LOS ANGELES — The actors in Fox’s “Enlisted” were expecting a little bit of training and some time drinking beer with soldiers when they showed up at Fort Bliss, Texas. Instead, drill instructors threw their cell phones, cameras, laptops and toiletries in a garbage bag and dragged them away.
Then they made the five lead actors put on Army physical training clothes and reflective belts and start doing pushups.
“It was a real eye-opener,” said Chris Lowell, who plays the middle of three brothers on the show. “Obviously everything we do is wrong in basic training. I learned that real fast. No matter how good it is, it’s not right.”
The drill instructors woke the actors up in the middle of the night to yell at them for not having their beds made properly, then made them hold plank positions until someone fixed them. They ate MREs and learned drill and how to wear their uniforms properly.
Lowell joked that while were only there for a few days, he felt as though he’d “seen hell.”
“We all left with a profound respect for what it means to be in the Army,” he said.
Angelique Cabral, who plays Staff Sgt. Jill Perez on “Enlisted,” said the mini-boot camp was “the most humbling, impactful experience if my life.”
Cabral’s character is a squared-away NCO who leads one of two rear detachment platoons on a small Army base in Florida. Geoff Stults, who plays older brother to both Lowell and Parker Young, is the platoon sergeant for the other rear detachment platoon.
Kevin Biegel, who wrote several episodes of “Scrubs” and also worked on a few episodes of “South Park,” created the show. Biegel said he has a lot of friends and family who have served or are still serving in the military, and he didn’t understand why he never saw any TV shows about military life.
He decided to focus on a rear detachment in part because he read an article in which a soldier in a rear detachment was talking about how their job is not glamorous and will never appear in a movie or TV show, but is important nonetheless.
Keith David, who has played several well-known military roles in the past and plays the command sergeant major in Enlisted, said he was happy to show a part of the military that no one has seen before.
“Enlisted” is a comedy, but Biegel and the cast members are quick to point out that it is not a satire and does not make fun of the Army. They call it a “workplace comedy set on a military base.”
Biegel said he was horrified when he saw the trailer, which he said seems like, “Hey, look! It’s the wacky Army show!”
Instead, Biegel said the show is more similar to Scrubs: A comedy, but one that also touches on weightier topics, like PTSD and veterans who can’t find jobs.
He also realized after the pilot that they had gotten dozens of details wrong — such as soldiers not wearing covers outside — and they have since worked hard to fix them.
And after the pilot episode, Biegel said, he plans to do a contest after each show in which servicemembers can win an “Enlisted” challenge coin and T-shirt by writing in to identify the military details they got wrong.
“Enlisted” is scheduled to premiere in January.