Last Resort - Pilot Unit Shot by Mario Perez on 3/19/12

Homicide: Life on the Street’s Andre Braugher is in his element in authoritative roles. Although he has also been flexing his comic muscles in Men of a Certain Age, the two-time Emmy award-winner, who takes the lead as US Navy Seal Captain Marcus Chaplin – the commanding officer of the USS Colorado – in Sony Entertainment Television’s Last Resort, can’t seem to escape his forté, writes Debashine Thangevelo.

THE role of Detective Frank Pembleton will undoubtedly shadow Andre Braugher for the rest of his career. That, however, hasn’t stopped him from diversifying with his small and big screen roles.

But at 51, having a reputation and being sought out for it isn’t a bad thing; especially when you are handed the lead in a new TV series.

And Braugher – given his physicality and that poker-faced expression – is certainly adroit in commanding roles.

This brings us to his casting as US Navy Seal Captain Marcus Chaplin, the commanding officer of the USS Colorado – an Ohio-class (nuclear-powered) ballistic missile submarine – in Last Resort.

Penned by Shawn Ryan (The Shield, The Chicago Code and Lie to Me) and Karl Gajdusek (he co-wrote the Tom Cruise movie, Oblivion), this JAG-meets-Sea Patrol series hints at mimicking the appeal of blockbuster hits such as Crimson Tide and Enemy of the State.

The plot centres on Chaplin and his team being declared enemies of the state when they query orders given to fire missiles at a designated target via a Cold War secondary communication channel, which is only used in the event that Washington DC is no longer. And with DC very much intact… well, let’s just say tension mounts as suspicions of a conspiracy are raised, with Chaplin and his team becoming the scapegoats.

As for what drew him to the role in this 13-part series, Braugher says: “Well, I like the fact that he’s thinking ahead, you know. It’s the strategic part of Chaplin that is fascinating to me. The fact that the next step may seem the right one, but when you think several steps further it turns out to be a misstep.”

Also singing the praises of Ryan, he continues: “Procedurals stand alone. Every episode is essentially the same. I mean, that’s true of Homicide. It opens with someone dead and we’re going to avenge that person. And that’s typical of other cop shows I’ve been on.

“But to do a serial means we’re going forward. We’re going to progress characters in terms of the story. Shawn Ryan was able to do that brilliantly with The Shield so I decided to take on the challenge of living and breathing in this character.”

Aside from praising the provocative script, Braugher was sold on the pedigree of talent associated with the project.

On sharing screen time with Scott Speedman, who plays Lieutenant Commander Sam Kendal, the actor offers: “Well, here’s the thing. Scott is stepping into his own now. You know, just in terms of being, what? 37 years old. He’s at his physical and energetic prime. When it comes to Marcus and Sam, it’s a relationship of admiration. It was hinted at in the pilot that I had recommended him to go to Washington, DC, to get behind a desk because I felt as though he was a superior officer and would best serve the navy as a commander from ashore.

“Part of that story is his unwillingness to go back because he feels that he owes me because of what happened in North Korea. So it’s a mentor relationship, it’s a father/son relationship and it’s a relationship with two men who admire each other and want the best for each other.”

Braugher jokingly adds that his co-star Camille de Pazzie is definitely a drawcard.

He continues: “Last Resort is trying to reach out to the world and say, ‘this is not a jingoistic show; this is a show that deals with a moral dimension – service to one’s country and service to a higher ideal’.”

With a plot that smacks of the standard Hollywood blueprint of the underdog trying to take on the almighty US government, this tale of double-crossing and conspiracy theories certainly piques curiosity.

Whether it sustains it, well, that’s another matter.

But it does mark the return of Braugher to what he does best; kicking bad-guy butt!

• Last Resort airs on Sony Entertainment Tele-vision (DStv channel 127) on Tuesdays at 8.50pm.