Geoff Stults, star of Fox’s domestic military comedy Enlisted, knows he can’t make everyone happy. But he and the rest of the Enlisted team are trying to walk a fine line when depicting Army life. The goal is to make a show that’s belly-laugh funny without being disrespectful to real-life soldiers. Stults plays Staff Sgt. Pete Hill, a soldier whose career took a step backward when he punched a superior officer. Now he’s stateside, serving as platoon sergeant of a misfit rear detachment unit that handles the boring but necessary chores, such as sorting mail and washing tanks.
“It’s our obligation to portray this correctly,” Stults says. “But we also need to do a show that’s funny that the general public watches, so we can stay on the air.” So far, he thinks Enlisted, which airs 8 p.m. Fridays, has successfully found that funny-yet-respectful middle ground. It remains to be seen, however, if the audience of about 3.2 million is big enough.
1Are you a stickler for military detail on this show?
We made some errors when we shot the pilot, little things that, if you’re not in the military, you’d never pay attention to. But we made an effort to change things and you can see the difference now. We walk right, we address people right, we stand right, we wear our uniforms right.
2What motivated the change?
Our military adviser gave me an analogy one day. He knew I was a former athlete and he said, “You know when you watch a movie and they cast an actor to play the quarterback who can’t throw a football more than 10 yards? Doesn’t that bother you?” I said, “It drives me crazy.” And he said, “That’s what happens when I see somebody not wearing their patch in the right place.” And I was like, “I get it.”
3Did you get any real Army training?
We had an opportunity to go to boot camp this summer in Fort Bliss, in El Paso. We got to see firsthand what happens for a tiny, tiny bit of time. They were supportive and welcoming and encouraging, so we worked our butts off to pay some respect to them.
4 Enlisted is also about family. Your character’s ne’er-do-well brothers are in the same unit. He loves them, but they make him crazy. Can you relate, given that you’ve worked alongside your actor brother, George, on occasion?
Yes, I have worked with my brother a couple of times. We played brothers twice: in 7th Heaven and on The Finder. We got paid to go do what we do all day long anyway, which is make fun of one another. And on this show, it’s very much the same dynamic between my two TV brothers and me.
5What has been the key to your success as an actor?
The secret is just not to be a jerk. My mom works with children who have been physically and sexually abused. My dad, his whole life, fixed washers and dryers and worked hard. It’s easy for people in this business to get too caught up in themselves. But I’ve got two parents who would kill me if I did that.
— David Martindale, Special to the Star-Telegram