The Last Ship interview: Jocko Sims teases Burk’s powerful story ahead

Jocko SimsThe Last Ship season 4 is now underway, and based on everything that we’ve seen so far this is going to be an intense, dramatic year. While Tom Chandler is separated from his former crew at the Nathan James, Slattery, Burk, and the rest of the team are going to be working to stop a new version of the show’s infamous virus. This time around, it is spreading through the crops and causing hunger all of the world. Can they find the seeds in time to change the world’s fate? That is what we are waiting to see in the weeks ahead.

Today, we’re happy to bring you an exclusive interview with the man behind Lt. Carlton Burk in Jocko Sims. We spoke to him about his expectations for the season, how Burk is handling his older brother Cameron’s injury, and also the bizarre parallels between events on the TNT drama and in real life.

CarterMatt – Going into season 4, did you have any expectations for how you wanted to see Burk and the show evolve? I mean, we’ve already seen this character go through a lot.

I’ve always been impressed with what the writers have been able to do with the show, and I’ve always tried to imagine where they would take it. Now, the virus has evolved in a way that it’s affecting the world’s crops and corn causing world hunger and famine. It’s definitely an interesting and creative place to be.

Steven Kane, who is at the helm of the writing, definitely wanted to make sure that each season has its own problem. Season 1 was trying to figure out what [the virus] is and trying to figure out a cure. Season 2 was distributing the cure and spreading that around the country to try and rebuild America. Season 3 was distributing that cure around the world, and also dealing with the possibility that it may have mutated; plus, it was dealing with some bad guys who tried to control the vaccine. Season 4 is about world hunger. Each season tells its own story and it’s a standalone thing, but you also have the same characters involved each time.

Did you feel like the story was approached differently, whether it be for the cast or the writers, thanks to the two-season renewal? Do you feel like there’s more flexibility to play around a little bit?

I would imagine, more from the writer’s standpoint, that it’s a relief to know where you’re headed. We’ve got some surprises coming up in season 5, and some of these are things they contemplated bringing in during season 3. We didn’t know if that was going to be our last season. To know that you have two seasons to write a storyline is a gift to the writers and to us more so financially (laughs). We have a job for the next season or two. It’s a great feeling.

Obviously one of the biggest things that happened in the premiere was seeing Cameron Burk get injured and separated from the team, and given LaMonica [Garrett’s] role on Designated Survivor, I realize that something had to happen to him.

For your character of Burk, though, what does this injury mean? How much is he going to be thinking or worrying about his brother?

This season, Burk is going to go through a lot mentally. If you think back to season 2 when he lost his love Ravit, he’s now in a position where his brother is seriously injured and he starts to really distrust on a level that we haven’t seen before. Burk is all about the mission and his loyalty to the ship and to the captain, but when [these terrible things continue] to happen, Burk is going to be reeling from them. He’s not so trusting, and you’ll find in a couple of episodes coming up that he’s tempted to maybe go rogue. He’s tempted to not follow the orders as planned.

I think it’s great because I’ve been fortunate to play this character where he’s been very passionate at the times, but then he’s also trained his men, been in love, and there’s also been quite a bit of humor. So to see this other level for him is going to be very interesting. It was really interesting for me to play.

Nobody wants to see Burk the character suffer, but I imagine that for Jocko the actor there is something to appreciate about playing a character more emotionally raw and potentially more vulnerable. Does being in this situation cause him to think back more to his home and his upbringing?

Yeah, and what’s cool about playing a character on television as opposed to playing one in a film is that you have this opportunity to grow and develop this personality and to deal with things that happen in the story in different ways. For an audience to watch them grow over the years is such a treat. I’ve been asked a lot if I prefer film or television, and what I always say is that if you can get on a show and play a character for a length of time and learn about both them and yourself in the process, that’s a gift to an actor. That’s been great.

How is Burk handling himself in the wake of Chandler’s absence? Is there going to be something more that plays out there?

