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HBO’s Generation Kill introduces us to a group of young marines with the weight of the world on their shoulders. What they do on any given day can impact the entire planet. So it is incredibly moving to watch them as they struggle to stay alive, and stay sane, during the initial US invasion of Iraq. Each soldier plays his part, and each soldier has his role whether as leader, like Godfather, or HUM V driver, or sharpshooter. The role of hero Sgt. Rudy Reyes, who makes his acting debut in Generation Kill is less clear cut, as he is at once a fierce combatant and an old soul, capable of enduring taunts and bullets with equal aplomb.


The camera loves Reyes, as you all will see on Sunday, July 13, at 9 p.m. et, and the girls here at Dish wanted to know more about him. We got lucky (thank you HBO), so here is an intimate glimpse of a man one might call a cut above.


Dish: What did you think when Evan [Wright, author of the original book Generation Kill] turned up as a reporter for Rolling Stone in your company?


Rudy: Well, I thought it was brave. I thought it was challenging, for him, not for us. I knew that he would not be in our way. Once the lead is flying and artillery and flock of war is on the battlefield, one lone civilian is not really going to matter one way or the other which way the battle is going to turn out. I felt he felt that he was inconsequential as a warrior but he was ultimately powerful as a warrior with a pen, as a reporter, as someone who collects. I thought, ‘Wow, man.’ And the bravery he had with no weapon, to come out there with us, I just loved that. He was not an athlete, he was not tough like us, he was not, you know what I mean? I would imagine what it’d feel like if I go into the battlefield without my weapon and without my boots, I’d go in there barefoot without my weapons and no water. That vulnerability is what I imagined he must be facing and he’s still going to go through with it.


Dish: You are seen quite a bit without your clothes. Believe me when I tell you none of us minded one bit, but what was that about?


Rudy: You know, the guys always thought I was, because I’ve always been sensitive and into Buddhism and into organic food, things of this nature, and a lot of my Recon brothers are from the South and are from the hard places, and they don’t have that sensibility. And also for some reason, I don’t know, they just always thought I was good-looking. On ship we lived in very close quarters, like 22 guys living in a one bedroom. Not a one bedroom apartment, just a one bedroom, four high along the walls and then racks in the center, and it’s hot as all get out, I mean, 110°, 120° in there. So all we do is wear our PT gear, so we hardly have anything on but our shorts and our boots. And they’re all, ‘Oh Rudy, your skin is so soft, and we’re not going to see women for two more months, are you sure you don’t want to just get in my rack?’ My guys always messing with me, just shit like that. What did Ray say, Person say? ‘You’re not gay if you think Rudy’s hot, everybody thinks he’s hot.’ So, I was always kind of like their female mascot, even though I’m a guy.


Dish: And did that disturb you?


Rudy: No, that’s just how we play. Also, because I can really fight really well, and I’m really accomplished in that way as an athlete. When it comes to fighting, real fighting, we know who’s who at the zoo. And that’s how they show their love to me.


Dish: When I interviewed the others, they called you ‘Fruity Rudy.’


Rudy: Oh yeah? I know Evan loved it. Evan loved it. Thank you. I do, too. Because I don’t want to scare people or intimidate people ‘cause of the way I look or my physicality. Sometimes folks got the wrong impression about being an athlete. Really I’m a warrior who uses his sword of compassion and understanding, not aggression.


Dish: I think that you studied Kung Fu and martial arts and you’ve learned that controlling the power is a lot of the power…..


Rudy: (laughs) That doesn’t frighten me that much. You know nudity and vulnerability in that way, no big deal. What’s frightening is the fear of shame, of letting someone down, of letting a mission down, or not being a champion, that fear of shame is the ultimate motivator, and that’s the only thing I fear. I don’t fear heights or sharks or cold water or guns or nothing like that, or nudity. No, just the fear of letting someone down, my teammates down that is the hardest.


Combat is the most friction-filled and chaotic environment in the entire world, and why we are the way we are, is because that enables us to exert control, you have to exert control in that environment. When you keep doing the work, you keep coming back, and when you keep coming back, they give you more missions with more guys and you have more responsibility and you must continue sharpening the sword, your samurai sword. You wipe the blood off of it, you sharpen it again. You use it, you wipe it, you clean it and you sharpen it again. That’s the way of a Recon marine.


