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AJ Buckley interview: Seeing more from Sonny in SEAL Team Season 2

AJ Buckley is known as one of the geeky Ghostfacers on Supernatural, but now he’s Sonny Quinn on SEAL Team. Why the change and what can we look forward to in SEAL Team Season 2?

AJ Buckley is known to Supernatural fans as the geeky Ghostfacer Ed Zeddmore. He’s come a long way since then and now hung up his EMF reader for machine guns, grenades, and dangerous missions Ed would have frozen in. It’s all about Sonny Quinn in SEAL Team.

During this exclusive with Hidden Remote, Buckley shared about his decision to take his acting in a different direction and why Sonny was the character for him–it turns out it was written specifically for him! He also shared his hopes for the future, including an idea to #BringtheFacersBack.

Hidden Remote: How’re things going?

AJ Buckley: Good. Just on set about to get the day started.

HR: That’s right. You’ll still be shooting the second season.

Buckley: Yeah, we’re on Episode 9 of [SEAL Team] Season 2. We’re shooting 22 episodes and will shoot until probably mid-March.

HR: I love how we’ll be watching Episodes 1 and 2 and you’re on Episodes 8-9.

Buckley: Yeah!

HR: Now, I remember you in Supernatural as Ed Zeddmore. What made you go for such a different role like Sonny?

Buckley: It’s kind of like one of those roles I always wanted to play. When I finished in Supernatural, I was kind of known for playing these nerdy guys on TV and I was kind of scared I was going to be typecast, and I didn’t want to go that way.

There were some personal things going on too with my dad passing away, and I kind of got out of shape and lost focus. An opportunity sort of arose for this one big film and the feedback was I was perfect for the role, but I physically wasn’t and didn’t have enough time to get ready. I really felt like I let the opportunity slip through my hands, so I said to my wife, “Look, I’m never going to let that happen again.”

I just started training and got focused. I hired a personal trainer and a nutritionist, Kevin Libby, who helped transform me over the course of 2.5-3 years and I really leaned out. I think when I was doing CSI: New York and Supernatural I was at 145-150lbs and over the course of two or three years I put on about 30lbs of muscle.

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HR: Wow!

Buckley: I became a man in a sense. I got my life prioritized, had a kid, and just became super focused. I was training twice a day and still am training twice a day, and went out for the roles that I wanted to play. One of my favorite characters is John McClain from Die Hard, and I’ve always really wanted to play that every man role.

Over the course of time, I’ve gone from Justified and Murder in the First. A few years later I got the call from the showrunner who I’d worked with on Justified who’d said, “Hey, I’ve written this role for you in this Navy SEAL pilot” and I was like, “awesome.”

The funny thing is when I walked to the casting office to meet everyone, it was the same casting director from CSI: New York. And she came out and was like “what the f**k happened to you?”

I do also think a lot of things change when you have kids.

HR: Yeah!

Buckley: Then this came, and it’s really been my dream role. I get to show up every day and fly in helicopters and shoot guns and blow things up. It’s every guy’s dream.

Photo credit: James Dimmock — Acquired via Persona PR

HR: What is your favorite part of being on set? There must be so much, and it all looks cool.

Buckley: I think it’s the brotherhood that we’ve formed. We have real Navy SEAL guys who have served and have been injured and with missing limbs. They’ve been through hell and back to give us the freedom that they’ve had. To get to go to work every day with these guys and see their perspective and make them proud, I think that’s my favorite part.

HR: They are an amazing inspiration. I’ve worked with some in the past and they are…

Buckley: Unbelievable.

HR: Yes! So, Sonny in SEAL Team Season 2. It feels like everything has changed and Bravo Team is starting to split. How is Sonny going to react to this, especially with Ray looking at moving to Charlie Team?

Buckley: I think, you know, we don’t know much about Sonny. All we know is he’s in Bravo Team and that’s his family. He doesn’t really come from a secure family, stable parents. I think the only family he’s known in this group. Any sort of break in that is going to bother him because it’s something he’s been so familiar to and I think he’s fighting to keep that together.

I think two of his demons in the past, behind his pain and bravado and being the wise-cracking guy, this is really hurting him and they’re the cracks in his armor.

HR: And then there’s Lisa who is hiding the officer training from him. That’s got to come out at some point. How’s he going to feel when she’s sort of jumping ship in a way?

Buckley: Yeah, there’s definitely a cool little twist with Davis and Sonny. There’s a cool little story and I don’t want to give too much away.

What’s exciting for me this year is we’re finally going into Sonny’s character and explore more of what ticks his relationship as an individual on the team, his relationship with Davis, his relationship with Clay and Ray.

