Stark Sands on Fratty Behavior on the ‘Generation Kill’ Set

Sands, on duty. Photo: Photo courtesy of HBO Films

If you haven’t been staying home Sunday nights to watch HBO’s Iraq-war mini-series Generation Kill, you should be. Based on the award-winning book by Evan Wright, an embedded reporter for Rolling Stone, the series follows the Marines of the First Recon Battalion through the first 40 days of the Iraq invasion. And since the creators of The Wire, Ed Burns and David Simon, are behind it, there are graphic war images and hilariously offensive curse words galore. Leading Bravo Platoon 2 through hostile towns in this past weekend's episode is 29-year-old Stark Sands, the Nolita resident who played Lieutenant Jimmy Raleigh in Journey’s End on Broadway. We talked to Sands about his six months in the African desert and how the set became a glorified frat house.

Have you met your character, Lieutenant Nate Fick, in person?
Just recently. It’s weird, but not only do we physically resemble each other, but a lot of our mannerisms are the same — to the point that we were sitting around a table with the real Tony Espera and the real Ray Person, the real Evan Stafford, these guys that were in his platoon for real, and these guys were watching us with their jaws dropped. People were taking pictures of us from across the table just so they could show us how similar we acted.

He’s one of the few commanding officers who seemed to have the respect of his men.
It’s funny. Over the months in Africa [where we were shooting], you sort of take on the characteristics and qualities and ideals of the character you’re playing, even off set. When we’d take weekend trips to Cape Town and some shit went down and people were about to get in a fight, either with each other or with someone else, I found myself stepping in and fixing it.

What kind of shit went down?

You’ve got to understand, this is 30 guys living together in the desert for seven months. It’s like being in a fraternity. Shit went down.

Where did you sleep?

In the first location, Namibia, we had a little apartment complex city where everyone had their own condo. It was on the beach and we would throw parties in each other’s places whenever we had days off. The second location was Upington, South Africa, and we all lived in the same hotel. That was probably my favorite place, for that reason. It was like living in a huge fraternity house with 40 rooms.

Were you guys just wasted all the time?
[Laughs] No, I want to make it clear, we were not wasted all the time. But when you work in the desert and you work through the week and you get to your day off, and you only have one day off, you want to go home and spend your per diem. You want to get rowdy.

Were there any women in the crew?
Yes. Yes. You know, you’ve got a group of guys of this size and, you know, a handful of cute, young women working in the production office — it was like sort of blood in the water. We were all very flirtatious with them.

A lot of unnecessary visits over to the production office?
Yeah. A few of us ended up in whatever you want to call it … showmance.

Did you?
I did. I dated one of the girls in the production office for the duration of the shoot, and I’ve got to say, it was nice. It was nice being in a whole different world and not just having the kind of, like, oorah, tough-guy antics going on on set.

What sorts of antics?
We did a lot of stuff with stink bombs and smoke bombs. During lunch it was really easy to sneak into somebody’s trailer, because no one locked their doors, and drop a smoke bomb in their sink and let it off and close all the windows and doors. —Jada Yuan

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