it?
Yes. I and the majority of actors have finished Season 5 as of last week, and we have three more days with a couple more scenes and we'll be all done.
Okay, well, I won't ask you anything specific, since we're still in Season 4. But what very generic teaser can you give us about Season 5?
I'm going to be bluntly honest right now and tell you, usually we say, “Hey, this is the best season yet.” And half the time I don't know. I can't tell, every season's special ... They're all special to me. But from what I've seen so far I can say without any hesitation that Season 5 will be the best season of The Last Ship yet. It's unfortunate that we'll have to wait at least a year from now to see it.
I know. It's like torture.
It is torture. It's really, really cool. They push it to the limit, for sure.
Your character has been through a lot considering what's happened with his brother injured in the explosion and the fact that he doesn't understand why they're under attack all the time. Tell me about Burk and what he's going through this season.
I love that from the beginning that the writers have always been able to write Burk with a duality, this tough as nails and loyalty to the mission and the ship and the captain and the Navy, but he's also got that softer side. I remember in Season 1 where you have me yelling at Miller, for example, played by Kevin Michael Martin. And we were trying to get him ready for what's to come in the coming battles. And I would yell at him and tell him he must be bucking for a Silver Star because he was messing up, and then as soon as he would walk out of frame and then Captain Chandler would step up, and I'd ask him, “Was that too much?” And he would say, “It's just enough.” The passion that you want to express to your men. I love that about Burk. You see a lot more of that this season.
That's what I love, first of all playing a character that I never thought I'd play before, a character this tough. It's just really, really cool. And playing a superhero. You know, I came to do five episodes, and five episodes turned into five seasons. It's just been a brilliant, brilliant journey, and an amazing learning experience for me as well.
The scene with the little boy who gets blown up, it was so powerful and obviously is still weighing on him.
Oh, it absolutely is. It's weighing on him, and he doesn't trust many people, and he asks Lt. Green, “When will it stop? When are they going to know that we're the good guys?”
And sure enough turns out that Burk is right again, because they go to rescue the refugees in Episode 5 on the troller ship, and we take them back and I don't trust anyone. And sure enough it turns out in Episode 6 we just saw a few nights ago, the captain of the troller turns out to be a bad guy who's been working for Vellek. And we see that the character played by Jonathan Howard, who's been helping us on the ship, Fletcher, he's been working as a double agent himself. So Burk's not far off with his suspicions.
No, I think it gets proved over and over again that they shouldn't help anybody.
Don't go onto that ship.
One of my favorite moments was when I allude to Lt. Green, I say, “Even our skipper won't even put on the uniform." We look at Eric Dane ... that little moment of “Who can you trust?” The writers have done a great job throughout the seasons, and definitely they don't hold back this season either.
It's been interesting seeing how the crisis have evolved from finding the cure, seeing how the different seasons have evolved the crisis that's going on in the world. From a crisis in the government to a new virus that's attacking the food. It's fascinating how the world on the show has changed.
I've been impressed with what the writers have been able to do. First of all, here we are going into Season 5 and they haven't jumped the shark, as we say in the business. Because they make sure each season was a standalone season. ... I have a friend who used to write on another show, and David Mamet was the showrunner. And he said, “Write yourself into a corner. Write yourself into a box where you don't know how to get yourself out of, and then figure it out. If you're able to effectively do that, your audience will take that journey with you, and they'll be surprised and won't be able to figure out where you're going to go next. And I think the writers of this show definitely do that.
Season 1 you have this show be about this virus that's killed billions of people, and you had to come up with that vaccine. Well, we found the cure in Season 1, so where do you go from there? It pushes the storyline forward quite a bit.
You know, Lost was a great, great show that was on for years, but for me it wasn't my type of show, because I started watching and I would hear this noise and this mystery. I never found out what it was. This Beast or something, episode after episode ...
The Smoke Monster ...
I needed a payoff. And I found out from fans later that watch the show that you didn't find out until seasons down the line, if you did at all ... No, we find the cure to this virus in Season 1. Season 2 was about rebuilding America. Going back home and seeing what we have left. That was also the rise of the Immunes and find out that some people were actually immuned to the virus. Season 3 was about distributing that cure around the world. And then we found out over in Asia we had some problems. Did the virus mutate? President Peng in China, did he try to keep some of the vaccine for himself? How did that turn out? And now, Season 4, we see now that the virus has jumped to the crops and we're dealing with famine and world hunger. And Season 5 we have something that I'm not going to tell you about yet [laughs].
I will tell you that Season 5 is yet another interesting thing happens with the virus that's completely different. Something you won't see coming.
What do you want to tell us about what happens in the final four episodes of this season?
I will tell you that this show has always been like Game of Thrones, so no one is safe for Season 4. I'm a fan of a cult reality show called Big Brother, and one of the common phrases that the host uses all the time is "Expect the unexpected," and I could say the same thing as far as the rest of these four episodes.
Well, we know they're going after the seeds.
Yeah. Vellek might not turn out to be exactly what you expect him to be as a bad guy. And Omar, will we find Omar again, and if we do, how so? Some good guys will be bad guys, and some bad guys will be good guys. So stay tuned.
You've got a rich history of roles you've done. How has this show been special to you?
People often ask, “What do you prefer to do more, television or film?” And both have their pros and cons. But I would say that the cool thing about television is that you can have this relationship with this character over a span of years, and you can grow and the audience can watch this character grow and change as well. For example, as a fan and an audience member I've loved watching Kevin Michael Martin's character, Miller, grow into the type of character that he's become. Season 1 he was this fish out of water, a kid who couldn't even hold his weapon correctly, let alone take out a bad guy. You saw by the end of the second episode, which was called “Welcome to Gutmo.” He did save our butts, and he was able pull that trigger at the right time in the right moment to take out a bad guy. And you saw of the relationship between Burk and Miller and how they also became friends. Here we are in Season 4, we're still going on missions together, and Miller is one of our most trusted guys now. He's got that beard, and he loves that beard. You can't tell him with that beard. He's just like, he stays in character the whole time ... Even when he shaves it it's like going back in time. It's amazing.
And one more thing that I love about the show is that they gave a lot of new faces a chance from the beginning on this show. Kevin Michael Martin was a new face in the business. Christina Elmore, this was her second job ... The young lady who plays Kara Foster, Marissa Neitling, this was her first role. They cast her off tape and before she knew it she had to pack a bag and move out here, and that was her first job. The guy who plays Gator, Michael Curran-Dorsano, is a Juilliard grad. This is his first job. The guy who plays Bacon, Amen Igbinosun, he went to Harvard. He moved out here. This was his first job.
So you have all those young fresh faces. And then at the same time you have the Eric Danes and the Adam Baldwins. I'm kind of right there in the middle. I've been in the game for 13, 14 years now, but still fairly unknown, which I'm pleased with. We have a large, amazingly, amazingly talented cast. That's what I love, that they gave us a good shot at these characters, and it's great.
As far as being a science fiction series, I think The Last Ship is one of the few shows on television that's realistic. It's good sci-fi.
It's great and not so great, because it's something that could really happen. They were able to weaponize that virus and change it, and it's pretty scary. That's another reason why the fans like it so much. It's like this is fun, this is exciting, but it's also at the same time a little creepy in that it's too close to home.