[EXCLUSIVE] Jocko Sims Talks The Last Ship, Apollo Night LA & Gets Personal
For 13 episodes we watched the stoic and sexy (I promised you guys some eye candy right lol) Lt. Burk and the crew of the Nathan James try to save the world from a deadly pandemic and some equally deadly bad guys on TNT’s hit series The Last Ship. Last Sunday night the season 2 finale went all the way down leaving fans of the show to wait for more action until next summer. Now that the dust has settled the man behind Lt. Burk, Jocko Sims, had a little time to chat with me; not just about his roles on some of the most popular televisions series’ of the last few years, but about who he is a man.
Disclaimer: If you plan to watch The Last Ship and/or Showtime’s Masters of Sex, there are LOTS of spoilers in this interview. So read at your own risk 🙂
Jocko made it very clear that right now he’s a man enjoying a break from one of the most popular but physical roles of his career. With actual representatives from the U.S Navy on set constantly to make sure they got it right, the responsibility to do just that remained in the forefront for Jocko and the rest of the cast of The Last Ship.
The Navy is on set every single day. Some members of the Navy that represent the U.S Navy are there for that purpose and we welcome them and are so thankful to have them because we want to make sure that the things that we’re doing are correct and with respect to the United States Navy. So everything from how you would set up a formation going into a building with an enemy threat on down to how you strap your boots, we make sure we do our best to get it right. They are awesome, they’re very excited and very eager to help and we definitely would not be able to do this show the way we do it without their help. So it’s a great relationship we have with the Navy.
Lt. Burk is the perfect example of what a sailor and Lieutenant is supposed to be but that isn’t always easy. Jocko shared with me the thought process and preparation that he puts into his portrayal of Lt. Burk, who even at the cost of some on ship action, remains focused on the mission…saving the world.
Jocko: On the stoic aspect of Lt. Burk, I tend to enjoy those characters alot. I enjoy reacting to things that are happening in a scene and living honestly in those moments and taking that in. It’s a lot more internal and it’s not the easiest thing to express how you feel inside with your face. For me it’s taken a lot of practice over the years. I used mug a lot. I used to twist my mouth in a weird way and do my eyebrows weird. I still do that occasionally but it’s something interesting about that and it’s fun. I was on a series a few years ago called Crash and I played opposite Dennis Hopper and a lot of times they would give him these elaborate monologues where he’s just talking and talking and they made him seem a little bit like a space cadet on purpose and my character came from the hood and I’m in the hills with this rich producer and I don’t know what he’s talking about half the time. So I really got a lot of practice on that show being stoic and also confused and bewildered. I’m kind of used to it and I enjoy it.
Keyauna: This season Lt. Burk got a love interest and I think there’s this mysterious undertone with him and I think that added some flavor to the character and that also gave you the ability to spread your wings as far as emotions. You went through the start of the relationship when Ravit Bivas (Inbar Lavi) joined the crew and then the playful banter and flirting between you two but before a serious romance is able to bloom she’s killed in action. That’s a range of emotions that I’m sure can be difficult to bring about as well.
Jocko: When they brought on Inbar Lavi to play Burk’s love interest I was very pleased because she is a very good actress and she did a very good job on it. I was really excited that they brought Burk to life during the second season with a love interest. As soon as I read the script I emailed one of the head writers, Steven Kane, and said thank you very much for this. This is gonna be fun, and we had a good time. It was planned for her death the entire time and that was interesting to play these roles knowing that was around the corner.
With the death scene I had to figure out how I really wanted to approach it given the fact that they never really got a chance to be intimate the way that they would have liked to because they’re on the ship and Burk is by the rules so he wasn’t gonna have sex on the ship.
Keyauna: Yeah and a lot of people were like ‘Burk really?’ lol (when Lt. Burk turned down Ravit’s sexual advances)
Jocko: Trust me it was difficult but as far as I’m concerned for Burk, I think if she had made one more little tiny move it would’ve went down lol. But the world as we know it was at stake and he didn’t want to lose focus. Trying to find that balance of knowing that they hadn’t been intimate although he was very smitten with her, and I wouldn’t say fell in love because I don’t think he had the chance to really fall completely in love but he was more fascinated with her and he saw her as a challenge. She did become a friend if nothing else.
