Friday, July 17, 2009

INTERVIEW: ARMY WIVES Star Terry Serpico

Terry Serpico is an accomplished actor with roles in the films Michael Clayton, Donnie Brasco, Righteous Kill and many more. His television roles include RESCUE ME, OZ and LAW & ORDER. He is currently starring as Major Frank Sherwood on the hit Lifetime series, ARMY WIVES, playing the husband of Catherine Bell's Denise.

Serpico recently spoke with We Love Soaps from Charleston about his love for his family, doing stunts, his work on ARMY WIVES and how his role is a case or art imitating life.

We Love Soaps: When you were growing up, your father was in the military. Did you move around a lot as a kid?
Terry Serpico: I lived on about five different Army posts. I was born in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and lived in Texas, Colorado, Germany, Georgia and Pennsylvania. My dad was regular Army and retired a full Colonel after 26 years of service.

We Love Soaps: Was his life similar to your character, Major Frank Sherwood?
Terry Serpico: The irony is pretty thick with my dad. I'm playing the role of a hardass Army officer and that's exactly what my father was. Ironically enough his name was Frank. I'm basically just channeling my dad. [Laughs] He's mellowed considerably since he left the Army. His job was to go around to failing battalions and whip them into shape. He was a very black and white man, still is, although there's a little more gray now. But he saw the world in very defined terms.

We Love Soaps: Growing up as an Army brat, did you ever consider going into the military yourself?
Terry Serpico: You know, it never really did cross my mind. I think out of my siblings, and I have an older brother and sister, my sister probably came closer than any of us to going into the military. For me, it was just a place to live, and that's what my dad did. It never occurred to me that it was something I could do as well. And it was never anything that he pushed for us either.

We Love Soaps: What did you want to be when you grew up?
Terry Serpico: [Laughs] I wanted to be an artist. I wanted to be a psychiatrist. Eventually I became an actor so I guess it's a little bit of both.

We Love Soaps: You went to SUNY-Purchase for college. Did you study acting there?
Terry Serpico: I was in school at that point for theatre, working towards my BFA. I started acting as a sophomore in high school. As a freshmen, I went to see the musical that year and saw all my friends on stage having a good time. And there were girls in leotards, and I was pretty sure they had good parties. So the next year I auditioned for the musical and ended up getting the role of Snoopy in "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown." So I was pretty much up to my neck in it at that point and I've been doing it ever since. It just kind of took over. I was an as-many-sports-as-you-could-play kind of athlete, and I went from playing football to dancing ballet in the course of a year.

We Love Soaps: What did your dad say about that?
Terry Serpico: [Laughs] I think he was rather taken aback. He was supportive but I'm not sure he quite knew how to throw his hat in the ring in support at that point. He always maintained we could make our own decisions based on what was best for us. Truth be told, I'm sure there was some disappointment when I quit playing football. But I was 5'8" 170 pounds, and was never going to be a big football player.

We Love Soaps: What position did you play on the football team?
Terry Serpico: I was a tailback and defensive back, safety. I'd go in at the beginning of the game and come out at the end. I loved playing sports. I was also a good [baseball] centerfielder. If anything, I thought I'd play baseball in college.

We Love Soaps: Where were you living by the time you were in high school?
Terry Serpico: I went to junior high and high school in the Malvern area of Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia.

We Love Soaps: Are your siblings also doing creative projects as well?
Terry Serpico: My sister has a large landscaping company in Oakland, California. And my brother for a long time operated his own decking and renovation business in Atlanta, George. He has since retired.

We Love Soaps: In addition to acting, you did stunt work for a while?
Terry Serpico: I still do stunt work. If any of the stunt coordinators were to call today and offer me something, I would love to do it.

We Love Soaps: Have you ever been injured?
Terry Serpico: No. Never have. The beauty of stunt work is that it's supposed to look dangerous and not be dangerous. I think there's an image out there of these testosterone cowboys that throw themselves around and put themselves in dangerous situations. My experience with it is quite the opposite. You have a bunch of family guys who want to get home to their families at the end of the day. It's about making it look as dangerous as you can and getting it on camera and getting the job done. I've had an opportunity do a lot of fun things. You get to really play and shoot guns and fall of buildings and get into fights and all that fun stuff.

