The cast of Lifetime Network's top-rated series, "Army Wives," spent May 5, 2008, on Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., filming the fourth episode of season two. Nearly 200 extras, mostly military family members, got the chance to be part of the show that's about their lives. (Defense Department photo/Samantha L. Quigley)
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
CHARLESTON AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. - Drama can occasionally creep into the lives of military families, but since last season, it's been a sure thing for the military families portrayed on Lifetime Network's top-rated show.
The cast of "Army Wives" was here yesterday filming scenes for the series' upcoming second season.
The show focuses on four Army wives, the civilian husband of an Army officer, and a handful of children as they navigate the high and not-so-high points of Army life at fictional Fort Marshall, S.C. They, like real Army families, have dealt with deployment, homecomings and other issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder.
Out of respect for their real-life counterparts, the cast members are working to make their portrayal of military life realistic. One viewer spotted Kim Delaney -- who plays Claudia Joy Holden in the series -- in a Charleston hotel elevator and expressed her appreciation for the show in a soft voice.
"She said, 'My daughter married into the military, and he's over there right now, and they have a little boy, and just get it right!'" Delaney recalled, raising her voice sternly. "That's the thing I love about our show. It's extremely respectful of the military, and we're really proud of what the military's doing, and it's entertainment, but we want to show everybody what everybody goes through."
Delaney, who plays the wife of garrison commander Brig. Gen. Michael Holden, described her character as the "moral center" of the group during a break from filming of the upcoming season's fourth episode yesterday. The instruction Delaney got from the soft-spoken lady in the elevator resonates with the rest of the cast, as well.
"Now that the show has gotten some success, the military has come on board, which is great, because now we can get all those details right," said Brian McNamara, who plays the husband of Delaney's character. "It's not very often in television that you actually feel incredibly proud of what you're doing.”
"We went to Fort Bragg (N.C.) at the beginning of this season and met a number of soldiers," he continued. "They spoke to us about their experiences, and it just makes you that much prouder to be doing this and to do it right."
Getting the details right also is important to actor Drew Fuller, who plays Spc. Trevor LeBlanc.
"We are definitely the young couple on the Army post, so a lot of how the audience learns about life on post and certain proper protocol is told through our eyes," Fuller said. "We're portraying real people. There are many E-4s out there with a wife and two kids, and it's really important that we do it right. We've got to make it right for them; we're, as a group, so proud of what they're doing for us, it's the smallest of favors that we can do for them."
The TV family endured its first separation last season when Trevor deployed to Iraq.
Making "Army Wives" as real as possible is a top goal for Harry Bring, an Army veteran and the show's executive producer.
"What I hope happens is that we depict it properly," he said. "(I hope) that we get so much production value out of it that the audience knows that we are military -- not just a drama about Army wives, (but also) that we do this stuff for real."
Viewers were quick to take to the Internet whenever the show missed its target of getting all the details just right last season, and the blogosphere's remarks about errantly worn berets during the first season were mild compared to what it thought of Lt. Col. Joan Burton's methods of coping with her life after returning from her Iraq. Wendy Davis, who plays Burton, heard plenty of comments regarding her character's conduct.
"I don't know if it was the drinking or the dancing on the bar. It was very interesting to live that out," Davis said of her character's experience with post-traumatic stress disorder. "When we went to Fort Bragg, one of the things (the officers) shared was ... that our soldiers are not throw-away. It's really about getting them help. That was really great to hear."
Thanks in part to a former Soldier who's acting as the show's military advisor, and with tips from military family members working as extras on the set, the show is now on a truer military path.
Natalie McQueen, the wife of a deployed service member, has been a fan of the show since it began last year. She said she's pleased with the attention to detail she saw during her experience as an extra yesterday.
"I am a big fan. I really enjoy it," she said with her 5-year-old daughter, MacKenzie, at her side. "They portray the military family really well. It is very realistic."
Air Force Reserve Tech. Sgt. John Patterson, clutching a bouquet of flowers for his TV wife, also proudly acknowledged his appreciation of "Army Wives." He called the show a credible account of military life.
"I've watched it a couple of times," said Patterson, who's activated and is stationed here. "It's a pretty good show. I was in the Army also before I was in the Air Force, and it does portray [military life] well."
The second season of "Army Wives," which premiers June 8 at 10 p.m. Eastern Time on Lifetime, promises plenty of surprises -- just like life in an Army family.