Dish: I got the impression from the film that you push yourself harder than most others. Would you say that’s true?


Rudy: Absolutely, absolutely. Remember when I’m running with all my gear? Do you know that was all real? Real gear. My gear, and that’s real steel rebar and rocks in my gear, and my pack was laden as well, because I didn’t want any of my Recon brothers out there, I didn’t want anyone to ever, ever be able to question my capabilities. I don’t care if it’s entertainment or not, to me, it’s not entertainment. There’s no such thing as faking anything, everything’s real. Everything you give 100 %. Like, for instance, in rehearsals, in acting, doing the film, in the rehearsals, I give 100 %, I don’t save anything, I go all the way every time. Maybe it’s because I’m a little bit institutionalized, the way we do it in Recon is if you do it the right way, all the way every time, then when it counts the most, it’ll be there for you. But instead, if you think you will rise to the occasion, you are wrong, and under combat stress, you fall back to your last level of competent training, you never rise to the occasion. That’s why I do everything all the way every time.


Dish: Well, what’d you think when you found out that Generation Kill was going to become an HBO miniseries?


Rudy: My first concern was, ‘Will it be authentic? Will it be authentic and real enough to do pride and honor to all those Recon marines who came before me and who are my teachers, instructors and mentors?’ Like, exalt these men. These men were Jedi’s, and they taught me the way of the warrior, so I just wanted to know if it was going to be authentic in paying respects to them.


Dish: So what convinced you it would be OK?


Rudy: Well, I was so fortunate that I got to meet Ed Burns (co-screenwriter and Executive Producer) and Andrea Calderwood (Producer) and Susanna White (Director, Episodes 1-3 & 7). I coordinated an excursion onto Camp Pendleton to the unit at Camp Margarita in Oceanside, California, so that they could meet and see Recon training, Not in war movies, not in these one off, two off media situations where you’re really not smelling the gun powder and you’re not seeing the suffering, and you’re also not seeing the joy and love and the passion that these young men are putting on the line so that they can be something special. I coordinated an interview with Colonel Ferrando, the unit’s leader. Then they got to meet and talk with the Godfather himself.


Dish: So, how did you decide that you would be part of it? Because obviously you really didn’t know what they were going to do; was it that you trusted them?


Rudy: I didn’t trust them yet, but I found out that Ed Burns was a veteran, and I knew about his work on ‘The Wire,’ and because he’s a veteran, because he’s a police officer, because he’s a teacher, and he had been in Vietnam, I just knew that he wouldn’t sell me out. And Andrea and Susanna are both women and mothers and remember, Recon marines are all somebody’s son. I didn’t think that they would sell me out either. I just had a feeling they would be respectful. None of them seem Hollywood, you know what I mean?


Dish: So do you think the finished project feels authentic?


Rudy: Yes, definitely, especially since we have the weight of a real weapon in my hand, real M4s shooting blanks, real cartridges, and all of my gear, body armor, helmet, everything was authentic, it was my gear. My gear that had three different tours of Afghanistan and Iraq dirt in it, my boots, not costume boots, not wardrobe’s gear, my stuff.


Dish: Do you scare yourself sometimes?


Rudy: No, I scare others. I never scare myself because it doesn’t seem unnatural to me. You know, I got into a fight on the beach when I first got out of the Marine Corps. I had only been out for about a month and a half. A surfer mouthed off to me and he said something. Well, I’m not used to anyone ever mouthing off to me because I’m a Recon marine, and I’m a team leader. I’m a battlefield commander, and I have more medals than most generals do, and I forgot that this guy doesn’t know me enough, he doesn’t know, and before I knew it, I had kicked him in the stomach and was on top of him. He tried to protect his face as I was going to punch, and he left his arm vulnerable, so I broke his arm instead, and I didn’t realize, it happened so fast, only the sound of his arm coming apart and his shoulder coming apart, like chicken bone. It kind of reminded me, ‘Wait a second, I don’t have to kill this guy, he’s not an enemy, he’s just a guy.’


