Fresh-faced Private Anthony Petrocelli is quickly becoming a stand out in Paramount Network’s 68 Whiskey. I recently spoke to Nicholas Coombe about his character, working with goats and how he prepared for the role.
For those who aren’t familiar with military terms, “68 Whiskey is the MOS, which is the military occupational specialist call sign for a combat medic. So basically a combat medic’s call sign is 68W which is 68 whiskey. And the show follows a bunch of the combat medics in Afghanistan, so that’s why it’s called 68 Whiskey,” said Coombe.
Looking forward to tonight’s episode “Daddy Issues”, Coombe teases that it is one of his favorites.
“What I can say is Episode 2 (“Finger Lickin’ Good”) finished off with Petrocelli throwing himself in front of the goat at the front of the base and protecting it because they were trying to shoot Boz. So, I can tell you that there’s definitely gonna be stuff going down between Petrocelli, Boz and the guys at the front gate. I don’t want to give away too much. It’s honestly one of my one of my favorite episodes, so you really gonna have to tune in for that one. And for the rest of the season, we have a lot more fun stuff.”
Private Anthony Petrocelli
Coombe describes his character, Anthony Petrocelli, as wanting to be one of the guys.
“He’s a 17 year old kid who looks 16, he acts like he’s 15 and he’s basically a new private. He pretty much just wants to be the best soldier that he can be so he sticks by the rules as much as he can and he’s trying to impress the people on base to kind of go up in rank. We also learned in the show that he was home schooled. So this is kind of his first time being amongst peers of his age group. So, not only is he trying to be a great soldier but he’s trying to fit in and make some friends and he looks up to the older guys and girls on the base. But yeah, he’s a good kid with a good heart and he’s quite naive and he’s really got a fresh look on everything which was really fun to play around with.”
So what made Petrocelli join Roback?
“When he originally catches Roback and Davis, stealing the medical supplies, he immediately goes to having to stick by the rules. He’s like, ‘its General Order #3, like I have to report anything if I see it.’ But I think the opportunity to join the guys that he looks up to on a secret mission, he really finds that quite exciting because this is like his first chance he’s had to actually engage with these guys and be considered amongst them. So although he wants to be good, I think he learned that he needs to break the rules a little bit in order to fit in over there and to get outside the wire and to make some you know, lifelong friendships.”
On top of Petrocelli being young and wanting to fit in, he is also dealing with the loss of his battle buddy.
“Buckley was Petrocelli’s his battle buddy. And I’d like to say one of his first really good friends and he took it quite hard. After his friend passes away, he stumbles across Boz the goat and he’s told that this goat is possessed by spirits. And I guess after spending some time with the goat, he really connects the goat’s spirit to Buckley, and he believes that Buckley’s kind of, I guess reincarnated into this goat. And so that’s why Petrocelli is so protective of Boz, because that’s his way of coping with his friend passing away at the start of the series. And, yeah, it’s really interesting to see Petrocelli kind of use Boz in his coping process.
Boz the Goat
Going into the show, Coombe knew he’d be working with a goat but he wasn’t aware of how important Boz was to his character.
“My audition scene had the goat in it. I had an idea that there’d be some stuff with the goat. But I didn’t realize kind of how big Boz would be. I feel like the first couple episodes that we’ve seen, I’ve spent the majority of my time with a goat. I always laugh because we have a quite a big ensemble on the show, and I’d be like, ‘I’ve only ever worked with the goat, I haven’t even met half the cast. So, I found that really funny, but the goats were really well trained and the trainers that brought them along were really nice people. We had a lot of fun shooting with the goats. There’s two of them, Margie and Maggie, who are both really easy to work with, surprisingly. I didn’t know what to expect, because it’s a goat. But they hit their marks and they were super friendly. And if I walked with the leash, they’d go wherever I went. I had a great time. I really enjoyed working with them.”
Preparing for duty
To prepare for his role, Coombe went to the gym so he can carry his gear and watched a lot of US Army documentaries and movies.
“I watched a whole bunch of documentaries on the U.S. Army and I watched some military films and TV series just to get as much outside information as I could. And then once I started working on set, we had some specific training like weapons training and how to correctly salute and kind of the proper procedures for a lot of things. So, yeah, I mean, personally, I did everything I could to keep it realistic. And I know all the other actors did too. We’re always asking questions, and always trying our best to portray it how it actually is.”
“We have the proper equipment they use and the weapons that we’re carrying are the real weapons, so that’s the real weight. The backpacks, sometimes they’re filled with stuff we need in the scene, and other times they’re empty. But even so, the actual backpack himself way quite a bit. So it definitely is a lot heavier than I thought it would be and we’re not even carrying as much as the actual soldiers do so I have a lot of respect about it was hard work.”
Keeping it realistic
Coombe is grateful for the expert help and is proud that the show is being as accurate as possible.
“We had an actual 68 whiskey medic on set as our advisor so if there was ever any scenes whether the actors had to portray what they do on the field then we have the expert day explaining exactly how it’s done, which was cool…They did a really great job at walking that kind of fine line between entertainment and realism. So, we had, in every single department, we had veterans or someone who’s an expert in the field. We basically strived as much as we could to get it across accurately while also being obviously a TV show and trying to tell a story at the same time. Every time something came out, we would have someone that knew what they were talking about, take their advice, and do our best to basically stick by realism as much as we could.”
“I think they’ve done a really good job at making the comedy aspect of the show realistic, in a way, almost in the sense of laughing through the pain. We definitely have a bunch of moments in the script that are quite intense and quite real and you feel these emotions. And then you see the characters, they all react differently and some of them use the comedy aspect to get through the situation and other ones just cry. Everyone reacts differently. There’s a whole bunch of realistic stuff that happens and I think people are going to be really drawn to the show because of that. It’s not like a big joke, it’s just in life we use comedy to get through situation. So yeah, there’s definitely moments when I read the script, I was like, ‘wow, this is crazy.'”
68 Whiskey airs Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. on the Paramount Network.
When Beth “grows up” she wants to see her creations appear on the screen and stage. In her free time, Beth blogs about her love of craft beer and writes screenplays. She received her bachelors in journalism from Youngstown State and received her masters in communication from The University of Akron. She is honored to be a part of the FanFest family.