It’s been sixteen months, so in some ways we’ve moved on from Chandler and we have our own mission at hand. At some point we will reunite with him, and that process is going to be very fun to watch. What you’re going to find is that not everybody is going to welcome back the captain with open arms. Some of us may feel a little bit abandoned by him.

But Burk, as I’ve said before, has always been devoted to the mission. That’s going to be what he focuses on, especially given the circumstances.

You’ve talked a little bit about getting to do a lot of different stuff on The Last Ship over the years, including some cool action-heavy sequences. Is there anything that you’ve filmed coming up this season you’re especially proud of?

Yeah. There’s an episode coming that Steven Kane actually directed and I love what they wrote in that episode for Burk. He starts to lose it a little bit, and he takes his frustration out on some innocent people. He doesn’t hurt anybody per se, but he does make things pretty difficult with the mission. He’s jarred by this experience with his brother.

In the moments after Lt. Burk walked away from his brother and Kevin Michael Martin (Miller) after that incident happened, I imagine he was going through the process of ‘what if.’ ‘What if I was there and I could’ve protected my brother? What if I got killed? What if he got killed?’ The idea that somebody can strap a bomb to a kid and send them over to accomplish their heinous goals is just enough to make you not trust anybody. If you can’t trust a kid, who can you trust? Coming up, you’ll see the effects of that with Burk.

On more of a meta level, we’re in a time now where things are very divisive and there’s a lot of negativity and questions about the leaders that we have; but on this show, we have these people like Burk who are heroes and are positive examples. Do you think that this show is important at this time in support of the military, and to all the Burks of the world to remind everyone of the good out there?

There are a lot of odd parallels every season that come out through Steven Kane and the writing staff’s writing. It’s scary. We watch in the news and see these headlines; I texted Steven Kane a few days ago and said ‘you gotta stop predicting the future this way.’ There are things that are happening [in life] this week and last week that Steven Kane has written and you won’t see [on the show] until next year.

Some people are going to think it’s planned when they see some of these things. If you think back to our season 3 premiere we had to postpone it because there was the terrorist attack in the nightclub in Orlando. A similar scene was in our season 3 premiere. That was written more than a year prior, we had filmed that months prior, and in the wee hours of June 12 is when that shooter went and did that. TNT had to pull the plug on the premiere the same day, which was not the best thing to do for us, but definitely the best thing to do for the country and [the network] did a great thing in doing that.

The parallels happen so much, and as a result of this cosmic thing that’s happening with the writing of The Last Ship and what’s happening in the world, there are some things to learn from watching it. I really love the fact that from the beginning of the show, the story is something that could happen and I think that attracts the fans. There’s this idea that someone could weaponize a virus — it’s such a threat, especially today where you have nations and dictators who are not fans or have never been fans of America. It’s always been an interesting, but creepy parallel between reality and the story.

Are you still interested in being a part of the show and in this role beyond season 5?

Yeah. The show is so much fun and we all love doing it. We never expected to go this far and I think that says more about the business than what we felt about the writing. We’re having fun and the fans are the best. They support us hardcore on every platform on social media. As long as the ship will keep sailing, we’re going to be there to take the ride.

I guess another thing that’s interesting is that in the event the show does get renewed for a season 6, you’re going to have a long hiatus in there. Is there anything that you’re getting set to do once season 5 is done?

We’re about to wrap season 5 soon, and I’ve been working on some other projects. I did a comedy series on Amazon called The Climb, and I shot that in Detroit when we were on a quick hiatus in May. I’m waiting to see if that gets picked up.

I’d have some time to do a couple of things in between, maybe a couple of movies or something to that effect. We shall see.

Want some more news on The Last Ship?

If you head over here, you can preview more in terms of specifics what is coming up on the show next. We want to give our thanks to Jocko Sims for his time in taking part in this interview with CarterMatt. (Photo: TNT.)

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