Chris Pratt Look-Alike Derek Theler Dishes On Working With Ron Howard + Brian Grazer On ’68 Whiskey’

 Derek Theler Photo Credit: Derek Theler /Instagram

You may recognize Derek Theler from his work on the Starz series “American Gods” or Hulu’s “Dollhouse” and now, you’ll see the handsome actor/model in “68 Whiskey,” a new Paramount Network scripted comedic drama from Brian Grazer and Ron Howards Imagine Entertainment & CBS Television Studios. The series, which premiered last week, is a dark comedy following a multicultural mix of men and women deployed as Army medics to a forward operating base in Afghanistan nicknamed “The Orphanage.” Together, they endure a dangerous and Kafkaesque world that leads to self-destructive appetites, outrageous behavior, intense camaraderie and occasionally, a profound sense of purpose. Its stars include Theler, Sam Keeley, Jeremy Tardy, Gage Golightly, Cristina Rodlo, Beth Riesgraf, Lamont Thompson and Nicholas Coombe. We chatted with Theler about how he got in shape for the role, his own military experience, working with the dream team of Howard and Grazer, and just how often he gets compared to “Guardians of the Galaxy” star Chris Pratt. 

Derek ThelerPhoto Credit: Paramount Network

What initially drew you to this role?

When I first read the script, I was initially drawn to the role of Sasquatch because he’s the biggest and most badass guy on base. As an actor, I always want to be expanding and playing different types of characters and this is the first opportunity I’ve had to play the antagonist so that was exciting for me. I felt connected to this script because my Dad worked on an Air Force base so I really grew up in that environment. Some of my closest friends and family served so it’s an honor to be portraying their story on screen, it’s always been a dream of mine. I should mention, I’m a big guy, my sister has called me Sasquatch since we were kids, so this role seemed like the perfect fit.

What was it like to work with Ron Howard and Brian Grazer? Did either give you advice that you’ll remember for the rest of your life, or that you can apply to your career? What was it if so?

When you hear that Brian Grazer and Ron Howard are attached to executive produce the show you know it’s going to be big. One of the main goals for this show is to make it as cinematic as possible so the sets and shots are just incredible. They’re both legendary producers to work for and I’m very fortunate to have this opportunity.

Derek Theler Photo Credit: Paramount Network 

This role seems pretty physically demanding. Did you do any special training to prepare?

This role was physically demanding for me because Sasquatch is known for been a great fighter. I’ve always been a very health-conscious person. I work out regularly and try to stay in great shape which is so important when doing hours and hours of stunt choreography and filming long days in the sun like we are. We have a fantastic Stunt Coordinator, Kathy Jarvis and incredible stunt performers who we worked with closely to learn our fight scenes so on the day we are ready to go!

I was lucky to have trained with weapon specialist, Taran Tactical, the specialist who trained Keanu Reeves for “John Wick,” getting to work with him was incredible. One thing that I love about this job is getting opportunities to learn unique skills with pros in their field.

To mentally prepare for this role I also watched as many documentaries about the war and mercenaries that I could so I could better understand the perspective of the people who serve and the reasons they do so, what it’s actually like in battle, what would make someone go into mercenary work etc. I also spoke with my friends who have served or are currently serving.

What was your workout routine before as opposed to your preparation for the role?

My goal was to get as big and hairy as I could to take on Sasquatch. So I started eating more and doing more full body powerlifts like squats and deadlifts.

Derek ThelerPhoto Credit: Kathy Hutchins/Shutterstock.com

You’re playing a guy named Sasquatch. How did he come to get his name?

The name, Sasquatch came from his appearance. He is be big, intimidating and gruff. I’ve never really had a beard before so when I got the role I just hoped that I could grow one bushy enough. Who knew it would be red?

Did you know any of your fellow cast members before? How close are you now?

I knew one of my cast members before the show, Jeremey Tardy who plays, Davis. He and I shot the Marvel pilot, “New Warriors” together a couple of years ago, He was Night Trasher, and I was Mr. Immortal, we’ve remained very close friends ever since. I’m very lucky to get to work with him again on this project, he’s a great actor and a great guy. The rest of the cast bonded pretty quickly, everyone has their heart in this project and we love being on set together.

Did you have any military experience or knowledge to draw upon for this role? How did you prepare if not?

I grew up spending a lot of time on Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado where my father was stationed. Almost every day I would go to base, work out and play basketball with the soldiers. This gave me a pretty good idea of the day-to-day grind on base. Three of my best friends are career military members. I contacted them while doing research for Sasquatch. One is an F-16 pilot in the Air Force, another is an army ranger, and the third is a former navy gunner. I’m actually the best man in his wedding this coming March.

Derek ThelerPhoto Credit: Kathy Hutchins/Shutterstock.com

How many times a day do people tell you you look like Chris Pratt, and what is your reaction/response every time?

Too many to count. I have a lot of respect for Chris, he’s done some amazing films and someday I’d love to get a chance to work with him. I always feel a little bad when I have to tell a fan that I’m not Chris Pratt; seeing the disappointment in their eyes is pretty sad. I remember one time I was walking my dog and a truck drove past and honked at me and spun around and came back. I was thrilled that I had a fan who was that excited to meet me. When he approached he said, “I love Jurassic Park.” I didn’t have the heart to tell him I wasn’t Chris on that occasion. That guy probably told all of his friends and family that he met Chris Pratt that day.

What is something weird and wonderful about you that might surprise people?

Weird and wonderful? The first thing I can think of is that I am a Type One diabetic. I was diagnosed at three years old and it’s driven me to be the person I am today. Building awareness and talking openly about diabetes is something I feel really passionate about. I volunteer with the JDRF and work with Dexcom to raise awareness about T1D and the new technology that is out there that can change people’s lives. The T1D community is very close to my heart and it’s something I speak about openly in life and on my social media platforms.

What to you is the greatest luxury in life and why?

Probably travel as it enables me to continue to grow and expand my horizons and knowledge of other cultures. I really love to travel whenever I have the time and opportunity.

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