USA Network’s Shooter, based on the Stephen Hunter novel Point of Impact and the 2007 Mark Wahlberg film Shooter, returned for its second season on July 18, 2017. The premiere picks up a year later from the season – after being framed for failed assassination attempt on the President of the United States, Bob Lee Swagger (Ryan Phillippe) and his family has moved to Texas to live the quiet life. Series star Shantel VanSanten, who plays Bob Lee’s wife Julie, spoke with TV Source Magazine about Julia’s struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder this season, her own battles with PTSD, the impact of Shooter on fans and becoming involved with veterans’ organizations.
TV Source: With so much high-stakes action in Season 1, what can we expect with Season 2?
We did a really good job in showing everyone what kind of show we wanted to be with Season 1. We balanced all of the action; it was a very fast paced conspiracy theory show, but we still had characters, you still knew, and followed them because you fell in love with them.
Whether you liked the bad guy Jack Paine (played by Eddie McClintock), Bob Lee (played by Ryan Phillippe) or Julie, we all had something that we were fighting for. At the center of it all is family. That part will never change, as human beings that are the one thing we fight for the most, is love or family. That’s always the center of our show and it doesn’t change going into Season 2. It’s still what Julie is fighting for, it’s what Bob Lee is fighting for, and it’s what we find Isaac fighting for. But this season is different because we don’t have to follow the same formula, the show being from the movie, reminding people of it. We got to be our own show this season; we got a new bad guy.
It’s a year later, we have all the characters you fell in love with but they are all in different places mentally and with the Swagger family physically, because they are now living in Texas. This season is actually faster paced; we found a way to add in more action. The center through storyline is someone from Bob Lee’s past is coming back to hunts us. It really gets everyone involved, even the town that we live in, in between it all my character Julie is suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, from her actions in last season, and being responsible for them, which is something I was extremely happy that John Hlavin, our creator took the responsibility to do because ultimately you step behind a gun and take a life and that has effects for the person behind the gun as well as the person in front of the gun. I think that responsibility in our day and age is important to highlight.
TV Source: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is something that effects so many people on different levels, did you have to do any research to learn how not to just portray the symptoms but the real psychological effects on a relationship or family?
Along with the responsibility of Julie going through it, they don’t shy away from the struggle it causes our daughter Mary, it’s something that Julie has to juggle. For me personally, and I have shared this story now so I feel free to talk about it. I’ve actually been in therapy for the last 8 years for PTSD. It’s something that I actually get treated for, and John didn’t know this going into this season, and when he wrote it, it felt like art intimating life, life imitating art.
It was my time after having really dived into the last years of therapy and I felt healthy enough to kind of use it to face my own demons for Julie’s storyline. I did speak to many military guys, but at the end of the day that mindset is very different than actual human beings. Trauma comes in many forms, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is something that we associate a lot obliviously with men and women who are in the military, who fight overseas, and sees things that we don’t have to see in day to day life. But trauma comes in many forms for humans. It could be the divorce of a parent when you are 5; it could be something very traumatic as well. I don’t personally want to share the things that I’ve been through but I suffered tremendously from it. So it felt like kind of the perfect evolution of my healing by being able to allow myself to use it in Julie.
It’s been a challenge. I’m not going to lie; this season has been kind of tough to dig through. Because I am in a much healthier place now, I take two steps back and remember what it felt like and use it. If you can do that to connect with an audience, that’s why I do what I do. That’s why I have an emotional toolbox full of trauma, to use and there’s a part of me that finds healing in doing so. And I can only hope that anyone who has experienced anything similar can watch and feel healed, or understood or not alone.
TV Source: Unfortunately, in our society we tend to overlook the families of veterans. They don’t often get the awareness they deserve, have members of the military, wives, or family members reached out to you about the show?
Yes, I actually ran into this gentleman – his name is Matthew and he was in North Carolina when I was there – he came up and started talking to me about the show. He’s now the Commander of the FBI Hostage Rescue Team, the Tactical Helicopter Unit, and he’s on call all the time. He has an extremely dangerous and stressful job. He’s been in Special Forces before, he wrote me this beautiful email, and he broke down every episode in Season 1. There was something so special about it, I shared it with Ryan, and I shared it with John because it was about the humanness of our show. It was about how he looked at his wife during one of the episodes and thought how incredibly strong she was because they had been there and they survived. Just his vulnerability in sharing with me, how much their life parcel with the Swagger life, it felt really fulfilling.
We are making a show about real humans, whereas sometimes we can lose ourselves when we watch Bloodline and this crazy family who has all murdered each other. We can’t really relate to it, and look I’m all for those kind of shows, there my favorite. But it feels like such an honor to play a real human. I’m sure heroes in their own right, the caregivers, the military, the people we kind of overlook and we don’t always see their struggles and how incredibly difficult it must be, so I feel a responsibly. But it’s also feels like a real true honor when I get these emails or when I meet people who really connect to the heart of what our show has, the authentically of the characters.
TV Source: You recently posted on social media that you will be partnering with Hidden Heroes and The Elizabeth Dole Foundation, could you tell us how you got involved and how other can as well?
I actually have been doing a lot with vets. I don’t normally promote a lot of the charity work that I do because I do it for me, and I do it to just give back. I actually have my grandfather and two uncles who have served, some of them have struggled heavily mentally and I have seen the effects it has caused my own dad. One of his brothers who have been through shock therapy has really struggled. For me it’s about the families, the caregivers and what they have gone through to find that support. So, this season I wanted to honor the character I play, and the world that we created, again the realness of it, it actually exists in our world today. I feel very fortunate, that they reached out to me and asked me to be a part of Hidden Heroes and it feels like a wonderful platform with the show.
More so, the more people that I talk to that really feels as they can really relate to Julie, a lot of women actually. I didn’t know if our show was going to be one that brought in women viewers. It’s action and guns and military. Blackhawk Down is one of my favorite movies but for a lot of women it’s not. But because we have an element of heart and soul, and these real characters you can relate to, I found out that we have a wonderful demographic of women and caregivers who tune in. I look at my grandmother and she was a caregiver. I’m really excited to help reach out in that sense, and bring awareness so that they can feel supported.
There’s a lot of wonderful work for the people who have been in the military but it’s nice to know you can give support to those who support them. It’s a hard thing with charity because it’s not about self, it’s not about serving myself or raising myself up, it’s always about giving back. It’s a struggle because when you have a platform or voice you want to do so but you don’t ever want it to be perceived as self-serving, you want it to be something about other people, because that’s what charity is. My girlfriend has a charity she runs in New Orleans, it’s called The Irving Morris Foundation, and every year we build houses for vets, for those who are injured, or handicapped, those who have served and even families who have lost their love ones. And we have built houses all around the New Orleans area for the last 3 years, and every December we hold a banquet and we honor veterans and we have built 37 homes in the last 3 years.
It’s something I’ve been involved with and before that we were building homes for those who suffered from Hurricane Katrina and now we build homes for veterans. This was before the show so everything happening now just feels like a full circle moment.