“The Last Ship” has just aired its first episode for the third season on TNT. The story has the crew of a naval destroyer confronting the reality of their existence in a dangerous new world where a global virus pandemic nearly destroys the world population. Al Coronel has a significant role, playing one of the leading antagonists. For those not familiar with him, he is a native of Los Angeles, high school athlete, retired Marine, Salsa dancer and now an actor who gets to work via motorcycle. The interview with Coronel discusses his Marine experiences and his new role.
Elise Cooper: Please discuss your military background.
Al Coronel: I served eight years in the U.S. Marine Corps, from 1988 to 1996. My unit moved from El Toro to Miramar and was stationed in Okinawa as well as the Persian Gulf during Desert Storm and Desert Shield. While trying to liberate Kuwait, I first was with the artillery unit and because I was a radio operator I found myself on the front line with the infantry unit. During this time I experienced combat and saw some of the first Marine casualties.
EC: Did this experience help you with the role?
AC: Yes, because I play a leader of a U.S. region. My military background has given me a commanding presence. While serving I was placed in a position of leadership and authority, as a squad leader and a communications chief. I had about 25 Marines who reported to me and who I was responsible for. My experiences gave me an understanding of protocol, hierarchy and to understand the chain of command.
EC: Did you ever give advice?
AC: I am very particular to make sure that the presentation of the military on screen is very accurate. On this show they did an excellent job making sure they stayed true to the customs and rules of the U.S. Navy. Those of us with some military experience would get asked about how things occur. However, there was a Navy liaison, an officer, on set to make sure everything was done correctly.
EC: Can you explain why the season premiere was postponed a week?
AC: Because of the horrific terrorist act in Orlando. It was going to air that day but because of a nightclub scene where people were killed the decision was made to postpone it. I know there was a lot of outcry about the delay, but I think it was the right decision because of the massive loss of life in Orlando. I hope after people see the episode they would agree that it would have been too much to air since it is the biggest massacre after September 11.
EC: Do you remember where you were on that day?
AC: When 9/11 occurred I was heading to the airport to catch a flight to New York and then to Paris. I received a call from a family member to turn on the TV and saw the second plane hit. This memory will be forever engrained in me.
EC: Can you explain your role?
AC: The U.S. has been sectioned off into five regions, each with a leader who reports directly to the president. The U.S. government is in tatters. Some regions are held together by people who have kept violence, deception and rioting at bay. By natural selection, my region has been immune to the disease that has killed about 90 percent of the world population. I come into the story during the second episode.
EC: Why are you an antagonist?
AC: There will be several issues I am not in agreement with the president and we will butt heads. My character, Manuel Castillo, is a leader who believes he is doing what is right for his region. As with local governments, many times he will not fall in line.
EC: Do you think it mirrors what is happening today?
AC: Yes, there are some similarities with our current politics. The show explores those who do not want to be a part of the governmental system. The episodes have some in the U.S. who want to be more independent of the president and some who do not. Those who want more independence will not follow the president’s choices, seeing him as the wrong leader.
EC: What do you want the viewers to get out of your character?
AC: An understanding that some regional leaders must stand up for their beliefs. Some decisions my character makes may not be popular outside of his region. Should he help others or be self-serving for his region? Just because it is not politically correct does not mean it is wrong.
EC: Rumor has it you also have a role in the ABC show “Secret and Lies.” True?
AC: Yes, I play Detective Oscar Reyna. The question my character has to deal with: does Reyna know something about the murder? Season 2 will air this fall on ABC. The story has a woman falling to her death. The evidence points to a homicide, not an accident. Detective Andrea Cornell returns to find the killer. Her prime suspect is the husband, Eric Warner.