The Today Show
Wednesday, March 13, 1996
Katie Couric: He was a man addicted to sex on Fox's Melrose Place. He moved furniture as well as Elaine on NBC's Seinfeld, but now David James Elliott has taken a leap and joined the Navy in the NBC action drama JAG.
[video clip from Defensive Action, of Harm and the Chief in the helo just before he jumped into Bosnia, ending with the Chief saying, "Good luck, Harm."]
Katie: "Good luck, Harm." David James Elliott is certainly going places these days and so is JAG as it moves over to Wednesday nights at 8:00 starting this week. David, good morning. Nice to see you.
David James Elliott: Nice to be here. Thanks.
Katie: I know that the show has been sort of described as a combination of Top Gun and A Few Good Men. I saw a little hint of Hunt for Red October in there with the letters scrolling across the screen. What attracted you to this show? Why did you want to do it?
DJE: The first thing that attracted me was Don Bellisario was doing it. I was always a fan of Don's work, and when I read the script, it just seemed to have endless story possibilities. ... That and the fact that I needed a job ... [laughs]
Katie: [laughing] That would do it! ... It's quite different than any other role you've taken. And the show itself has a very different feel, obviously, than Melrose Place and Seinfeld. It's heavy duty action drama. Not a lot of fun and games.
DJE: Yeah, and it's a challenge to try and find the humanity within this strict adhering to protocol and everything else ... and find some humour and all that. So there are constant challenges in the script ... it's well written and it's fun and it seems to have all the elements.
Katie: It's exciting to watch. It must be exciting to do as well.
DJE: It often is. Sometimes it's long hours ... and brutal and tiring and everything. But the end product is really rewarding.
Katie: The show focuses on you and your female cohort, played by ...?
DJE: Tracey Needham.
Katie: Thank you very much. Tell me about these two characters. There's a chemistry going on there, ... isn't there, Harm?
DJE: Mm ... and it's a chemistry that hasn't embraced itself and who knows where that will lead. ... It's the first year of the show. ... There are JAG lawyers - JAG is an acronym for Judge Advocate General. It's an investigative arm of the Navy. They are called to investigate situations and then they report their findings to the Judge Advocate General, who will then decide whether to litigate or not. We take some licence. Harm was a pilot - was an F-14 Tomcat pilot - before he became a lawyer. Night vision problem - for those of you who haven't seen the show, a little back story - grounded him permanently. He went on and studied law and became a JAG officer. And will now go to any length to get the truth.
Katie: And the two of you uncover quite a bit of corruption in the U.S. military.
DJE: And yeah, it's not always the U.S. military that we find corruption, ... not that there's a great deal of corruption in the U.S. military. We take some licence to create this drama every week.
Katie: We've got a clip from the show. We're going to take a look at that. This is where your character takes on the brass about going in to save a fellow pilot in Bosnia.
[clip from Defensive Action of Harm confronting Capt. Ross about the overflight into Bosnia.]
Katie: Obviously this isn't far from the incident which happened with the U.S. ...
DJE: We were shooting that at the time ... It sort of happened ... Don has this effect. When we did the pilot ... there was ... then the Bosnian problem at the start. We were recently filming the Cuba episode [Smoked] when they shot down some planes over Cuba. So Don is ...
Katie: [hums Twilight Zone music]
DJE: Yeah, it's a little of the Twilight Zone ...
Katie: And you guys use some authentic video, don't you, that you get, I guess, from the Department of Defense.
DJE: We have DoD footage that we use that the Navy supplies. The Marine Corps lets us ... we've shot on active bases. And so they co-operate to a degree. The Marine Corps more than the Navy. Hopefully the Navy will come on board to a greater extent. We work with the National Guard. Oliver North has been on the show a few times. And I think he may use some influence that he has to help us. I think it behooves everyone...
DJE: I think we help the Navy and ...
Katie: Definitely lends an air of authenticity to the show.
DJE: Yeah ... It makes the show ...
Katie: And I know you're hoping that on Wednesday nights you're going to attract an even bigger audience because Saturday you're holding your own but you'd certainly like a lot more people to see the show.
DJE: Apparently people are home on Wednesdays.
Katie: Well, for somebody who doesn't get out much, even on a Saturday night, I've seen quite a few episodes and I've enjoyed them. So I look forward to Wednesday nights as well.
DJE: Well, thanks very much. Thank you.
Katie: David James Elliott, best of luck to you and nice to meet you.
DJE: Thanks, Katie, you too.