Jesse McCartney may have gotten his start in music, but the now 25-year-old has thrived on television -- from his award-winning performance on All My Children to roles in Summerland and Greek, McCartney has proven he's got chops to make it on the small screen.
But a new role is testing every fiber of McCartney's being in order to believably bring to life Army Wives' newest recruit, Private Tim Truman. ETonline caught up with the actor to find out how he prepared -- both physically and mentally -- to play a soldier and what fans can expect from this revamped season.
ETonline: How did you prepare, mentally, to play a soldier?
Jesse McCartney: With any character, the main objective is to bring authenticity to the role. But this is a little more sensitive because our troops are still over there so when you're talking about war, people are going to be a little more hyper-critical. Luckily we have a lot of resources to turn to [on set] which is really helpful and keeps us from looking like clowns [laughs[. I've also watched so many documentaries about life in the military at this point. Particularly, Restrepo, which is just fascinating. It was extremely ambitious for those filmmakers to go over there, and it's a good template for what you can expect from my storyline this season on Army Wives.
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ETonline: What about physical preparation?
McCartney: I'm in the gym pretty much every day. We also go through a bootcamp for 2 weeks when we first get [to set]; it's like Army 101. We learn how to put together our weapons, properly carry our weapons, the right way to put your hat on, the way to blouse your boots; all these little details are important [because] we don't want people to watch the show and say, "Dude, your beret was on backwards." From a physical standpoint, it's rough -- I'm running four miles a day, I'm up by 4:30 every morning. I'm also a big foodie, so I've been very strict about my diet during shooting. It all helps me bring as much authenticity to the role as I can.
ETonline: What appealed to you about playing Tim?
McCartney: I've always wanted to play a soldier and I'd never taken on a character where I'm the happy-go-lucky protagonist. I've played a lot of jerks recently, and this was a chance to, kind of, be the comic relief. He's uncomfortably sweet all the time, which annoys the people in his platoon. As the season progresses, you start to see how Tim becomes a man -- very quickly.
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ETonline: Given the two worlds Army Wives presents, does it ever feel like it's two different shows?
McCartney: Yes, and, I know that might bother some people, but in this case, I think it works. As much as I love Elle McLemore, who plays my wife -- she's just adorable; the sweetest girl I've ever met -- I kind of like not working with her every week because that's what it's like for Tim; he's halfway across the world, so it's nice to keep that going while we're on set too. It's funny because we've got these big battles going on, and then one scene later, we're baking pies with one of the wives. It does feel like two shows sometimes, but I think that’s great because it offers so much to so many people.
ETonline: Looking ahead, what are you excited for people to see this season on Army Wives?
McCartney: I'm really excited for people to see the camaraderie that happens between the guys. It's built throughout the season and there's this feeling of brotherhood. We want the audience to care about us, to empathize with us, so later this season, when stuff goes down, they are going to feel how the characters would feel.
Army Wives airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on Lifetime.