The relationship with Ravit Bivas wasn’t the only connection Lt. Burk made. Bromances with Miller (Kevin Michael Martin) and Wolf (Bren Foster) developed as well, both on and off camera.
Jocko: I gotta tell you, we really are bros off camera. Kevin and I hit it off the first day we worked together. He’s an idiot in a good way. Dude is so silly and I’ve kind of taken on a little bit of a big brother role to him because he’s a little newer in the business. He’s very talented and very, very funny and I’m hoping that in coming episodes in season 3 they’ll write in more of his comedy. You got to see two good comedic moments in the finale but he’s just very funny. That appealed to me. For him, I advised him a lot in the business and how to be on the show and he really admires that but we’re idiots. Then when Bren came along I mean he just fit right in the mold there. It was just perfect. We have a group chat that we text. We stay in touch. Bren went back to Australia with his family so he’s getting texts all hours of the night and it’s the most ridiculous stuff you can imagine. If that text chat ever got out…it’s some of the funniest stuff known to man lol. I’m telling you its crazy.
Keyauna: You say it’s Kevin but when I looked at some of the behind the scenes stuff you seem funny too lol.
Jocko: I love acting silly. He gives me license to act like an idiot. Although I do like to have fun, I do like to do pranks and like to have people smiling in some way. But with Kevin around I take it even further. I’m kinda known as the guy on set who’s always pulling out the cellphone at any moment and I’m gonna capture everything. Most of the cast embraces it and they’re really excited and will dance or do something silly. Then towards the end of the season I usually put up a fan video. I did one last year that people loved. I’m almost done editing the one for season 2.
Jocko was embraced by just about everyone on The Last Ship. So much so that he went from a guest star during season 1 to a full on cast member in season 2. I asked him how he managed that. He gives all the credit to GOD.
Jocko: When God says something is for you, there’s nothing nobody can do. That’s my preaching moment for a second lol. You’re right, I was a guest star for the 1st season. Even while we were working on the deal…it was gonna be 3-5 episodes, then it was a promise of 7 episodes, and once I got there it was every single episode even if it was just for a moment on screen. They made sure to keep me there. Then when I was almost done filming the 1st season the creator of the show and the producers, they came to me and said you really pop on screen. We love you and we can’t do this show without Burk. We gotta have you stay around. My heart was filled with joy. It was awesome. It’s been great since then.
Keyauna: When people want you around, that’s dope.
Jocko: I love it. It’s like a second family. It’s a blessing. Like I said, we have so much fun. I can’t wait to get back to set next month. We’re like 5 to 5 1/2 months on and 6 to 7 months off but we all keep in touch. The cast is amazing from Eric Dane (Lt. Tom Chandler) on down. Eric is a good friend of mine as well now. It’s so funny because I actually did a guest star, I think in 2009, on Grey’s Anatomy and I saw Eric Dane on set. I just never imagined that I’d be working side by side with him on a different show years down the line. It’s just amazing where life takes you.
Jocko is clearly enjoying riding the wave of The Last Ship, but when I asked about his favorite role so far, he admitted that the role of Robert, the black civil rights activist who had an affair with the white, married Libby Masters on Showtime’s Masters of Sex was it. Although his departure from the show was a confusing one, the role remains near and dear to his heart.
