Department: Portrait of a Gentleman
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When we played games as young boys, many of us found our fantasies turning to legendary fighters and warriors throughout time: Cowboys and Indians. Knights of the Round Table. Vikings, explorers and ninjas. But then we grew up and we turned our attentions to other pursuits, from school to a job and kids and modern life. Spending time dreaming about things that would never happen was no way to spend our lives. For many of us, that part of childhood gets lost to time.
But luckily, there’s still a man who gets to live out those boyhood fantasies — and who gets to tell us all about them. Terry Schappert (North Carolina-Wilmington ’88), who just finished filming the first season of his show Warriors with Terry Schappert on the History Channel, found himself wearing the armor of the Knights of St. John, crossing swords with the 12th descendant of legendary samurai Myamoto Musashi and creeping through the dark forests of Germany at nighttime, reenacting the battles of the barbarian hordes that once ruled the area.
“I’m living a boy’s dream,” he admits. “I’m traveling. I’m fighting with weapons. I’m on fields where you can feel the presence of history.” And it’s not as if this 44-year-old Green Beret, with multiple combat tours in the Middle East and the Balkans, hasn’t seen his share of the world. It’s that, after years of Special Forces, Army Ranger and paratrooper training — and a four-year hiatus to study acting — he’s finally bringing it all together.
And he gets to do it on television.
Warriors started on a lark, as a side project that blindsided even Schappert. “When you’re 20 or 21,” he says, “you don’t know what you want. But suddenly I realized that I wanted to be in the Army.” He enlisted directly out of college and found it fulfilling in every possible way. He became a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne. He passed his Army Ranger tests. He trained for two years to become a Green Beret. All of those milestones required years of training and grit and effort, but they would help him down the road with the Warriors show. “Being a Green Beret is extreme,” he says. “They push you to the point where you can’t go any further and then push you a little more.”
But after nearly nine years in the military, he found himself able to pursue another passion that had been put on hold — acting. He moved to New York City and was accepted into the Circle and the Square Theatre School, eventually playing roles in small theatre and television productions. Fate, though, had other ideas. After experiencing the tragedy of 9/11 close-up, he knew that, with his background and training, he was being called again to serve his country.
He re-enlisted and found himself deployed to Iraq, running special-forces missions. But his two lives — military and civilian — started to meld. The agents and industry insiders he met during his four years as an actor thought that he had the total package: He was an accomplished soldier who was at home in front of the camera. A production company pitched a concept to the History Channel, the one that would become Warriors, and Schappert submitted a tape — a home-recorded audition video shot by his wife.
After landing the show, he realized how much his background would help inform his presentation style. Schappert took as much from his background with Sigma Alpha Epsilon as it did from his military career. “I had moved on from the Fraternity after college,” Schappert says. “A lot of the guys had stayed in touch with me and knew I was in the military. But in 2006, a few of the alumni invited me to come and speak to my chapter at its 25th anniversary.”
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