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May 28, 2019

Team Player

David Boreanaz looks for a balance between strength and vulnerability.

Melissa Byers
  • CBS
  • CBS
  • CBS
  • CBS
  • CBS

David Boreanaz has led a rather charmed career.

First, he came to the public's attention as the vampire Angel in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and later in his own spinoff Angel. He came back down to earth as FBI agent Seely Booth in the long-running series Bones, and now he is leading SEAL Team on CBS.

In choosing a role, he finds how that particular character fits into his life. He says, "It's almost kind of like the gift of the universe for me. It's something that was given to you at a specific time. Not everything that you read is going to be the right thing for you, and you find that out as you're doing certain roles.

"It's like timing, really, for me. [SEAL Team was] the last thing I thought I was doing, another show or getting involved in a series, the SEAL Team, after wrapping Bones.

"It came to my plate, not once but twice, and was kind of like 'there's a message in this. You need to create this character and let it unfold.' I chose it really relatively through my space and time. I pull from my experiences and my life, so whatever is so fruitful and going on, that's pretty much how I do it. You feel the character when you read it."

Creating those characters is a team effort between Boreanaz and his long-time acting coach. "I've been working with my acting guru who's a dear friend, almost 20 years now. Ivana Chubbuck. She is like my muse of understanding that drive and pushing me to those limits of rounding out the character.

"For instance, for these two specific types of roles, it's all pretty much a lot of conflict that is the most desirable thing to pull from.

"As for me, as an actor, to find those moments that are relatable, subtextually. You're watching a scene and you feel what these two characters may be thinking about, how they're so connected, how they're so in sync. Or, if you're in a moment, and you bring something to life that is of your life. I studied ... pretty much pull from my life.

"It's a pallet of colors. That's the way I work, referring to what's going on in my life. I directly relate that to the character, and somehow manage to balance that as to making that very home in my heart, which comes out across very truthfully and honestly. I think that that's what is happening with these characters that I take on, and how I round them out, depending on the scene, the environment, where they are.

"But it all starts at home with myself. I use that material with my acting coach, Ivana, to find those moments and connections, if it's chemistry or with another actor or actress. That's pretty much where I work from, that's my foundation."

In SEAL Team, as with his other roles, Boreanaz is most interested in the characters.

He says, "[The show has] found and is finding its character, which is so important to me, being on something that has character driven material rather than the plot driven material. Everybody usually says that, but I infuse it with that kind of stuff, so it's nice to see that progressing in the way that I think is right for the character, and for the show itself."

Finding the character of Jason Hayes has come at just the right time for Boreanaz's journey. He says, "It is symbolic to, for me, where my life is. My maturity as a human being and growing as an artist. Those things just come to you and you're blessed with it, and you find something inside of yourself, that there's a connection to that character. Specific with SEAL Team, it was pretty much an open canvas.

"He wasn't really written on page. It wasn't something that I instantly wanted to do. I turned it down and then it came back to me, and I found the opportunity to be, you know, this is a message.

"You have the opportunity to really create a character in an environment that is misunderstood and labeled as a military experience, but for me it was, let's compartmentalize him and show that side, that human side of him, which is so extreme of being an operator, to his human side of how do you handle back home and the challenge and diversities of being accepted by society.

"There's so much that goes into, I think, choosing that, and there's a lot of luck to it, too. It's not something that you go into and, 'Oh, this could be the character that could change my career,' or whatnot. You've got to go into it hoping that there's a connection. For me there's got to be a connection. Also, the people that are involved have to be there, the people that are backing it.

"At the end of the day with a series, you're there for a long period of time, and it's a creative process. If the creative process is dominated by one specific individual, then there's no real balance and leeway to create. You just are, kind of, being told what to do and you have to silently create.

"There's ways to do that to make it work for yourself, but if there's a good balance of that creative force, then it becomes a tour de force.

"That's when you really start to cook with gas. Not only from the character's perspective, but as a whole, for a dramatic series. That's how I look at it."

Boreanaz's last two roles have had a military bent, but he says that is not necessarily what drew him to the characters. He says, "I think there's more to them than that. I gravitate a lot towards sports things. I love sports, and the military is, I guess, in reference to a unified team. battling. There's a lot of metaphors involved here with things that I like to involve myself with.

"As far as, oh, it's a military background, or he has a military background. It's a team sport, you're going in to fight, you're going into a battle. I gravitate towards that kind of stuff, those adventurous types of roles and leadership roles, mostly because of my upbringing.

"As a kid, you find your tour de force when you're putting forts together and it's magic time. And you have your bike, and you're out cruising around, and you have no worries, and you created this fort with your friends. and you're playing Army. Whatever that is. That's heightened experiences as you get older and you find a craft, as you get into this.

"In the process it's all very similar, because you're pretty much doing the same thing. I'm really a kid at heart. I would say that it's a balance, but more so I love the contrast of the fact that these guys are in the military environment that's so strongly do or die, protection mode.

"Do whatever it takes as a team. Underneath all of that skin and that armor is a lot of vulnerability. Trying to even get to that spot is very difficult.

"That, to me, excites me because the shield could be down at any certain time, if the character decides to put that shield down and share with another opposing person at home, away from that job, or even in the job. Because it is a job, pretty much for them, and that's what they do. That excites me. I love that contrast.

"I love vulnerability under a strong character. I love being able to tap into that emotion and see where it takes you."

Another creative outlet for Boreanaz has been directing. He explains, "I directed over 14 episodes of Bones. I'm directing other shows. I cut my teeth, pretty much on Angel and Buffy. I love the directing. Again, it's the leadership, the tour de force. Being able to charge, and take a crew, and excite a cast, and also actors about a scene. I love that.

"I love the moments before, working with actors. I've been there and I know it.

"To humanize it is, I think, one of the best moments you can have while working as a director, is to find the human side of the character through the vehicle that that actor is giving you. I find that to be a fascinating process. One that I really hold true to my heart and to the person who's doing that, because they're trusting you, they're allowing you to get into their space.

"Or maybe they're not, and you're trying to find ways to get into their space to find what you're looking for in a character. I value that, and I also love the motivating a crew throughout a day. I think it's just jazz hands, man. It's a lot of fun.

"I love the idea of being able to set a tone and be comfortable and have fun, and being able to attack a situation if it's serious, or attack an action sequence like you're driving to score the last touchdown, whatever it is. I love the elements of the challenges. I think it's a high for me, definitely, as a director."

In the end, Boreanaz knows that his work is all about the connections and the human spirit in his characters.

He says, "[I enjoy] relishing those moments of family and friends, because it goes fast and that's what life is about. I think when we're in this crazy business as entertainers, or whatever the process is, you want to hone moments and tap back into them. I talked earlier about that, emotionally being able to tap into life experiences. Moments that I use, pretty much, as my pallet. Those are the things you have."

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