John Krasinksi fans will have a hard time recognizing the actor in Michael Bay’s 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, out Friday. The 36-year-old Massachusetts native sheds his endearingly familiar aw-shucks persona seen on TV’s The Office to play Jack Silva, a muscle-bound, gun-toting ex-Navy Seal — one of six security officers attempting to rescue Americans under siege by terrorists at the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012. We spoke to Krasinski from the Four Seasons Miami Hotel.
How did you approach playing a real person?
I never had done that before so I felt a certain responsibility. I mean, if I screw up, I screw up someone’s life! There is a man who is living with his beautiful wife and kids who’s going to see this and maybe say, ‘That’s not how it happened.’ There was no messing around. And when I met the other actual men involved — had dinner with them, a drink with them — you felt you wanted to document it right. You ask about their kids and what they’re leaving behind, what they’re sacrificing when they get the call. I just had my daughter [with wife, actress Emily Blunt] before I went off to shoot. What we have to understand is that when men and women are deployed, they may or may not come back — it’s not some rote thing you see on the ticker. They’re doing it for you, and we need to treat them as such.
What did you think of the final product?
I first saw 13 Hours at a test screening in Phoenix. And even though I lived through it, at the end, I was still blown away. Afterward, they took me out to a private room before the fans came out, and it was good that they did because I needed to kind of wind down. I really connected with these guys, and one of the things we as actors feel so honored by is that we are helping them finally get the attention they deserve and pat them on the back. They are the real superheroes.
How was working with Michael Bay?
I’m so grateful Michael gave me a shot. He didn’t want to make a movie version; he wanted to tell the story. Of course as an action filmmaker he is going to make a commercial version. And thank goodness he did because more people are going to come out and see this and get to know what happened. Benghazi has been so blown out of proportion and politicized that it’s almost baffling. If you want the truth, ask the guys who were there.
We are used to seeing you in comedies. How did you approach tackling a drama?
With The Office, I got so lucky. The cast and crew were so great. But if you’re in this business, you say to yourself, ‘Let’s push it as far as it can go.’ I should say I was not initially offered this role, and I was told my chances were pretty low. But the great thing is that we still live in a day and age when someone who you wouldn’t think would get the part, can. Someone who’s not Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise. There are new storytellers. Steve Carell is a perfect example. He is hands down the funniest in The Office family. But in real life he’s very shy and unassuming. If you see him in Foxcatcher, he can turn it on. Who knew? He can do anything he puts his mind to.
How do you like visiting Miami?
Miami is becoming a big stop for the entertainment [community] so that’s great. It’s a fun town. We shot Away We Go here, but just for about a week. It’s always nice when you get to spend a little extra time in a city and get to experience places like a local. I never really look at travel guides. The best recommendations come from people you know. I’ll definitely be back.