Season 2 premieres on USA Network
In BTS interview, VanSanten praises creative team for season two's approach to events threatening Swagger family, Julie's emotional state of being
Behind the Screens with Joshua Maloni
President Ronald Reagan once said, "History teaches that wars begin when governments believe the price of aggression is cheap."
Indeed, a steep cost was paid by Bob Lee Swagger (Ryan Phillippe), his wife, Julie (Shantel VanSanten), and their daughter, Mary (Lexy Kolker), in the first season of the USA Network series "Shooter." He was the fall guy for the U.S. government's mishandling of clandestine war activities: framed for attempted murder of the U.S. president and the assassination of the Ukrainian president, arrested, and forced to go on the run to clear his name - all while trying to stave off a bullet and keep his family alive.
Though he was exonerated for the assassination (foiling the plans of Russian spy Grigory Krukov and U.S. turncoats Jack Payne and Lon Scott in the process), Bob Lee once again finds himself in the crosshairs in season two (10 p.m. Tuesdays).
Moreover, Chechen master sniper Solotov, the "Angel of Death," was revealed as the new threat. A past foil for Bob Lee and his troops, Solotov comes forward to hunt these soldiers in the aftermath of season one's events.
Bob Lee's family, meanwhile, is still recovering from the emotional scars of season one. In a recent interview with BTS, VanSanten revealed the Swaggers are still paying the price of aggression. Julie, in particular, is in emotional anguish as war, once again, comes to her door.
VanSanten, a talented actor, intellectual and photographer, also described her past few years, a time in which she starred in several high-profile projects.
"Shooter": The calm before the storm in season one. Pictured, from left: Ryan Phillippe as Bob Lee Swagger, Lexy Kolker as Mary Swagger and Shantel VanSanten as Julie Swagger. (USA Network photo by Dean Buscher)
Q: I'm excited for new episodes. A lot of shows don't see season two nowadays. Are you excited for the premiere?
Shantel VanSanten: I am. You know, it's really funny. This season is something that I feel so excited about. I think it's so much better than the show that we had last year.
And it's very true; a lot of times shows don't see season two. And a lot of times, they kind of die, if they do see a season two. So, it's been something that has lived up to any expectation and far exceeded the ones that I had probably set for season two.
I think I knew we had something really special with coming out with a show that highlighted the military, but in a way that was fun, because of the conspiracy theory aspect, and because we were coming off of the name of a movie, but based on books. There was just a lot for people to sink their teeth into.
It's 10 episodes that takes a hold of you and doesn't really let go. The action is nonstop and, somehow this season, we've far exceeded the action from last season (laughs). And the pace is similar, if not probably even more fast-paced. But I think because we didn't have to follow-up on the movie with this season, and Bob Lee didn't have to be on the run, and it could kind of stand alone as the show that we wanted it to be, I feel more excited for people to see what we've done with this season, because it feels different, but in the best possible way.
"Shooter": Shantel VanSanten as Julie Swagger (USA Network photo by Jeff Daly)
Q: You touched upon so many interesting things. Let me ask you about going from that first season, and it was so action-packed - it was so emotional - but you finish that first season; you go home and live your life; and then you have to come back for season two. Like you said, everything is ramped up and with higher stakes. What are the challenges of leaving it, coming back to it, and then having to take it to the next level?
Shantel VanSanten: I think the challenges were where do we find the characters, first and foremost. What world do they live in now? What are the effects of kind of what happened to them last season, because, yeah, they didn't bring it upon themselves. It's not as though it was a normal protocol for, "OK, Bob Lee's going overseas. He's going to be gone." It was very different. Our family was actually in danger and, you know, it put Julie behind a gun - in a way that I don't think she was prepared for. And we get to kind of see the effects of that this season. And I feel grateful that we're doing some things like that, and we're bravely writing the responsibility of the person who stands behind the gun as much as the responsibility in the act we see of the person in front of a gun. And the effects on the family.
So, our show has always had this wonderful, delicate balance on the humanness, and having the heart and emotion, along with all of the action. The reason I feel people related to the Swagger family or certain characters was because they do find ways to make sure that they humanize and relate to fears that are actually in our world today, you know military and caregivers.
Going into this season, it is a challenge, because what do we know? It feels like we kind of wrapped up last season. ...
We sat at a lunch with John (Hlavin), all four of us (including co-stars Omar Epps and Cynthia Addai-Robinson), like, "OK, what are we doing this season? How do we make this better?" And he explained to us his ideas, and we all decided right then and there that we were all going to show up and make this show better than anybody could ever have expected it to be for a second season.
It slowly - we're dying inside (laughs) - but it's been the challenge of a lifetime for everybody physically, mentally, emotionally, and I think that that will be seen as people watch this season. I watched the guys do their own stunts, and I'm constantly in awe and impressed, and I get to do a little bit of it all, as well. It's been really a lot of fun.