We Love Soaps: If you played a role now that required a stunt, would you be allowed to do it?
Terry Serpico: At the level I'm at now, if a stunt were to come down the pike for me thad deemed dangerous, they probably wouldn't want me to do it. Which would be funny for me, if they brought in a stunt double. But a lot of things qualify as a stunt that you might not think about it. Driving in traffic is often stunt drivers because you don't want anyone running into your picture car. Walking down the street when there are shots being fired is usually stunt people because they're diving for the sidewalk. It would depend on the level of danger within the stunt itself, but I would certainly lobby to do it! Unless it's getting hit by a car, I don't do those. [Laughs]

We Love Soaps: I think of stunts as jumping off skyscrapers and the extreme physical actions.
Terry Serpico: The physical stuff is part of the fun for me. I'm still a natural athlete and I love doing physical things. But if it's going to put my career in jeopardy, I'll let the stunt guys do that.

We Love Soaps: You have an impressive list of film and television credits. You've been in Michael Clayton and Donnie Brasco. And you were on 100 CENTRE STREET, RESCUE ME, and you even died a couple of times on OZ. Has there been a favorite role that you've played so far?
Terry Serpico: I've played bad guys my whole career. From the day I got out of school I've been playing them. And I've really enjoyed that and look forward to playing some really, really nasty guys in the future. But I have to say that right now Frank Sherwood [on ARMY WIVES] is my favorite character so far. I'm really proud of the man and excited to play him. He's so honor bound and duty bound and desperately in love with his family, and does all the right things for all the right reasons. He's also a very sensitive and emotional person which I find to be a very interesting dichotomy to play. You have this warrior, this soldier, whose world is so black and white, and yet he's so soft on the inside.

We Love Soaps: I was going to ask you about playing so many badasses. Why do you think that is?
Terry Serpico: I don't know. If you were to ask my kids, they would say I have one hell of a scowl.
Serpico's son chimes in: It's not scowling, it's just the way you look.
Terry Serpico: [Laughs] My son is actually sitting next to me, and my daughter as well. It's probably because of my angular features to a certain degree, and my coloring. Quite honestly, I think people as blonde as I don't often get cast as the good guys. Also, there's just a command presence about me, and a non-nonsense presence. I'm pretty much a goof ball in real life. I have my moments at any rate. People always say, 'Gee, you're so much nicer in person than on TV.'

We Love Soaps: It's probably fun to play something the opposite of yourself.
Terry Serpico: It is. I think I've been playing these assholes for so long, maybe I just get that out of my system by playing them. So it affords me the opportunity to be the nice guy I belief myself to be.

We Love Soaps: How did your role as Major Frank Sherwood on ARMY WIVES come about? And how did you own history with your dad come into play?
Terry Serpico: I went in an auditioned for it in New York. From day one, as soon as I opened my mouth for this character, I knew it was mine. They saw my audition tape and brought me out to L.A. to test, but by then, they had me reading for another part, the role of the Colonel. By the end of the day, I got a call from my agent saying, 'It's not going to go any further.' And I thought, 'You've got to be kidding me, I was born to play these roles.' Then I got a call the next day saying, 'The reason it wasn't going further with the Colonel is because they saw you so strongly as Major Sherwood and were going to cast you in that.'

We Love Soaps: What did your family say when you landed this role? Did your dad suddenly think this was the perfect career for you?
Terry Serpico: Well, my dad has always been proud of the world I've done, and as my career has progressed, he's been very supportive of that. I'm sure there are times my parents thought, 'Couldn't this be an avocation?' [Laughs] But they've all been very supportive of me and I feel a great deal of pride emanating from my family about what I do.

We Love Soaps: Does the show film exclusively in Charleston? What is that like?
Terry Serpico: The show films in Charleston and the Charleston area. We have two sound stages here that we use for our interiors and several locations for our exteriors. We are very happy to be here. The people have been wonderful. It gets very hot, but we're getting used to that as well.

