Beginning this weekend, The Last Ship embarks on one last mission to save the world, and action star Adam Baldwin (Chuck, Firefly) recently got on the phone to share some thoughts with Sling about his experiences playing Admiral Mike Slattery on the beloved TNT drama. Check out Adam’s answers to the questions below, and don’t forget to watch Sunday night when the crew of the USS Nathan James set sail for season five.
The fifth and final season of The Last Ship premieres September 9 at 9pm ET on TNT.
What can you share about The Last Ship‘s final season?
[Baldwin:] It’s a continuation of the battles to maintain liberty around the world. We begin in relative peacetime, and then we’re attacked—the ship hits the fan, as it were, and we’re off into another wartime setting.
Slattery has been given a promotion to command the fleet as an admiral, and during the attack there’s some blood. I can’t say whose gets spilled, but there is some. That’s the tragic thing that Slattery and the rest of the crew have to deal with: we go back to war, and in wartime you learn mettle of men and women and warriors. It puts the country and the men and women of the USS Nathan James to the test again. In chaos tyrants rise, and we have to put them down again.
Will we finally learn what happened to Slattery’s wife and daughters?
That’s one thing that he’s been dealing with, and that’s one of the realities of life and wartime and the awful plague that’s lost so many in [the world of The Last Ship]. He doesn’t know. He doesn’t know, and that eats away at him, and yet he has a mission and a duty to continue the fight. He continued to wear his wedding ring through the first four seasons… I’m not sure it lasts much longer, but it might.
[On the subject of loss, and on the recent death of Senator John McCain:] Meghan McCain put up a beautiful eulogy to her father online, and he lived a long and courageous life. She [wrote that she] was sad in the loss, obviously, but she said that tomorrow is a new day, and he would have wanted people to move on and live their lives and be happy. Death is a part of life; it’s just horrible when… Can I say f*ck cancer? You can star that out. But it’s so true: [death] touches us all in horrible ways. War is the same. It’s brutal, it comes out of nowhere sometimes, and we have to deal with it. And that’s what the men and women of the Nathan James do.
What’s been the most unforgettable part of this five-year experience?
I would say, as always, the relationship with the cast and crew has been the most special. It’s a family affair: you meet these folks every day at work, and then you go off down the road to next circus tent. We’re kind of gypsy players—we move around.
I’ll miss my boss, Michael Bay, and Steven Kane, I’ll miss those guys. They’re so energetic and exciting and knowledgeable about the military. I’ll miss my cast members, who were so fun, and they brought it every day. We had a no a-hole rule, so that was great. I kept trying to say to the young men and women we were working with that these kinds of jobs, productions like The Last Ship, are very special. We get to do some amazing things like riding on Navy ships, actual Navy ships, and it’s something that [we’re] never going to experience again. So appreciate it now while it’s happening.
The other thing I’ll miss the most, obviously, it’s been one of the honors of my lifetime to work with the United States Navy and to have been granted access to the men and women in leadership and in supporting roles. These platforms of war are run by 19- and 20- and 21-year-olds, and they’re smart and energetic and courageous; they taught us a lot about what it is to be a dignified member of the United States Navy with Honor, Courage and Commitment, which is their motto. So I’ll miss that very much. We used to get to go down to the base in San Diego, and that’s probably not going to happen again in my lifetime. It’s one of the greatest experiences of my entire career and lifetime.
What can fans expect to see you in next?
Hmm, I worked on a small—well, I wouldn’t say “small,” but when I’m talking about the scale and scope of The Last Ship, riding around on Navy ships and blowing stuff up, [other] things kind of shrink down, but “intimate” is a better word—a western called The Kid directed by Vincent D’Onofrio, who was in Full Metal Jacket with me many years ago.
My dear friend Gunnery Sergeant Lee Ermey from Full Metal Jacket, also known as “The Gunny,” he passed away suddenly right before his show GunnyTime [on Outdoor Channel] was to go into production, so the producers asked myself and Robert Patrick and Randy Couture and Clifton Collins Jr. to come in and do sort of a celebrity season in his honor. We got to go to Arizona and fire off some amazing weapons… It’s an educational program about weapons, and it’s fun. We blow stuff up. It’s pretty cool, it’s target practice.
Did you keep any souvenirs from the set of The Last Ship?
Just some trinkets. I got a little cigar case with the Navy insignia on it (I enjoy an occasional cigar). I have a coffee mug with Slattery’s name on it, and a couple of t-shirts. Just little things. My favorite souvenir from the whole thing is a certificate from the Secretary of the Navy that it was the highest civilian award granted to our production, the Distinguished Public Service Award. Our producer went to Washington and was presented with it by Secretary Mabus three years ago during the previous administration. It was a great honor. But the biggest honor of all is knowing that the men and women of the Navy like our show.
[Interview lightly edited for clarity.]
Watch the season premiere of The Last Ship on Sunday at 9pm ET on TNT.