"[Directing has] been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember," shared Tyler Grey, who self-declares on Instagram as "a geeky kid trapped in the body of a nerdy adult." For those who know his story, however, he's got a pretty respectable warrior side, too.
A former Delta Force operator and sniper-qualified Army Ranger, Grey's military career came to an end when he was "blown up in Sadr City" (his words, not mine), resulting in a medical retirement. His right arm still bears the scars from that attack — but he hasn't let it keep him from actively supporting the military community.
For the past few years, that has meant portraying Trent Sawyer in front of the camera on SEAL Team while helping to produce and act as a military consultant behind the scenes. With Unbecoming an Officer (Season 3 Episode 10), he finally puts on a very coveted hat: director.
Check out the episode promo:
Most veterans agree that watching shows and films about military service can feel frustrating. It's hard to get the nuances of military culture right — especially when storytellers are focused on either placing heroes on a pedestal or exposing their trauma.
SEAL Team has been a show actively committed to getting it right by hiring veterans as architects for the story. Grey is not the only service member CBS has brought on board. In a particularly poignant Season 2 episode, the show explored veteran suicide, a tragic issue that hits the military community at too-high a rate. The episode was written by former frogman Mark Semos.
Also read: We have to talk about this week's SEAL Team
Grey's leadership qualities are clear even from a distance. He's quick to give his team credit for successes (and quick to accept blame for any shortcomings — even in jest).
He's also great at balancing the line between Hollywood and reality.
"95% of the time if there is something technically wrong on the show there is a TV or dramatic reason for it," he clarified in advance of the, I'm sure, flood of comments about unused NODS in an episode.
To be clear, directing for television is a highly competitive gig. Throw in stunts, battle scenes, smoke, and special effects and you've got a major learning curve for a first-timer.
This is where military training really does bring excellence to the surface. A good leader knows who to turn to for guidance (the NCO or SNCO, always...), how to identify and utilize the strengths of the team, when to be definitive, and when to ask for help.
"On a serious note I hope those who watch it enjoy — a lot of people worked really hard to help this come together," he shared.
It's great to see a huge network recognizing the capabilities of veterans in the filmmaking industry — especially in military terrain. Service members give up years of their creative careers while their civilian colleagues build resumes. During that time, however, vets rack up some marketable skills and experiences that benefit a set.
SEAL Team is one show that is really paving the way for veterans to show what they're made of. It's an opportunity, not a right, and the professionals know it. When they do step up, however, it makes the series stronger.
Grey isn't the only veteran who has directed for the show. U.S. Marine Michael Watkins, who has an impressive television resume that includes The Blacklist, Quantum Leap, and Prison Break, has also taken the helm.
From its consultants to its writers and directors to its cast and, yes, even down to its three-line co-stars, SEAL Team gives members of the military community the opportunity to excel after service.
Make sure you check out Grey's episode Wednesday Dec. 11 at 9 eastern on CBS and let him know you've got his six.
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