How did the celebrity castmates do with these challenges? Were they in over their heads?
I didn't think anybody was in over their heads. They were interviewed and talked to, and people made sure they could handle the challenges physically. It's a tough challenge, so you can't just take the average Hollywood star and throw them into something like this and expect them to cope with it. We had Olympic athletes like Picabo Street, you had someone like Todd Palin who was an experienced outdoorsman, you had a man like Dean Cain who is a three-sport letterman at Princeton and also an NBA tryout, a former NFL star like Terry Crews. You had some people who were phenomenal athletes, as well as people who had shown they were proven achievers in life. So I thought they all were very well picked and they all did an incredible job.
What role do the veteran "operatives" play?
They come in, and they're paired with a celebrity for the entire duration of the series, so they don't change teammates. Their job is to pass on their knowledge and skills to the celebrity and then together they have to negotiate the tasks—so they have to depend on each other. There's some incredible bonding and coaching that took place. I think, in a microcosm, it mirrored the kind of communications that would I would like to see emerging as a consequence of the show between those in uniform and those out of uniform. When it started, these people, most of them had never met a celebrity. And the celebrities, most of them had never met a special ops guy, and when it was over, I think there was a lot of mutual respect and friendship and even, some people said, some life-long bonding going on.
Stars Earn Stripes premieres on NBC Monday at 8 p.m.