You might know character actors Pablo Schreiber and David Denman best for their sidesplitting roles on as Pornstache on Orange Is The New Black and Pam’s lunk-headed fiancé Roy on The Office. But in Michael Bay’s thrilling and earnest new docudrama, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, both get tough guy makeovers playing the real heroes of the Battle of Benghazi.
Schreiber co-stars as a wisecracking former Army Ranger Kris ‘Tanto’ Paronto (who Screen Rant spoke to in a separate interview), while Denman portrayed the brawny bookworm whose call sign is Boon. The pair spoke with Screen Rant in Miami about playing against their types, shouldering the responsibility of presenting a true story, and why humor was crucial to getting it right.
So, guys, audiences who know you best for The Office and for Orange is the New Black I think are going to be really surprised by the characters you play in this movie. Was shaking up that kind of image of yourselves part of the draw?
Pablo Schreiber: I think it’s a great opportunity to get to do that…
David Denman: Yeah…
Pablo Schreiber: For this role, obviously, for David it’s so different from his role on The Office. So to get to see him play this guy for me is a real pleasure.
David Denman: And the same thing with Pablo. [laughs] It’s great when people get to see you in a new light. We’re actors. We always like the opportunity to show the ability to transform into other people. It’s funny, because I didn’t really think about it in terms of that. I just thought it was a great role. I thought that the story was an important story to tell. And I thought that…I was just grateful to get the opportunity to try to portray this guy.
Pablo, in particular, the man you play has been very vocal about the actual incident and involved in the movie. Was that at all an additional pressure for you?
Pablo Schreiber: He’s been pretty vocal in general, hasn’t he? He’s a vocal guy.
Pablo Schreiber: No, it’s not an added pressure. I would say it’s a responsibility. I was very cognizant of the fact that one day Tanto, Kris Paronto, the guy who I play, was going to watch this movie, and I just wanted him to be happy with how his story was told. And not just him, but all the guys. I think it’s a pretty serious story. A number of people lost their lives. And so, I think we all took it very seriously that we wanted to get it told right.
The film is very serious and very humane. But, at the same time, you play the comic relief. Was that a pressure to take on that in the midst of all this human drama?
Pablo Schreiber: I wouldn’t say it was a pressure. It was fun. For me, I haven’t done too much comedy before Orange is the New Black, but that kind of opened some doors in that world for me. But to get to do it in this way, where I think it’s really used as a tool, you know. Specifically, I think Tanto deals with pressure and deals with crazy situations by trying to lighten the atmosphere to keep himself calm and to keep everybody around him calm. And so, to get to use humor as a tool in that way and as a plot device I think for me was very fun.
David Denman: Also, these guys, they used humor throughout the night to keep themselves sharp, keep themselves awake, keep themselves present with each other. That was an interesting thing that Michael told his he had gleaned from these guys. So there’s a lot of stuff in the movie where everyone is trying to keep some things light at moments.
Pablo Schreiber: Yeah. It makes it feel relatable even though I have not been through anything even remotely like this. But you can relate to that sense of letting go of stress with those kind of moments. Your character is also very into philosophy. Was that something you were particularly interested in digging into to kind of prepare for him?
David Denman: I read some Joseph Campbell while I was on set every day in our downtime. I think he’s an interesting man. It’s the complete opposite of Tanto. There’s a balancing act there. They are both like a yin and yang relationship. These guys have known each other for years. They’ve done a lot of deployments together. I love that he’s described as the holder of Tanto’s leash. He doesn’t say much, but when he does he gleans a lot of respect from the rest of the team.
Pablo Schreiber: And, ultimately, it’s a very tender relationship. You see the scene on the roof towards the end where they are worried that one of the next waves of attacks may be the last one that would take them out. And they leave the scene…the last two lines are: “It’s been fun, right?” And Tanto responds, “Yeah.” And how much is left unsaid in that exchange I think is one of the really powerful moments of the film.
For a parting shot, I would like to know what’s coming up with Pornstache and, two, what’s going on with Angel from Hell?
David Denman: Angel from Hell premieres tonight on CBS…
Pablo Schreiber: What?! Get out!
David Denman: I don’t know when this will air, but yeah, it’s coming out right now. It’s a really funny show with Jane Lynch on CBS. Yeah, I’m excited.
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi opens in theaters January 15, 2016.