On Monday May 4th, NBC’s medical drama The Night Shift welcomes special guests Trace Adkins, Dr. Jill Biden and First Lady Michelle Obama for a special episode to promote the White House’s Joining Forces initiative. Cast members Robert Bailey Jr, Eoin Macken and Jill Flint joined Dr. Biden and the First Lady to make a PSA promoting the program.
We’ve got video of the PSA below, along with an interview with Trace Adkins (who plays Colonel Elwood “Smalls” Green, TC’s MMA group therapy leader) and Eoin Macken (who plays series lead character TC, a veteran doctor who’s coping with PTSD). Adkins and Macken talk about the episode and their efforts to aid the men and women who serve.
Joining Forces is a nationwide initiative calling all Americans to rally around service members, veterans, and their families and support them through wellness, education, and employment opportunities. Joining Forces works hand in hand with the public and private sectors to ensure that service members, veterans and their families have the tools they need to succeed throughout their lives.
“The Night Shift” is a rare television show that talks about veterans issues on a regular basis.
EOIN MACKEN: You know I think it’s very important. In New Mexico, we have an awful lot of crew and a lot of extras and a lot of people who work on the show who are veterans. What’s really important about this show is that it highlights these vets who come back and are able to get through any problems they’ve had with PTSD and they’ve managed to do something really positive. We’re portraying vets in a very positive light.
Trace, tell us about your part on the show.
TRACE ADKINS: My guy just came in to try to get some things done with some mobile vet units doing some volunteer work and just trying to help veterans. And that’s what this whole show is about. So when I got a call and got an opportunity to be a part of that, it was a no-brainer for me. I was like, sure, yeah, let’s do it. I was very excited to be a part of it and to be on an episode of a successful show like this. It’s very cool.
EOIN: Having Trace was cool. His character came in to work with the vets and he ended up being a catalyst for Topher’s character to going back to Afghanistan. So in a way Trace’s character sets off this chain of events that kind of reverberates through the next few episodes.
For a lot of the series, we’ve touched on the fact that TC has been in rehab and he’s had some buddies and talking to people helped him deal with his issues. So Trace’s character is the guy that TC has been training with and talking to. He has a lot of respect for him.
When Topher decides to go to Afghanistan, Trace is the guy that helps him. That’s going to cause a lot of friction for Jordan and for Topher and TC, because it’s obviously not a particularly easy place to go back to.
And we also have Michelle Obama and Dr. Joe Biden in it, which is quite an honor. They appear on the show to talk about Joining Forces, the initiative to help returning veterans. We did a PSA with them up in Washington, but also the episode also features Joining Forces. They communicate with us during the scene and it’s quite a fun scene. You’ve got Trace, you’ve got everyone in the show, and you’ve got Michelle Obama and Jill Biden. It’s gonna be a good one.
Trace, I know you do a lot of work with the military.
TRACE: Well, I just got back from Afghanistan. We went and did ten days with the USO. We went to Kuwait. We went to Afghanistan. We went to Germany. That’s something that I’ve done for the last 15 years or so. I’ve done something like 10 USO tours in the last 13 years.
I’ve been associated with the Wounded Warrior Project now for as long as they’ve been around, almost seven or eight years now. That’s one of the most gratifying things I’ve done in my career. It’s just amazing to get to know some of these heroes and to see them progress through their journey as they make the transition back into civilian life. It’s very gratifying to be part of an organization that helps them do that.
So Eoin, your character at the end of this episode is heading off to Afghanistan and, I guess, it’s not a big secret that you guys shoot in New Mexico for a shot that’s set in Texas. Your character is headed off to Afghanistan. Is New Mexico filling in for Afghanistan in those episodes?
EOIN: New Mexico has very cool deserts that we used to substitute for Afghanistan. We just shot a lot of that stuff yesterday and they built a whole village with tents and hundreds of extras. We had the whole shebang and Humvees and all that stuff. They replicated things really, really well. This time of year the weather is perfect. You got the desert and the mountains in the background, so it suits the show pretty well.
TRACE: I’ve had a lot of people ask me what’s Afghanistan like and I tell them it’s very much like Southern Colorado or Northern New Mexico.
EOIN: It’s been great having people like Trace come aboard. His example is really inspiring to me. I’m Irish and working on this show that’s exposed me much more to vets and Americans. Plus we have a lot of vets in our crew. It’s been really inspiring how people have connected with the show. It’s really important and that’s what is really great about this project, that it’s not just a TV show.
A girl who spoke to me a few weeks ago said that she was able to talk to her dad a lot more because they bonded over the show. He’d never talked about his experiences before watching the show. He opened up a little bit because he connected with the stories. So I think it’s really, really important and it’s fantastic.
TRACE: There’s just a vibe that’s running through that entire soundstage. These people are dedicated and they’re very committed to this message about helping vets. It’s great to see that and I was very happy to be a part of it.
Eoin, talk about the action on this show. It’s a lot more about the rescues and the procedures than some of the other medical shows on television.
EOIN: We’ve got some amazing makeup and special effects people who have won Emmys. The blood and guts is because gives it a sense of realism. It’s a nice counterbalance when you’ve got the comedy and you’ve got the romantic stuff going on. If you’re gonna deal with serious issues such as people coming back from the war and PTSD and all that, you don’t want it to be in a show that’s too cartoony. So having the blood also kind of makes it quite gritty and real.
Usually there’s a leaning towards women watching doctor shows and medical shows, but I think there’s a lot of guys who probably haven’t watched this show yet and actually won’t realize that the connections that I think they may have until they give it a chance.