The interesting thing is I first auditioned for Masters of Sex for season 1 for a smaller role I think Flex Alexander ended up playing, who’s awesome. He’s a great great guy in the industry. But I didn’t get that part and I was a little bummed out because it’s a high profile show. It’s a nice quality. tI’s set back in the 50’s based on a true story…something I wanted to dig into. But I didn’t know they were still watching me and liked me. What I tell people about that experience is when a door is closed don’t beat yourself up. Sometimes it’s about timing, sometimes it’s this and that but sometimes you’re just literally not right for that part. They loved me for what I did and brought me on for season 2 for a much larger part. I’m just thankful that I didn’t get that first one, so I learned a lesson there. I got the role of Robert and I’m telling you from the audition it just felt so good, it felt so right. In the description it said he was charismatic with a little bit of a southern charm, a little bit of a threatening undertone and very passionate about his movement and I’m like this is great. The audition went very well. I left and knew, just had a feeling it was gonna go our way. That was one of the greatest roles I had a chance to play. Speaking of Libby, Caitlyn Fitzgerald (the actress who played Libby), she did hit me while the show was airing and she asked me if I was getting all this feedback on Twitter and all these tweets. I said yes it’s awesome. She says ‘I’ve never experienced this before’ and she’s a regular on the show and she had been on for a full season. So for her, the story line was just awesome and a great outlet for her. She really enjoyed it too. We talked to the writers and even talked about what we might do for season 3 and were gonna go into the 70’s and Robert would have an afro and all this. I was really excited. Then one day I got a call saying they were jumping ahead 6 years and Libby would have moved on by now and we’re not bringing Robert back. Honestly, I laughed when I was on the phone with my manager. Just because I was so surprised. Not laughed in any malicious way but it literally was funny to me. How we ended up at the end of that season was we were in bed together and she said ‘this is what I want. This is what I just wanna feel’ and that’s the last time you see Robert with initially no explanation of where he went lol. I’m a little bummed out that they couldn’t give the character just a little bit more of something.
As a viewer, I wanted “a little bit more of something” also. I only started watching Masters of Sex after some friends told me about the Robert and Libby story line. I waited in anticipation for season 3 to see where they would end up. After learning about Robert’s weird departure, I never watched another episode. Jocko was gracious enough to listen to me complain about it for a while and even shared the disappointment that his mom felt when she learned he wouldn’t return to the popular role. Then to make matters worse, after 8 or 9 episodes, it was revealed that Robert dies in a car accident off screen. The very least that Robert deserved was to play out his demise on screen. Ok, end of my rant.
Jocko is looking to break new ground now. He and a few buddies are developing a comedy series, All Guys Are Assholes, about a group of guys trying to make it in the music business. Producing the series seems to be opening the door to the actor adding more comedy to his resume which is currently filled with dramatic roles.
When we’re writing that and making music and when we’re just hanging out that’s the most fun that I have in my life. I love doing dramatic roles, but now coming up on 12 years in the business, I haven’t done much of any comedy. So hopefully in the next couple of years during my off time from The Last Ship you’ll get to see some more comedy.
The music was initially meant for the sole purpose of accompanying the series but now the fictional group, Some Assholes, has become quite real and is taking the music a bit more serious. Jocko says he’s actually becoming quite the MC. Who knew?
It started as all fun and it still is fun. When we made the music we initially didn’t take it seriously at all but we had so much of it and one of the guys is a legitimate real rapper. He’s done for years professionally and he’s so good that the music came out good. So we were like we gotta put this out but we wanna do it in a way that people will enjoy it and understand that we’re having fun. Some aspects of it are true but it’s just guys being guys and we’re having fun with it. We developed the show and the idea was to have the show out and coincide with the music, but we made more and more music that we had to start putting it out. I kind of lost sight of the actual series for a while until I did a panel in New York at the Black American Film Festival. I was on the panel for the “Men of TNT” and the moderator brought up the music and said ‘oh I saw your music’ and that was the first time I heard someone talk about it that was out of the context of what it was made for. It made me tense up a little bit. I realized I gotta be careful with it. I gotta be mindful of the fact that if someone comes across this it may be taken out of context. But we’ve gotten really serious about the music and we’re in the studio every week. In fact, we have another session tonight. So I’m finding that it’s less about the “assholes” and more about just spazzing out as an MC and I’m owning up to the fact that I’m becoming more of an MC. I ran from that all the time but it feels good. We’re good at it. So we’ve got some new stuff coming out. Hopefully you’ll like it. It sounds a lot better than even the stuff that’s out now.
Music seems to be an outlet for Jocko in more ways than one. He also hosts an internet show with him mom that spotlights unsigned and indie artists. Apollo Night LA started out as his mother’s idea but he quickly hopped on board.
