Ricky Schroder rose to fame as a child actor in the late 70’s and early 80’s winning a Golden Globe for his role in the 1979 film “The Champ”. Schroder then went on to play the role of Ricky Stratton on the popular hit television series “Silver Spoons”. Since that time Ricky has appeared in a variety of feature films and television series. His newest project “Starting Strong” which airs June 2nd on Fox is a collaboration with the United States Army to give people interested in joining the military a real life look at what it takes to become an Armed Forces member. Media Mikes had the chance to speak with Ricky recently about the project and what it was like working with the U.S. Army.
Adam Lawton: How did you first get involved with the Army?
Ricky Schroder: I approached the Army and asked them what I could do to help. I had wanted to do something to help and be able to do my part. We have been at war now for quite a long time and after the events of Sept. 11th I was compelled to get involved somehow.
AL: What were your impressions when the project first got underway?
RS: There was a big learning curve for me. You think you know about the Army and what it’s all about but you really don’t know until you go in to the Army or spend time there. You have to sit down and really talk to these men and women over weeks and weeks. You then really start to understand more about the Army. That’s what “Starting Strong” does. It gives people the behind the scene look at what it’s like to live, eat and breathe in the Army. The show isn’t about boot camp or things like that. It is more focused on Military job specialties. There are 150 of these jobs ranging from mechanics to medics. We show a civilian what it’s like to do one of those specific jobs for a week.
At the end of the week they either decide to enlist or they don’t. My perception of the Army was completely different than that of reality. These soldiers and their families are both serving. They have a very tight bond. I really learned a lot about America’s Army.
AL: Did you do a lot of pre-production and research before starting to shoot?
RS: The stuff people will be seeing is first hand footage. Neither I, the civilian we brought along nor the production team had ever been through any of this training before. We learned just like the person with us. There were a lot of surprises along the way. Sometimes the ones who we thought would surely enlist after the experience chose not to and others who we thought wouldn’t did end up enlisting. It was something that was pretty hard to predict.
AL: Did the Army have a large hand in the production aspect of things?
RS: Of course they did. They controlled what classes the civilian was going to be places. Since this wasn’t scripted we actually had to fit in the training rotation that the Army already had going. We were pretty much under their direction throughout the filming. The Army also helped with who was going to be able to participate in the program. They were definitely a partner the whole way through. They did not however dictate as to how the end result appeared. The production is completely transparent. We put the young person in those scenarios and what happened is what you see. The Army was a great partner and their idea of doing this was to communicate with Americans in a new way.
AL: Do you feel having the Army involved was one of the harder parts of the shoot?
RS: I don’t think it was difficult in any way I think it was essential. You couldn’t do some of the things we were able to do without them. We really needed them. The more difficult things were probably having all the camera guys and such running around in the heat for 10-12 hours a day. We really had to make sure we were getting the full story behind why these young people were thinking of enlisting. Sometimes they didn’t know why they were doing this. It was quite challenging getting the young people involved with the production to really identify why they were there.
AL: As this point in your career are you leaning towards doing more of the production side of things as opposed to be in front of the camera?
RS: I want to be able to do as much as I can weather it be acting, directing, writing or producing. I have quite a few more options at this point because I am able to do those things. I certainly want to be a performer still. Performing is something that I have done my entire life and it’s something that I hope will never stop.
AL: Can you tell us about the distribution plans for the show?
RS: It will air on 16 of the Fox channels affiliates. These are some of the biggest cities in America. It is also going to have a massive digital distribution. You will also be able to find it on www.goarmy.com/startingstrong as well as www.youtube.com/goarmy
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