Magazine article Variety

Variety Honors Valor on and off Battlefield

Magazine article Variety

Variety Honors Valor on and off Battlefield

Article excerpt


"The Brave"

Ex-Navy SEAL Mikal Vega has turned his military life into an entertainment career, working as a technical consultant on NBC's hit drama "The Brave." Co-starring Salute to Service honorees Anne Heche, who plays Deputy Director Patricia Campbell, and Hadi Tabbal (Amir Al-Raisani), the series centers on the dangerous exploits of America's elite undercover military operators, with the special ops narratives consistently rubbing up against current headlines.

Vega, who will present Heche and Tabbal, with their award at the Jan. 11 event, says, "when Dean Georgaris pitched it, I became interested because he wanted to do something that was realistic. Creative license is taken with certain aspects, but the plotlines are real-world relevant, and there's a level of honesty in the show's depiction of the men and women who serve our country."

Heche and Tabbal, along with other "Brave" cast members, have become active in the Horses for Heroes organization, which is based out of New Mexico. They are also involved with USO events and activities, including an appearance at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, and at the New Mexico State Fair.

"Anne is a special actress," says Vega. "She's got a great heart and she's completely dedicated. She's been able to craft an amazing career with very distinctive roles, and she's been great to work with."

Some of the actors on "The Brave" required more patience with their combat training than others, but it's the effort that Vega looks for. "The most improved from where he started to where he finished was definitely Hadi, who plays an intelligence officer. He looked like a librarian at the beginning, and now he's completely believable. And it's because he cares as an actor that it all came together."

Keeping that level of realism is what drives Vega as a technical consultant. "It's more than just telling people how to hold their weapons. I've worked longer on 'The Brave' than any other project I've landed, and they involve me with script development and shot blocking and various other aspects. They want to get it right, and it's my job to make sure it looks great on camera."

- Nick Clement


Stand Up for Heroes

No sooner did Variety's Salute to Service honoree Caroline Hirsch abandon the world of retail for the world of cabaret, en route to developing the premier brand in New York stand-up comedy, than she began to use her good fortune to pay it forward.

"When you're brought up in a kind of lower-income home the time when you really have some money to give back, you should give back," Hirsch says.

She's organized benefits for everything from the Ms. Foundation to medical charities, demonstrating a heart as big as the mouths of the A-level talent showcased at Carolines on Broadway and in TV specials.

That heart was particularly engaged by a documentary on ABC News reporter Bob Woodruff, whose traumatic brain injury in Iraq occurred during what's called - interestingly enough - a standup.

The film brought back memories of growing up during the Vietnam War, when soldiers were drafted and pressed into service "because of economics, because they couldn't afford to go to college," and of the weekly casualty lists on TV: "21 years old, 19 years old, and it just brought tears to my eyes. I said, 'I want to do something for all those people who have served us so that we have a safe country.'"

She and partner Andrew Fox approached Woodruff's wife, Lee, in March 2007 "and we had a benefit in November," hosted by Conan O'Brien and featuring Robin Williams. Now Stand Up for Heroes has become an annual fall classic, attached to Hirsch's N.Y. Comedy Festival and attracting top comics and musical artists as well as veterans themselves. It's a much-coveted night of big laughs, big tears and big money. (Williams autographed one vet's artificial eyeball in 2012. A day with Bruce Springsteen was auctioned for $300,000 in 2014. …

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