Dish: Did you scare yourself then?


Rudy: Yes, I did. Then I tried to get help.


Dish: Do you flashback to real war situations?


Rudy: Well, I think after the conditioning and the galvanization of fire and maneuver and warfare and explosions and everything that happens and doesn’t happen in that kind of environment, it’s still with me, instilled in me. I was with my girlfriend here, in Williamsburg two nights ago and it was late at night and I heard some gunfire and I pushed her to the bed and jumped on top of her. The gunfire was three or four hundred meters away at least and there were echoes. And we were on the forth or fifth floor. I guess if I would’ve thought about it intellectually, I would know we were probably not endangered but I didn’t think about it intellectually and I was conditioned with muscle memory and when I hear a gun fire, rifle fire that close, I get down to the ground and I start to use the situational awareness. Well, it scared her very much.


Dish: Rudy, you did a second tour of duty after the one portrayed in Generation Kill, right? And you said it was much tougher than the first. How would you describe how you’ve changed after the second tour?


Rudy: Well, I never have my back at a vulnerable place, and I’m always vigilant. I have no understanding of fatigue or quit. When I get tired, I get stronger; when I get sleepy, I become more alert because I’ve been so conditioned. I’m still not all the way unconditioned yet. But you know, it’s a process, it may take a few more years, it may take ten years. I don’t know.


Dish: Do you think it’s possible to un-condition yourself from that?


Rudy: Yes, I think it is. I think, yes. It can be eventually a sensibility as opposed to a limitation.


Dish: I think you’re definitely going to do that. What about hobbies?


Rudy: Oh, running, swimming, mixed martial arts, rock climbing, diving, basically, I’m an expeditionary type of guy. And I have a huge penchant for specialized Japanese toys and action figures, and I love comic books. I love film, specifically Michael Mann film, Lumet films, and I also love this legendary retelling of Billy Bud. They made a film called “Beau Travail.”


Dish: Girlfriend?


Rudy: Well, I’m crazy about a girl right now, here in New York. She’s a painter. I had to go to a talk for HBO yesterday where I introduced the film for them, and she always kind of demurely stayed behind, because it’s the first time she’s ever been in any kind of public situation, and she’s not sure about how intense I am. I’m so intense to her, sometimes I think she wonders if she has enough something to hang with me. I don’t understand how to express it exactly. I don’t know what I am, except that I’m looking forward to amazing opportunities and making differences in peoples lives.


Dish: I think that Generation Kill will make you a star! Do you have any thoughts about

pursuing acting as a career?


Rudy: Yes, some people have been looking for someone to get in front of the camera to film a project for five years. It’s called ‘Forty by Forty,’ the forty things a man’s gotta do before he’s forty years old. Yeah, it’s fantastic. And you can imagine the kind of stuff, swim with great whites, run with the bulls, but then there’s also some really amazing emotional and cultural things as well, read ‘Moby Dick,’ see a masterpiece, things of that nature too. So, it’s not just adrenaline, it’s about introspection and sensitivity as well.


I like film, and I’m also embarking on an amazing fitness DVD, podcast, infomercial, and we’re looking at the branding of ‘Hero Living,’ ‘Rudy Reyes Hero Living.’ It’s an umbrella for this kind of wonderment and integration of mind, body and spirit, for every person out there, to get more out of their bodies so they can get more out of their lives.


Dish: Anything else?


Rudy: Yes, I’ve continued to try to work on expressing myself emotionally and intellectually, and my training regime is more explosive than ever, so I leave my aggression and my worriment in the training hall or in the weight room, and then when I’m out with civilians, I exercise my emotion and my intellect.


Dish: And your hopes for the future?


Whether it’s in film, book, talks, I don’t know, it can be in media, whether it’s painting or documenting with cameras, I don’t care. But I’m going to do that, and I’m going to do that for as long as I can, and hope it makes a difference. And when I have enough loot, or finances, I’m going to prepare a home so that when the right woman wants to have a family, wants to have a family with me, and raise children with me, and have a life together with me, then I’ll be ready for that.


Click Here to read more about Generation Kill! / Issue 82 - September 2018
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