'Army Wives' star dishes on military life, Charleston, politics

Charleston, SC - CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Most people know him as Lt. Col. Frank Sherwood, the hard-nosed officer on Lifetime's hit drama "Army Wives," and Terry Serpico says the character he plays is an extension of him and his life growing up on an Army base.

The son of a 26-year Army veteran, Serpico says Frank Sherwood is very much an homage to his father, a retured Army Colonel.

In fact, his father's name is Frank.

"I have a very strong kinship to Frank Sherwood, to the Colonel, being that my father was a 26-year veteran and a hard-ass Army officer," Serpico said. "I am playing a character very similar to my father if not just channeling my dad."

"Army Wives" is in its fourth season and Serpico is grateful for the show's continued success, particularly with military families. Although the early episodes provided a few stumbling blocks that forced the cast and crew to step up their attention to military detail.

"In the first season, the berets weren't right and the military families let us know," he said, adding that some of the criticisms likened the improperly-worn berets to pizza boxes.

Serpico sees adhering to the finer details like protocols and uniforms as part of the show's responsibility to the military and their families. He says the show's popularity is evidence the cast and crew are getting something right.

But the show, for Serpico and many of the cast and crew that make up the "Army Wives family, has a deeper, more noble intent than an hour's entertainment.

He says people sometimes lose perspective on being involved in a prolonged military engagement like the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and forget about the thousands of soldiers that return home "hurt, broken down, and maimed."

"I think it's important everyone realize the depth of their sacrifice, both the soldiers' and their families," Serpico said.

That's the show's goal, he said.

In fact, paying tribute to those families has Serpico in downtown Charleston on a Friday morning. Cast members joined real military wives at the Gibbes Museum for a tour as part of the Blue Star Museums program.

The program, which is a partnership between the nonprofit Blue Star Families and the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as the over 850 participating museums nationwide, offers free admission to museums for all active duty military personnel and their families from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

"To be able to give these families access, I think, is a fantastic program. To be able to come into these institutions and for the time they are there get some respite from the stresses of their daily lives," Serpico said.

He calls the lives of military families "inherently dramatic" and the opportunity to step slightly outside that life, even mometarily, is an important part of staying emotionally and mentally healthy for every family.

While the program's goal is lofty, it also gave Serpico a chance to spend some time off the set with one of the many things he cherishes about the city -- the people.

And he loves where the film production crew decided to call home.

"I can't think of a better place than Charleston, quite honestly," Serpico said. "It has so much to offer in terms of film production, locations, people, compared to New York, for instance."

But Serpico has some political advice for the state Legislature -- protect the tax incentives for the film industry.

"It's been a constant struggle for us to maintain these tax incentives, to keep them in place through the state Legislature. I can't tell you how important that is," Serpico said.

Recently, the entire cast of "Army Wives" visited the Statehouse in Columbia to urge them to uphold incentives for film crews working in the state.

He thinks legislators see the tax incentives as a loss in tax revenue and says that could not be any more inaccurate. Serpico said "Army Wives" has injected more than $120 million into the Charleston economy in the last four years, but that's just the money the production company is spending.

"What I think gets lost in the legislature's thinking is the money being spent in the micro-economy, to the ancillary businesses, the grocery stores, gas stations, rentals and home purchases," he said.

Serpico has been a cast member on "Army Wives" since the show's beginning. He's also a regular on FX's drama "Rescue Me" and has acted along side George Clooney in "Michael Clayton" and "The Men Who Stare At Goats."

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