Derek Theler is relishing playing the bad guy for the first time. He spoke EXCLUSIVELY with HL about playing a character actually named Sasquatch, his training for the role, and more.
68 Whiskey premieres Jan. 15 on Paramount Network. The all-new comedy-drama series follows a multicultural band of Army medics stationed in Afghanistan on a base nicknamed “The Orphanage.” Derek Theler stars as Sasquatch — yes, that’s his name — who is the bad guy we’re going to all love to hate. Sasquatch is going to be facing off with Roback and even hitting the boxing ring for some gnarly fights.
HollywoodLife sat down EXCLUSIVELY with Derek at the Television Critics Association winter press tour about playing Sasquatch and taking on the role of the antagonist for the first time. Derek loves that he’s able to do “something totally different” from his longtime role on Baby Daddy. He was even able to tease Sasquatch’s arc over the course of the season. Derek also discussed training for the role and talking with soldiers about their experiences.
What stood out about the role of Sasquatch? Besides the name, of course.
Derek Theler: As soon as I read the script, I loved this role. The guy’s name is Sasquatch. That’s what my sister used to call me when I was growing up, so it was like an instant connection. I’ve never had the opportunity to play the antagonist in a show. You don’t know his morals or you often question whether he’s a good guy or bad guy. He’s got really good intentions, but he’s also working for a really shady company. All those things sounded like the perfect next step for me in my career to do something totally different and really get into it. I’ve been having a great time so far.
What’s it been like for you as an actor to balance the drama and the comedy elements of the show?
Derek Theler: Laughing is the best medicine, and for these soldiers who are out there, the stakes are so high and the only way for them to stay sane and not stress out too much is to find humor in it. That’s what the show does. There are these moments where life is on the line and there’s somebody who’s critically injured. It’s a war show. Not everyone makes it, but you have those really heartfelt series and solemn moments mixed in with the humor. I think that’s what makes the show so special because they find a lot of jokes in their surroundings and the situations they’re in. But the next scene might be they have to go rescue someone, so it’s a very unique approach. I feel like it’s a nice test as an actor.
Sasquatch is introduced as the antagonist, like you said. What else can you tease about his arc?
Derek Theler: Sasquatch is introduced in the first episode as Durkin’s boyfriend and they have an established relationship. His arc is an interesting one to watch because Durkin is also sleeping with Roback, which becomes a problem and comes out in the open eventually in the first season. I think Sasquatch knowing that kind of drives some of his future choices and what ends up happening is you start to see some of his dark side.
What was the training like for the show? Did you have to go through military training?
Derek Theler: There’s a lot of training that comes with being a soldier so all of us who are play soldiers in the show and went to the gun range to work with weapons. I have always been familiar with guns because I grew up on a military base. So playing a soldier has always been in my heart. We trained with weapons, we trained with weights. The fight choreography took a lot of work. We work with the stunt team for that because my character is like this MMA fighter and I don’t have that much experience with that. That was something that I had to get thrown into and take a couple more boxing classes and try to look the part because Sasquatch is such an expert. That was exciting for me because these are all things that I never got to do on a sitcom.
We have to talk about the boxing scene. How did that scene come about?
Derek Theler: First of all, we want to entertain an audience but the next most important thing is that it’s authentic and realistic. One thing that we’re very proud of is that we have a military advisor in every department on the show. So when it comes to the writers to the wardrobe to vehicles to our gear, we have somebody who’s an expert and who’s been to Afghanistan in the military. Apparently, this in-ring MMA fighting thing is a little bit of a stretch but it’s still pretty fun.
Did you talk to soldiers at all about their experience?
Derek Theler: The advisors that we have are veterans and ex-soldiers. I have a couple of close friends of mine who I grew up with on a military base. My three best friends in high school all became career military members. I have a friend who became an F-16 pilot in the Air Force and is stationed in Belgium right now. I’ve got a close friend who’s going to Duke University to get his master’s degree but he’s an Army Ranger. He’s getting his master’s degree in political science and go back out there. He spent two tours in Afghanistan. So I was on the phone with him for hours and hours at a time talking about what it’s like talking to Afghan villagers and what life is like. How should I train as far as working out? So I’ve had a lot of opportunities to do some research and get in touch with my old friends that way.
Will we ever learn Sasquatch’s real name?
Derek Theler: I know it but it’s never mentioned. Nobody knows it. It’s in this script. I don’t know if I should tell you what it is. I don’t think it’s super secretive. I don’t think any of the cast knows my name. My actual name is Roger McCauley. Don’t tell them, they’ll probably make fun of Roger because Sasquatch is how I’m known. But that’s his real name.
Did you have to grow the beard for the role?
Derek Theler: Yes. The funny fact about that is when I read the script I was clean-shaven at the time. From the moment I read the script, I haven’t cut a hair on my body. That was an interesting thing, growing my beard out and seeing how long I could get it and never having a beard in my life before. There were a few people who were a little bit nervous in the beginning about if I could get the beard to where it needed to be for a name like Sasquatch.