68 Whiskey: U.S. Veteran Chris Van Etten talks war and television in full interview

In the second half of our interview with 68 Whiskey’s Chris Van Etten, we discuss the finer points of his character and how Van Etten’s own life influenced Louisville.

Viewers who are all caught up with every episode of 68 Whiskey more than likely took notice of Chris Van Etten in last night’s episode. The United States Veteran appeared in episode 4 “Trouble In River City” as an injured soldier who loses both of his legs when an IED (improvised explosive device) detonates near him. Louisville (Van Etten) then winds up on a helicopter where he makes the somewhat insecure Roback (Sam Keeley) promise to mail an important letter to his wife, in the likely scenario of his death.

The letter itself holds much significance because Lousiville doesn’t survive his battlefield injury. Roback and Alvarez (Christina Rodlo) stabilize the injured soldier long enough to get him back to The Orphanage, though Louisville passes away on the operating table.

Faced with having to deliver a fallen comrade’s last words to his wife, Roback scrambles to do the right thing. Unfortunately, Roback misplaces Louisville’s letter after returning to base. He almost gives up on the task but Alvarez finds the bloody letter under a pile of documents that were supposed to be filed days before.

Once the letter is back in Roback’s possession, he finds it necessary to read the message which Louisville wanted to be sent to his wife. There are ethical concerns with reading another person’s mail but what’s most surprising are the letter’s contents.

Rather than being a romantic farewell between lovers, Louisville’s letter is full of insults and bitter truths about their past. We don’t want to get into too many details, but the sum of it boils down to Louisville holding a rather fair degree of resentment for his wife, and vice-versa.

For more details on Louisville, check out the rest of our interview with Van Etten below.

Hidden Remote: In this week’s episode of 68 Whiskey, you’ll be making your first appearance on the show as Louisville. Your character will suffer an injury you experienced in real life. Was it difficult to relive that for television?

Chris Van Etten: Umm not really. I actually had a job a few years back where I had a job of training military personnel in similar scenarios. I did that for a couple of years, and that was tough at first, but it was good for my mental health in the end.

HR: How were you approached for the role? And how did you feel about your character going through a trauma that hits so close to home for you?

Van Etten: We went through the role with my management team and they were lucky enough to be contacted by Paramount about the part. I’m not really part of that phase in the creative process.

It’s a pretty typical thing for anything that really has to do with war, whether it’s WWII or Afghanistan, is to include soldiers in similar situations…but where CGI is mostly used. The one thing I’m happy with is the production companies want to see authentic injuries and I’m glad I could be a part of making scenes realistic for them.

HR: Based on that initial sequence of Louisville being placed into the helicopter, your performance sounded authentic. Can you recall if you had the same reaction when you first learned your legs were blown off in action?

68 Whiskey

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA – OCTOBER 10: Model Chris Van Etten (L) and actor/comedian Kevin Hart attend MEN’S FITNESS Celebrates the 2016 GAME CHANGERS at Sunset Tower Hotel on October 10, 2016 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images for MEN’S FITNESS)

 

Van Etten: So I actually remember it in very clear detail when I got injured because I wasn’t knocked unconscious. I do remember it because of the adrenaline. I was still pretty dazed after stepping on a bomb. I wasn’t freaking out, it almost didn’t seem real. It took me getting on the helicopter and the drugs to realize this is the real deal.

HR: Below the surface, how much of your 68 Whiskey character is directly based on you as a person?

Van Etten: I would say a fair bit. I don’t want to get into too much detail. There are a few things that I personally went through as well. I was going through something similar with my own wife and I instantly felt connected to the role when I read for it.

HR: Yeah I thought I’d ask because the twist of Louisville sending that letter was pretty drastic. Did you know that was the direction the producers were going to take with your character?

Van Etten: When I first read the script, I thought it would be a stereotypical love letter. But when I read the letter and saw what it said, I was laughing about the whole thing. I didn’t think anyone would expect that twist.

HR: I don’t know how much creative control you had over your character on the show, but would you have added anything else to what was shown?

Van Etten:  I don’t think so. I think the producers and the director did a great job portraying the character in the way he needed to be.

HR: Getting back to the show. During your character’s exchange with Roback on the chopper, he makes a last request. In real life, did you ask anything similar of the soldiers who picked you up from the scene?

Van Etten:  No, because again, I was pretty out of it. I knew there was definitely a decent chance of not making it, but I really couldn’t think of anything I could ask them. At the time, I wasn’t really worried about anything. I knew they were going to try to keep me alive, and if I woke up, I woke up. And if I didn’t, I didn’t.

HR: At any point during the production process, did the producers/showrunners discuss possibly keeping your character around?

Van Etten: We talked about it briefly, but I can’t say for certain that the option was on the table. It would seem almost counterproductive to have this huge scene then to change things at the end.

HR: Aside from this Paramount series, I know you were also in a dozen or so episodes of General Hospital last year. Have you booked anything else for the coming year?

Van Etten:  We have a few things planned out. Nothing I can confidently talk about at the moment.

HR: Lastly, are you planning on a continued career in acting?

Van Etten: Yes I would love to keep acting. We were going through a few things in my personal life when this opportunity came up. I was struggling to find the motivation, and my mom was always my biggest supporter before she passed away. But seeing how this role turned out, it reignited that fire, and I’d love to continue acting for my mom.

Next: 68 Whiskey: Nicholas Coombe talks playing Private Petrocelli

What did you think of Van Etten’s character on 68 Whiskey? Let us know in the comments below.

68 Whiskey airs Wednesdays on Paramount Network.