Apollo Night LA started with my mom. She had this idea initially for my group, my guys from the comedy series, All Guys Are Assholes and the group Some Assholes. She wanted us to do a radio show. She got the idea when she went to this local station and she sat in on a show and she said to herself ‘Jocko can do this’. So she suggested I do it and I said no mom, I don’t want to do a radio show, an internet radio show. I want to focus on acting. I gotta find my next job. This was actually a few months before The Last Ship came about. I did find a couple of gigs. I started working in Castle. But my mom said fine, I’ll do the show myself because I think there’s an opportunity here. I was like okay fine go ahead and do it. She had worked in finance for 15 years. She worked for a company out here in Los Angeles but she always had the creative bug in her. She was getting tired of that business and she wanted to jump back in it. So she used that opportunity and called up her friend Comedian Luenelle, started a Twitter account and got all these unsigned artists to follow her and got them to vote to get her the show and radio station said okay fine. The first day I went and watched to support mom and she and Luenelle had a good time. It was funny and from then on I was hooked and decided to join. I joined the next week and we’re 108 shows in now. We do it once a week and it’s grown to be quite the thing. So mom knew what she was doing all along lol.
The guys come on. We critique the music. We have celebrity guests. Keke Palmer has come on. We’ve had Kim Whitley, and we bring on musicians. We drink and we have fun but we also like to leave the artist, even if we don’t like the song, with some sort of constructive criticism and some way that they can grow. We always reiterate that their success is going to come from their hustle. You can be talented all you want but if you’re not on social media so people can know what’s out there people are not gonna come and find you. We’ve had a couple people get signed and we’ve had 100% positive artist feedback. Even the artists that don’t make it per se, they call in and thank us for the opportunity. It’s just a great thing.
His passion for music isn’t the only thing that may surprise you. Jocko would like you to know that he did ALL his own stunts for season 2 of The Last Ship.
Jocko: Last season I did all my own stunts and I’m proud to say that lol
Keyauna: Really?! Wait a minute, but how much did you bleed though? That’s the question lol.
Jocko: Worse than the bleeding was during the kitchen fight I fell on purpose. It was part of the choreography. I had to pretend to get kicked and I fall into this medal thing. You don’t feel it in the moment because your heart is pounding and you’re exhausted but later on that night when your arm is swollen and hardened and it’s like that for like two weeks, you’re like do I need to go to the doctor? lol And in that same scene, by the way, our star of the show, the captain Eric Dane, broke his fifth metacarpal also known as the pinky. But it was fun.
Chatting with Jocko was fun as well, but I couldn’t let him go without asking him a few personal choice questions. If you don’t come away feeling like you know him a bit better, you definitely missed something.
Keyauna: Okay, here we go. The first one is hopeless romantic or playa playa.
Jocko: Oh my goodness. (pause)
Keyauna: Yep, I started just like that lol
Jocko: Let me think because…uh that’s so complicated. I’m gonna say right now, this week, playa playa. Me being a Pisces, I’m in love with love but it’s rare that you find, for me and what I do, it’s rare that you find that person that does that for you. But every now and then when I do, that’s it. That’s all I can think about. But if it doesn’t work out I kinda keep it pushing and this week I’m playa playa lol
Keyauna: I can dig that lol. Okay, the second one is sweatpants or suit? Which one are you more comfortable in if you could wear it everyday?
Jocko: Damn, these are tough. I love both of those. I actually did an interview where I said choosing sweatpants or suit is like choosing your favorite child lol. On a day to day I’m really really into sweats. I’m gonna go with sweats.
Keyauna: You like to get dressed up sometimes though right?
Jocko: I like to get clean and go out and have people go ‘where did you get that?’ I love that. I love those reactions.
Keyauna: Okay, the third one is do you like to drive or be driven? I ask this because actors, celebrities, hollywood types, they may have five or six cars but never drive because of the nature of the lifestyle. A lot people say they like to drive but don’t get to. Do you like to drive or do you like to be driven?
Jocko: I don’t drive anymore in general. Don’t take that literally, I have to drive a lot. But whenever I don’t need to, I don’t like to for a couple of reasons. It has nothing to so with Hollywood celebrity stuff but more so to do with the convenience of companies like Uber. If I’m gonna go out and party a little bit, have some drinks, I don’t have to worry about hurting myself or getting a DUI and Uber is so much cheaper than taxis these days. It’s just great. And then depending on how far I have to go, I literally can pay less money being driven both ways than I would pay for the valet to park my car.
