‘The Last Ship’: New Faces and New Dangers Await the Crew in Season 3
The sun is going down on the Culver City, California, set of TNT’s The Last Ship, and the new captain of the U.S.S. Nathan James has left his post for the day, trading in his starboard-side chair on the boat’s bridge for the seat of a bicycle. Cruising around the studio backlot still wearing his Navy blues, Adam Baldwin grins from ear to ear when he’s asked about his character Mike Slattery’s big promotion. “I get the new chevrons and I get the scrambled eggs on the bill of the cap,” he says, referring to the fresh patches sewn on his collar and the gold leaf–shaped pattern on the brim of his hat.
While he’s enjoying his fresh set of responsibilities, Baldwin admits there is a downside to being the guy in charge. “Spouting a bunch of technical jargon can be tongue twisting at times,” he says, “but you just keep grinding on through.”
Now in their third year, the entire cast and crew of The Last Ship are feeling the grind as they prepare their most ambitious season yet—filled with fresh faces, new exotic locales and a host of major threats. At Season 2’s close, the crew of the Nathan James had played an instrumental role in rebuilding America by safely transporting President Michener (Mark Moses) to the nation’s new capital in St. Louis and spreading Dr. Rachel Scott’s (Rhona Mitra) cure to the remaining American survivors, after a debilitating virus infected 90 percent of the world’s population.
To reward his steadfast leadership, the ship’s captain, Tom Chandler (Eric Dane), was bumped up to chief of naval operations, a position that also oversees the entire United States military. That led to the promotion of former executive officer Slattery, who is captaining the Nathan James around the Pacific delivering the cure to Asian nations. But when news breaks that the Chinese leader, President Peng (Fernando Chien), has been hoarding the cure for himself, President Michener sends Chandler to investigate.
“Season 3 is about what America’s role is going to be in the world,” executive producer Hank Steinberg says. “America always asks how much should we get involved in foreign affairs—isolationism versus interventionism, saving the world or keeping things orderly at home? It is a completely different feel and palate for the show.”
In China, Chandler reunites with old friend Sasha Cooper (Bridget Regan), a Navy intelligence officer who is now a liaison between the U.S. and Chinese governments. The two share a romantic history from their time at the Naval Academy. “It was a torrid love affair and there’s a lot of sexual tension there,” Dane says. “Sasha can confront Chandler in a way that nobody else can, so it throws him off his game. It’s very Moonlighting.”
Regan is a new addition to the cast, and the former Agent Carter villain prepared for her role by meeting with an actual naval intelligence officer aboard the U.S.S. Makin Island in San Diego and learning five languages: Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, Tagalog and Vietnamese. “I am absolutely not fluent in all of them,” she says with a laugh. “Doing a scene in a foreign language that you don’t speak challenges you in a cool way because you’re not just listening to the words; you’re watching mannerisms and what their faces are doing a bit more than if it were just English dialogue. It was a really fun exercise.”
Even though Chandler is no longer responsible for day-to-day duties on the ship, he cannot stay away from the Nathan James for very long, especially after Slattery and members of his crew are captured by pirates in Vietnam. Lieutenants Danny Green (Travis Van Winkle) and Carlton Burk (Jocko Sims) prepare a counterattack, but Chandler soon discovers his original mission in China may be related to the pirate takeover of his former ship. “Some characters are really put through their paces of tragedy, violence and heroism,” Baldwin says. “There is a lot of darkness in this season that I think the show needs.”
As the action in the South Pacific intensifies, rumors begin to swirl that the deadly virus has mutated, now rendering Scott’s cure essentially useless and leading to an increasing death toll in Japan. Since Dr. Scott was fatally shot in the Season 2 finale, President Michener and the rest of the team at home are scrambling to prevent yet another catastrophic outbreak.
While this season promises danger on screen, the actors assume their own risks when filming such a demanding series—some more serious than others. “Last year, I broke a finger and sliced my hand open on a gun. In Season 1, I took a knife between the eyes and there’s still a spot on my face,” Dane says, proudly showing off his battle scars. “On a show like this, a lot can go wrong very quickly. But this year, it was a hangnail. I had a hangnail. It’s not all heroic!”
The Last Ship, Sundays, 9/8c, TNT.