Now I'm begging the question of, "OK, if we get season three, now what do we do?" (laughs). It feels like, you know, how do we keep making a better and better show? And John Hlavin, our creator, really delivered this season on every single character. There's this internal pain and struggle and that manifests itself in such a physical way, and through so many different circumstances that it brings together a show that, once again, doesn't really let go of you, if you sit down to watch it.
"Shooter": Shantel VanSanten as Julie Swagger in the season two premiere. (USA Network photo by Isabella Voskmikova)
Q: You talk about the emotional challenges, and making it an authentic show - and an authentic experience for the viewer. We're talking about your character having to be in a lot of really intense situations, with her husband and daughter in danger; her own life at risk; like you said, having to take up arms. These are heavy things.
For you, what is the prep process? What does it take for you to get into the character and be in those moments?
Shantel VanSanten: Yeah, you know, in season one, the scene where I take the gun from Bob Lee and I'm the one who ... who kills Eddie McClintock's character, I remember feeling scared, you know, to be honest. I felt scared of how everybody was going to perceive it, because I didn't know. I'm a human being. I don't know - I didn't understand the justification, because I don't have a daughter. And all I could do was talk to everybody who did have kids, and say, "Is this something you would do?" And, "Could you actually fathom this?" Because I would never want our audience to look at my character and think - I feel a responsibility, I think, in our day and age, the minute you hold a gun, and the minute you take a life. Even if it's onscreen. It's there, and it's in people's heads.
And, you know, I'm even more happy that this season Julie struggles, a lot, with post-traumatic stress disorder, because of her actions. Because that is the true reality of it. It would never not affect somebody. It affects Mary, it affects her, and that is a constant theme for her this season, while their world is crumbling in on them again - and amidst everything - a new threat for their family - is that it all feels eerily similar. And I think that she wants to avoid everything that's she's feeling, and yet, somehow, still take responsibility for it all.
I'm so fortunate to get to play a character who I can really sink my teeth into. I walked into the writers' room this season, and I said, "Write me $hit that scares me. I want to be terrified when I read this, and not know how to do it, and dig into the depths of myself, and fight for Julie to find her way." And that's what they did. They definitely delivered.
In between the challenges of all the physicality, Julie is really struggling mentally. And, again, I feel grateful that we are responsible enough of a show to follow through, I guess, with a character, and the mental place that we find them in, even a year later.
"Shooter": Shantel VanSanten as Julie Swagger, and Ryan Phillippe as Bob Lee Swagger (USA Network photo by Jeff Daly)
Q: I want to ask you about you. We've talked about your character. I'm wondering about what the past few years have been like for you? If we go through the list: You were recurring on "The Flash," which is a huge series; I was in Toronto at Fan Expo Canada and saw you in the "Timeless" pilot; I loved your work in "Love Blossoms," in which you starred; now you're doing "Shooter." I know you've been a successful working actor for many years, but you're now working on bigger projects; you're getting starring roles; and you're really becoming a household name. How do you view all of that?
Shantel VanSanten: I didn't until you started saying it, and then I got chills.
I feel really grateful. You know? I think that - that's all I've ever wanted was to just work. To find jobs that help me evolve as a human being and as an actor. And sometimes they're light and fluffy and fun, and all of my family in Minnesota and the Midwest can watch my Hallmark movie, whereas some of them can't watch "Shooter."
It's just kind of about finding a balance. And I remember I had a really wonderful agent, whose name was Sheila, and a long time ago she told me - because, you know, you move to this town and set expectations for yourself based on people that you admire - and she said to me, "Your career has to be evolutionary, not revolutionary, because that's the same way that life is." You don't recover as well from revolutionary moments. You don't have very many of them. Instead, it's just a slow and constant evolution, where you go from job to job, and you meet people, and you discover a character, and you love them, and you play them, and you breathe life, and then they go away, and you find a new one. That's, I think, the struggle of being an actor, is finding any sort of consistency in a world where it doesn't exist for us and our jobs. And to have found any at all makes me extremely grateful.
I loved playing Patty on "The Flash." It was so much fun. And I miss it; and I would love to go back. But "Shooter" called me. I've been very fortunate to play on this.
"Love Blossoms" brought me over to Belgium, where I got to explore and travel and shoot a movie that was really lighthearted and a fun, romantic comedy - and one I needed after last season (laughs). Now I'm feeling I need another comedy after this season!
... I feel very fortunate that I've been able to work. That's all that really matters to me, is I get to keep doing what I love every single day. I said it today to somebody. I said, "You know, I can't really complain about working, because I love what I do. And I can't believe that I get to do this as a job."