Keyauna: I never thought about it that way. I guess you’re right. Valet can cost.
Jocko: Valet our here can cost you, and I know in New York it’s gotta be more sometimes, but here it can run you $20 and I’ve spent $12 round trip being driven. It’s just awesome. There’s been times when I’ve forgotten where I parked my car. In my building I have multiple places where I can park my car so I didn’t drive for like eight days.
Keyauna: Okay here’s the next one, open book or totally private?
Jocko: I’m private. Yeah, I just am. I don’t if it’s fear or if I feel like people will judge, but I wish I could be a little more out there with my lifestyle. Nothing weird but sometimes I feel like I’m a pimp lol, like a player with some of the cool stuff I get to do. If I could snap chat that I would have two million followers minimum.
Keyauna: Is it like ‘last night was dope, sunglasses and advil but it’s not what I should put on Twitter?’
Jocko: Yeah, sometimes I feel like Dan Bilzerian lol but for what I do I feel it’s just not appropriate. And I know some people do put their crazy stuff our there and I’m like wait a minute. Now I can’t take you seriously as an actor. If I was a comedian I’d be way out there. That’s what I’m saying.
Keyauna: You don’t want to alienate your fans and everybody that loves you so much as this serious actor and doing his thing. They might become turned off if they see that on Twitter or Instagram.
Keyauna: I guess the next one kind of ties into it. In your life as far your decisions, do you consider yourself apprehensive or fearless?
Jocko: Ah man, how did you come up with these questions?!
Keyauna: I did good right? lol Here’s the thing, I said I wanted to be the best interviewer on the face of this earth. Better than Oprah and that means I have to be creative. So I came up with these questions. yaye for me! lol
Jocko: I have to take a moment to tell you that these are amazing questions and that you are well on your way to doing just that because they’re so good and you’re so good. The whole interview and I appreciate you. That’s a little sidenote.
Keyauna: Aww, thank you!
Jocko: You’re very welcome. The reason I say they’re good is because each thing you’ve asked I feel like the answer is both. So to choose one, let’s see. I’m sorry, I’m gonna have to cheat a little bit and say that I am both. I’ve been both. I feel like I’m apprehensive but anybody who knows me and sees my hustle, they would slap me and say are you crazy? Because hearing people talk sometimes about what I do or what I’ve done having moved out here, graduating from UCLA, getting my BA and booking my first audition and just hustling, that takes a lot of courage. Getting a lot of nos and to keep going. So I think I can kind of be out there with it but I feel apprehensive at times because I still have fears. I still have things that I don’t wanna…when it comes to my projects for example. It takes me a long time to put them out because I’m afraid of that rejection or I’m afraid of being that revealing, showing my art. I see other people who are not fearful with that, they’re fearless. They do art and they put it out. I’m trying to, as I’m getting deeper in this business and getting older, get more of that and I think I’m on my way to finding that place of peace putting out art and being cool with that.
Keyauna: Okay, one last question and I think it’s an easy one. What’s one thing people would never guess about you?
Jocko: That’s not easy either lol. It depends on how you know me. If you have only watched me on The Last Ship and Masters of Sex and you’re not really paying attention to my social media, you would be surprised to know I’m a funny dude.
Keyauna: They’d be surprised to see that you’re a fool lol
Jocko: I really am lol. I play pranks. I pull my phone out all the time and I do all kinds of crazy stuff. I may scare the crap out of you one day if you’re my friend. And it’s psychological stuff. I’ll set it up over a period of two days. Then I’m actor so…I catch people in that vulnerable moment and they’re freaked out in that moment. Stuff like that, twisted, hilarious, I love it.
Keyauna: But you did say it depends on how the person knows you. So if it’s somebody that does know you, what would they be surprised by?
Jocko: Nothing. With my friends, I’m an open book. If you know me then you know it all. Once you know me, you know me.
Keyauna: Well the readers of Chattertainment know you and I’m happy about that.
Jocko: Thank you for the opportunity.