It seems like destiny that Mike Vogel’s recent acting roles are so personal to him. A few months ago, he played the lead in the true story of atheist-turned-Christian Lee Strobel in the feature film “The Case for Christ” – and now he’s starring as Captain Adam Dalton, leader of a special ops team that rescues Americans from dangerous situations around the world, in NBC’s new military drama “The Brave,” which premieres tonight at 10/9C.
During an interview with me on “Christopher Closeup,” Vogel called his role as Dalton “a bucket list item.” He comes from a military family, and was even headed to the Air Force Academy to be a fighter pilot before being detoured by acting.
Vogel added, “Some of my nearest and dearest friends in this life come from units exactly like the one that we’re portraying, so I’ve had the benefit of spending a lot of time with these guys, of training with a lot of these guys. I would never suggest that I am one of them, but I’ve spent enough time around them to see a lot of what makes them tick. I’ve always been fascinated with their ability to compartmentalize, their ability to think quick on their feet and adapt to situations that would otherwise send most of us into the fetal position in a corner.”
As is revealed in the riveting and dynamic pilot episode of “The Brave,” Dalton isn’t just a strong, confident, and effective leader; he is a humble hero. Again, for Vogel as an actor, that stems from a real place because he knew some of his military friends for 10 years before learning about their accolades and awards. Bragging is not a part of their make up, he believes, and the people who do brag likely haven’t done half of what they’re talking about.
Vogel notes, “Any time ego gets involved with anything in life, it’s a recipe for disaster. As men, we certainly have a strong ego. What the training is designed to do…it’s a lesson in humility. It’s a lesson in checking your ego at the door; understanding you don’t know everything, and, in fact, you know nothing. The quicker you get to that point, the quicker you can start rebuilding after being torn down…It’s very much about giving honor and gratitude to those that you’ve served with…and not taking accolades for the things that you’ve done.”
“The Brave” also reflects an openness to the role of God and faith in the lives of the military. As a Christian himself, Vogel appreciates this part of the story because he is well-versed in stories of miracles on the battlefield.
He said, “I have this amazing book called ‘A Table in the Presence.’ It is a…compilation of stories of [American soldiers in Iraq]…and the stories of miraculous circumstances: bullets literally entering a guy’s Kevlar helmet, tracking up and around his skull, and then out the other side without going straight through. An RPG coming straight at the side of a soft-sided Humvee, and at the last two feet, literally making a right-hand turn and going off in another direction. Mikal Vega, our military advisor here on the show – he was one of the commanders on SEAL Team 8 – has story after story of how God just showed up on the battlefield. I find that interesting, where we look at the different facets of God, and who He is, and where He shows up. He shows up most where people are the most desperate for Him, and where they need him the most. We live in a country where we have everything, and [we] ask the question, ‘Do we really need [God] anymore?’ The answer is yes, but we don’t live like it. And then you take the battlefield…It basically strips humanity down to its basest level, where all you have is the miraculous to show up – and He does.”
Vogel feels that God showed up in his own life when he was led to the role of Lee Strobel in “The Case for Christ.” A true story about an atheist journalist who converts to Christianity after investigating historical evidence of Jesus’s death and resurrection, Vogel had read the book as a teen, and it helped him take the faith his parents had taught him and make it his own.
He said, “Here was this book that tangibly illustrated, purely from a factual research standpoint, historically who Jesus was. C.S. Lewis said it best: ‘If Jesus is not who he said he was, it is of no importance, and everything else just gets thrown out the window. But if he was who he says he was, there is nothing more important. It’s everything.'”
Despite that fact, Vogel planned to turn down the movie. “I have struggled with a lot of faith-based films over the years,” he said, “because I feel we’re being more divisive than we are getting the message of God’s love out there.” But Vogel feels God prompted him to take the part in this movie – and he’s glad he did.
He said, “My most intelligent friends in this life are atheists. We can go round and round for hours, and not one of the textbook answers or arguments that we always talk about in a lot of [Christian] circles holds water [to them] because they’re smart. They have points and doubts that are valid as well. But it comes down to, what we get in the movie, Pascal’s Wager where, at a certain point…fact [only] takes you so far. We’re all planting our flag on a certain amount of faith. It takes a certain amount of faith to believe that there is no God because there are plenty of examples to the contrary that there is, and vice versa…Lee Strobel said, ‘I got to the point in my research where it would take more faith for me to maintain my atheism than it would for me to believe in Christianity,’ given the research that he found. That was always a powerful thing for me…I’m proud of the movie that we made. I know it’s doing some good out there.”
Vogel also believes that “The Brave” can do some good in the world, so he hopes people tune in. He concludes, “We want to let the soldiers and these heroes tell their story. Not Hollywood’s version of the story; their story. And within all of us, there is resiliency. There is bravery. There is the ability to rise to an occasion that you otherwise never thought you could handle. That’s what this show highlights: that ability to adapt…It’s setting attainable goals, and a bunch of attainable goals put together into one creates a successful outcome….What we would love to leave people with is that feeling of, ‘You know what, I may be having a bad day, but there’s people out there having a lot worse, and they’re crushing it. They’re doing it with success, with victory, and with courage. I can handle this situation.'”
(To listen to my full interview with Mike Vogel, click on the podcast link):