Former Navy SEAL To Play SEAL In Hanks Film

A former Navy SEAL who grew up in Wheeling has used his military training plus recent theatrical training to score a supporting role in an upcoming film that is projected to be a fall blockbuster.

David Meadows, a 2000 graduate of Wheeling Park High School, appears in Columbia Pictures’ action-thriller, “Captain Phillips,” starring two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks. In a case of art imitating life, Meadows plays a Navy SEAL in the film which is based on a true story.

During a visit to his hometown Thursday, Meadows talked about the new film and about the interesting turn that his life has taken over the past decade.

A trailer for “Captain Phillips” has been released and can be viewed online. “It’s going to be one of the fall blockbusters,” the former Wheeling resident predicted. The movie is set for worldwide release Friday, Oct. 11.

In the film, Meadows plays a supporting character identified only as “SEAL Tech 1.” While the film is based on a real Navy SEAL mission, his character is “more of a composite” of people who participated in the actual raid, he said.

The action-thriller tells the story of Capt. Richard Phillips who was taken hostage by Somali pirates who hijacked the U.S.-flagged MV Maersk Alabama in 2009. Reportedly, Phillips’ boat was the first American cargo ship to be hijacked in 200 years.

“The movie follows a lot of his (Phillips’) life,” Meadows said, adding that the last half of the film re-enacts the rescue of the sea captain and his crew. The film’s screenplay is based upon Phillips’ book, “A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs and Dangerous Days at Sea.”

The film is directed by Paul Greengrass, who has directed the films in the “Bourne” series, Meadows said. Greengrass was nominated for an Academy Award in directing for “United 93” in 2007.

After being cast in the film last June, Meadows participated in three weeks of shooting on location in Virginia Beach, Va.

Explaining how he got the role, Meadows said, “Tom (Hanks) and Paul (Greengrass) are really big fans of the military. They like to have as many military people as possible.”

After Navy officials denied the producers’ request to use active-duty Navy SEALs in “Captain Phillips,” the casting team turned to actors’ agents to see if they had any clients with previous experience as SEALs. Meadows’ agent related that he was both a classically-trained actor and a former Navy SEAL.

The casting team responded, “Dude, send him over,” Meadows quipped.

Because of his prior military service, Meadows was already acquainted with the story of the SEALs’ rescue of the hijacked sea captain and his crew. “I had a lot of friends who were on the real mission,” Meadows said. “I knew quite a few people.”

As for Meadows’ story, after graduating from Park, he enlisted in the Navy “immediately thereafter” with the intent to become a SEAL. After completing SEAL training twice, he was assigned to SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team 2, stationed in Virginia Beach, until 2009. He completed multiple combat tours during his time in the Navy.

“Then I got out and started working privately and went to school for drama,” he said.

He attended an acting school, the Studio of New York, and applied to the Juilliard School in New York. He finished in the top 20 of the Juilliard auditions, and is wait-listed for the fall term at the prestigious school. “Juilliard has 16 positions. I made it to the final cut out of 10,000 (applicants). They only take 16,” he explained.

Meadows doubts that he will be picked up for the fall term because, as he points out, no one turns down an invitation to Juilliard. He can audition for Juilliard again in January. However, he noted, “You only get two shots. They only let people audition twice.”

In the meantime, Meadows said he has appeared in “quite a lot of TV shows” and has acted in theatrical productions. He toured in “Death of a Salesman” with the Virginia Stage Company, which he described as an “off-off-Broadway” theatrical company.

Meadows has been cast in another touring production with the Virginia Stage Company. A tour of “The Great Gatsby” will open Tuesday, Aug. 27, and close Sunday, Oct. 6. He then plans to fly to Los Angeles for the “red carpet” premiere of “Captain Phillips.”

Ohio County Magistrate Joe Roxby, who has been involved in the Wheeling observance of Fort Henry Days, pointed out that Meadows’ face is also familiar to local audiences. Meadows played Jonathan Zane in the Betty Zane video that Shooters Productions filmed at Fort Henry Days a few years ago.

Meadows’ hometown fans include his parents, Shelly and Ted Rouse of Wheeling, and two sisters.

While many aspiring actors start at a young age, this actor began his dramatic pursuit only after reaching adulthood. “I didn’t start acting until I got out of the SEALs,” he remarked.

Meadows was drawn to drama “because I think the arts have something to offer the world,” he commented. “I think one of the greatest values of the performing arts is that they have the ability to connect with people when they least expect it.”

Citing the power that dramatic or musical performances have to affect audience members’ moods, Meadows said, “I think there is something very magical, very unexpected, that only the performing arts have, and I wanted to be a part of it.”

Linda Comins can be reached via email at: lcomins@theintelligencer. net