Photo credit: SEAL Team/CBS by Erik Voake; Acquired via CBS Press Express

HR: Yeah, I felt we didn’t get enough of Sonny in SEAL Team Season 1. We saw glimpses here and there. When Danny came into it, I thought we were finally getting something and then it sort of fizzled for Sonny.

Buckley: Yeah, originally there was supposed to be this big arc with Steve Howey and myself. But it’s how things go. With the first season of any show, there are starting lines of finding where things will go but you’re still trying to get to know the characters. You have to wait your turn and impatiently wait.

But I’m grateful for the first season to get there and know the world. Now it’s the character and I much rather have it this way than be thrown in when you’re trying to fit in the character’s clothes.

HR: In Season 1 we got a slight glimpse of what Sonny would be like as a leader. He was awesome, but you could see he didn’t like it. Will we see more of that, because I get the impression that Clay has stepped up to be Bravo 2 instead of Sonny after last week’s episode?

Buckley: Yeah, I think you will. With him, I think, the one thing Sonny doesn’t want is the pressure of No. 1. He just wants to kick down doors and be there for his guys. The pressure of being No. 1 is just too much. He’s a leader in his own way, which is mental toughness.

But as far as, and this is something we’ve talked with the writers that it would be cool for him to have that opportunity and confront those demons, but as of now he’s the guy you want to have right beside you on the battlefield and be the guy who has your back going into war.

As for right now, Sonny is happy staying in [Bravo] 3. That’s his favorite number.

HR: With his big machine gun.

Buckley: Yes, exactly. That’s one of my favorite parts of Sonny. He gets to fire all the big guns.

HR: It connects a bit to Supernatural, of Dean Winchester always wanting the big guns.

Buckley: Oh yeah, I never thought about that!

They call the guys who are like this as the knuckle draggers. They carry all the big guns and stuff.

Photo credit: SEAL Team/CBS by Erik Voake, Acquired via CBS Press Express

HR: You mentioned talking to the writers. Do you get much impact in where Sonny’s character is going?

Buckley: We’ve got an amazing group of writers and the new showrunner is John Glenn. I think as an actor you let them do what they’re great at and then they give it to you and you bring it to life. There’s always a conversation of where our head’s at and what we liked and didn’t like.

But the writers have a good grasp of where, for me, it’s just staying true to who these guys are and focusing on the team moments instead of just the action. That’s what drives this show. You create these real human moments in these extraordinary situations to create these compelling characters.

HR: So, if you had to describe Sonny in three to five words, what would they be?

Buckley: Oh, three to five words. Beer, whiskey, bullets, boobs, America.

HR: Yep!

Buckley: Freedom!

SUPERNATURAL — “Ghostfacers”– Photo by: Sergei Bachlakov/The CW — Acquired via CW TV PR

HR: I’ve got one last question for all the Supernatural fans out there. Would you ever bring Sonny in as the badass Ghostfacer?

Buckley: You know, the funny thing is, I’ve talked to Phil [Sgriccia; Supernatural EP] not too long ago about bringing them…I mean, the Ghostfacers are the longest living characters on Supernatural; they’re the only characters who haven’t died.

HR: And only ones to get a successful spin-off.

Buckley: Yeah! We were the very first spin-off and I got to write and direct. That was a very cool time. That was in the Eric Kripke days and he loved the Ghostfacers. We were his side project. Unfortunately, when he left the other showrunners weren’t as big a fans of the Ghostfacers and wanted to take the show in a different direction.

Which kind of sucks, but Ed Zeddmore is one of my favorite characters I’ve ever played. He was so much fun and they were some of the best guys I’ve ever worked with. But I would love for Ed and Harry to come back but who we are now, more physical and give them a real run for their money. I think the comedy would be there, too. The last time you saw them they were nerds and now they come back jacked. I think that would be…or even where we’re possessed, and we turn into this super creatures. The whole Venom idea behind it.

I’m totally down. That door is over. Before that show ends I would love to go in and put a bow on the Ghostfacers. So many are like “you guys broke up, what happened to you?” and I don’t know. I would love to tell that storyline. And the fans would love it, too.

We’ll have to get the Supernatural fans to rally with #BringtheFacersBack.

HR: I love it!

You’ve heard it here first! We need to get rallying to #BringtheFacersBack to see a grownup version of Ed Zeddmore and get closure on the Ghostfacers.

What do you think of Sonny’s character? Is it time for more development? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

SEAL Team Season 2 airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on CBS.