Though many of us may have a friend, loved one, or acquaintance serving in a branch of the United States Armed Forces — we can’t even begin to comprehend what it’s like to be deployed. In Paramount’s new original series 68 Whiskey — Brian Grazer and Ron Howard present a thrilling and compelling series that focuses on a less-discussed component of the United States Army — the Army medics.
Set on an Afghanistan base coined, “The Orphanage” — 68 Whiskey stars Sam Keeley, Jeremy Tardy, Gage Golightly, Cristina Rodlo, Beth Riesgraf, Lamont Thompson, Nicholas Coombe and Derek Theler — a group of medics who try to navigate the harrowing conditions of war, while managing their working relationships and personal lives.
Ahead of the series debut on January 15, 2020 — Jeremy Tardy who stars as Chicago-born Staff Sergeant Mekhi Davis sat down to chat with Showbiz Cheat Sheet about the series, stepping into St. Davis’ shoes, and why this series is unlike anything we’ve seen before.
Jeremy Tardy put himself through basic training for ’68 Whiskey’
“It’s been a learning experience pretty much every day that I’ve worked on 68 Whiskey,” Tardy revealed. “It’s a really big opportunity that I get to play a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army. With that, there is the intellectual research that you have to do. I’ve read several books about combat medics because “68 Whiskey” is, of course, the code name for the combat medics. I also have family members that served, and an uncle who was in Afghanistan recently.”
Though he didn’t have a chance to go through Basic Training himself — Tardy did get hands-on experience when it came to handling Army weaponry, equipment, and getting in the shape required for such a physical role. “I did do a lot of tactical arms training out here in California,” he revealed. “I did a training with AR15s, and some basic hand gun training. I knew that I needed to be able to look like I knew what I was doing. I didn’t want to show up and we’d have to have somebody show me how things work. I put myself through my own physical regimen.”
Staff Sergeant Mekhi Davis has his own missions and motivations
Though many of us recognize the Juilliard alum for his role as Rashid on Netflix’s Dear White People — Sergeant Mekhi Davis is unlike any character we’ve seen from Tardy before. “My experience playing Rashid was great,” he reflected. “But what I had been yearning for is to feel like I’m really being able to flex my muscles, and really being able to be challenged on set. Mekhi is from West Inglewood in Chicago. Obviously, that forms the kind of person he is, and the mentality that he has, the desires and the actions that he goes about.”
The realism of 68 Whiskey is also something Tardy is thrilled about. After all, the daily lives of soldiers are often shielded from everyday civilians. “That’s what’s so great about the show is that it really is a gritty, raw, and a heartfelt stab at a reflection of reality, and what a lot of these soldiers deal with,” the Dear White People alum explained. “One of the major themes is that a lot of them are trying to deal with why they’re actually there –the overall mission. Also, this is modern-day. This isn’t set in 2001 or 2011, or a specific time period where there might have been certain incidents that were happening in Afghanistan. This is now. One of the things that they’re dealing with is, ‘Why are we still here?’ It’s not just a matter of going there to take out targets. They’re there to rebuild and to create freedom, and to try to create stabilization in this area. That’s not necessarily something soldiers are trained for.”
We can also expect St. Davis’ past to seep into his current life causing him to make very interesting choices. “He doesn’t come from a wealthy family,” Tardy explained. “He’s coming from a family that has certain issues. And while he’s over there — that does not go away. You see him going about certain activities in order to help his family. He and the other characters have their own personal missions. They’re not getting paid that much. That’s the reality of the people who serve. They don’t get paid a whole lot. There are other ways and other means in which they try to go about making money. Some legal, some not so legal.”
Here’s what’s next for Jeremy Tardy
Though 68 Whiskey is a massive and robust show — Black Hawk helicopters and all — requiring a great deal of Tardy’s focus and attention, that hasn’t stopped him from thinking ahead. “I definitely would love to be able to go back to Dear White People for the final season,” he revealed. “I’m a huge martial arts fan. I actually studied martial arts, and want to be able to do those types of films in the future –different action things like that. Also, I come from the theater. I’ll never go too far from the stage and would love to continue to be able to do stuff. Maybe Broadway in the next couple of years too.”
Tardy obviously can do it all. 68 Whiskey will debut January 15, 2020 at 10 pm ET/PT on Paramount Network.