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TNT's 'Last Ship' wins fans aboard a Navy ship

May. 23, 2014 - 11:26AM   |  
This May 20 photo released by TNT shows actor Adam Baldwin from the new TNT series 'The Last Ship,' center, getting a tour of the bridge deck from Cmdr. Scott Bowman of the USS Oak Hill en route to New York Harbor for Fleet Week celebrations.
This May 20 photo released by TNT shows actor Adam Baldwin from the new TNT series 'The Last Ship,' center, getting a tour of the bridge deck from Cmdr. Scott Bowman of the USS Oak Hill en route to New York Harbor for Fleet Week celebrations. (Edward M. Pio Roda/TNT via The Associated Press)
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ABOARD THE USS OAK HILL — To help kick off his new TNT thriller, "The Last Ship," actor Adam Baldwin took an overnight sea cruise.

On Tuesday afternoon, Baldwin was flown by helicopter to the deck of the USS Oak Hill off New York City, where, with the Navy, TNT was hosting a sneak preview of his series' first episode for the nearly 400-strong crew and several hundred more servicemen and women along for the ride.

The Oak Hill was one of five military vessels that would dock in New York on Wednesday for the start of Fleet Week that celebrates the Navy, Coast Guard and Marines.

But before the Oak Hill's proud arrival in New York harbor, Baldwin kept busy posing for photos with his shipmates, chatting them up and thanking them for their service, and inspecting their brawny LSD (dock landing ship) as it held position some 4 miles out, in waiting mode for Fleet Week to begin.

If Baldwin took no time getting his sea legs, no wonder.

On "The Last Ship," he plays Navy officer Mike Slattery, the second-in-command to Capt. Tom Chandler (Eric Dane) on a Navy destroyer that, by chance, evades a pandemic that kills much of the world's population. The only hope of saving what's left of humanity rests on Slattery and Chandler, the crew of the USS Nathan James, and especially Rachel Scott (played by Rhona Mitra), a crack paleomicrobiologist who, fortunately, is assigned to the ship.

The 10-episode season (which starts June 22) was mostly filmed in Los Angeles, but several days' location shooting put Baldwin and his castmates on a pair of Navy destroyers off San Diego.

Along with his other credits (including "Chuck," ''Firefly" and "The X-Files"), Baldwin was also a star of the dry-land Vietnam War classic "Full Metal Jacket."

This 1987 Stanley Kubrick epic (with Baldwin unforgettable as the pugilistic Marine sergeant Animal Mother) just happened to be playing on the Oak Hill's shipboard video system when Baldwin paid a call on his real-life Navy equivalent, Cmdr. Scott Bowman, the Oak Hill's XO.

As the film streamed silently on the TV in Bowman's stateroom (that's "office" for civilians), both men smiled at the screen appreciatively.

Baldwin recalled how the film had taken nine long months to shoot. And what did he do during all the downtime? "Smoked cigarettes and played cards."

"Just like a real Marine," Bowman joked.

One site for that evening's "Last Ship" screening was the Crew Mess, where Baldwin paid tribute to the gathered by declaring, "Without you all doing what you do, we couldn't be free to do what we do."

An approving matinee-audience kind of buzz accompanied the episode, but, just a few minutes in, the room erupted with a whoop at the sight of a delicious military no-no: a serviceman and woman (played by Travis Van Winkle and Marissa Neitling) display their secret affair with a passionate smooch.

The audience stayed glued through the hour, but never more audibly than in the final moments as Capt. Chandler snaps an emotional salute — bareheaded. In the Navy, you don't salute without a "cover."

As the episode ended, Baldwin greeted his fans' "gotcha" roar with a grin and a knowing shrug.

"We'll fix that later in the season," he said over the applause of these viewers, clearly onboard. "Our show gets even better!"

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