We Love Soaps: And you're moving your family there?
Terry Serpico: Yes. This is a permanent move for us. We live in upstate New York and I've been down here and was flying home all the time to spend time to my family. I get off my moorings without my family, and I needed them here and they needed me, so we decided to make the move. We'll go looking for a house, put my kids in school in the fall, work out my hiatus doing other things, and get ready for ARMY WIVES season four in January.

We Love Soaps: What is the shooting schedule like for the show? How much time do you spend on each episode and how long do you shoot each season?
Terry Serpico: For one season, 18 shows, we generally shoot from January to August. We do eight business days per working episode. We don't work on weekends. Sometime we might need an extra day, but that's rare.

We Love Soaps: For season 3 you are now a series regular. Do you think the character of Frank has changed over time?
Terry Serpico: Oh, most definitely. With the marital difficulties that he and his wife have been having, and the changes she's gone through, Frank has had to learn to be more flexible. And he's learned he has to follow his heart. He's very much in love with his wife, and regardless of what she's done, he's having to learn to forgive and trust and rebuild his marriage. And, for lack of a better term, to be a kinder and gentler Frank.

We Love Soaps: What do you think Frank still needs to change?
Terry Serpico: He is realizing that what he's been doing in the past, the way he's been behaving, and how he's prioritized his life, many not be working for his relationship. The military is very difficult for maintaining viable relationships, and Frank has learned to prioritize Denise and his marriage. He needs to let go of some of the hardass solider and be a better husband.

We Love Soaps: With the divorce of Denise and Frank, there has been a lot of speculation that the character would be written out of the show. But it seems like we're actually seeing more of Frank now.
Terry Serpico: Over the last two seasons I was on a different kind of contract. I was on a recurring-guest contract and this year I'm on a regular contract. I am on, I wouldn't say more, but as a series regular, they are a little more contractually bound to write for me, and make sure I have storylines they continue to produce. Frank and Denise are going to be working hard this year to repair their marriage.

We Love Soaps: I have been loving the scenes between Frank and Denise. You are playing those scenes so well showing Frank's inner desire to be with his wife, while proceeding with the divorce.
Terry Serpico: Thank you. We are very proud of the work we're doing. Catherine and I have a wonderful working relationship. We have a genuine trust and respect for one another. We always maintain that all we have to do is look at each other then go to work. She and her husband have been married for 15 years, and my wife and I have been married for 15 years. We both have children, and we have some similar life experiences, so we bring those experiences to our roles. There is an ease in falling into the rhythm of a long-married couple.

We Love Soaps: Have you received any feedback from anyone in the Army on your portrayal of Frank?
Terry Serpico: I do get a lot of feedback from the military. In fact, ARMY WIVES is the number one show on the Armed Forces Network which we're really proud of. If the military likes our show, it indicates we're doing something right. In terms of my role as Major Sherwood, I've heard on numerous occasions from military personnel that I nail it, and have an intrinsic understanding of it, and there's a military cadence about him. That's something I certainly understand from my bones out. I grew up with these guys, and I know them. Maybe I'm becoming spoiled as an actor, not having to do a whole lot of character work, it's just already in there.

We Love Soaps: Are there other types of roles you'd like to play or any other goals you've set for yourself? Maybe theater?
Terry Serpico: I would like to do some theater again. But I think I'd really like to do some period work, like Merchant Ivory, or BBC-type stuff. I'd love to stretch my acting muscles a bit in terms of that.

We Love Soaps: Have you kids expressed any interest in the entertainment industry?
Terry Serpico: Both of them have expressed some interest, but those decisions are fully in their court, as to whether they want to pursue it or not. It's certainly not the easiest career choice. But as far as kids having fun doing something, there's a lot of opportunity with this to have fun. Just today my son said, 'It might be fun being an extra.' I told him, 'You give that a try and see how much fun it is.' Those are long days. I'm going to have to get him a meeting with the casting director. [Laughs]

We Love Soaps: What do you do for fun?
Terry Serpico: Down here in Charleston there's a lot of golf, so I've been trying to get a golf game, but still not really successful at it. I love to skateboard with my son. I surf. Anything that involves a ball, I'll play it. I don't sit still very well.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Don't miss Terry Serpico on ARMY WIVES every Sunday night at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Lifetime.

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