Home USA News ‘Brothers’ actor joins ‘American Valor’ star cast on Veterans Day

‘Brothers’ actor joins ‘American Valor’ star cast on Veterans Day

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The American Veterans Center presents “American Valor: A Salute to Our Heroes,” airing this Friday on the American Forces Network and throughout the month on major networks NBC, FOX, ABC and CBS (check your local listings).

Listen to our full conversation on my Beyond the Fame podcast.

WTOP’s Jason Fraley previews ‘American Valor’ with James Madio (Part 1)

Hollywood stars gather to salute America’s troops on Veterans Day.

American Veterans Affairs Center presents “American Valor: A Salute to Our Heroes” airing Friday on the American Forces Network, as well as major networks NBC, FOX, ABC and CBS throughout the month (check your local listings).

“The real celebrities are the heroes, the men and women who are being honored today, but Hollywood has joined us,” actor James Madio (“Band of Brothers”) told WTOP.

The show features actors famous for playing military roles, including Bradley Cooper (“American Sniper”), Tom Cruise (“Top Gun”) and Chris Pratt (“Zero-Thirty”).

You’ll also see appearances by Chris Pine (“Star Trek”), Edward Norton (“Fight Club”), Hilary Swank (“Million Dollar Baby”) and Rob Riggle (“The Hangover”), who hosted last Saturday’s event. Nov. 5 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in northwest D.C

Madio will honor Vince Speranzo of the 101st Airborne Division. During World War II near Bastogne, Belgium, Speranza found a working beer tap in a bombed-out tavern and filled his helmet with beer to bring a drink to his wounded friend. The unique beer store became the history of the US Army and is still noted among tourists in Boston.

“Vince came back years after the war, he showed up in Boston, and there’s this story about a young World War II soldier running back and forth from this tavern and giving beer to the 101st Airborne,” Madio said. “He saw all these tourists drinking from their helmets and said, ‘That was me! I was the guy who did it all!” So they named a beer in his honor called Nuts.

Madio played Technician Fourth Class Frank Perconte in the terrific HBO miniseries Band of Brothers (2001), based on the 1992 book by Stephen Ambrose and executive produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks following Saving Private Ryan (1998).

“Between ‘Saving Private Ryan’ and ‘Brothers,’ this is the history of cinema in the narrative of World War II, where we try to capture a small part of what these guys went through,” Madio said. “We could show America and the world what this generation went through and pass that legacy, those stories on to the next generation so that we never forget.”

Each episode of “Brothers” began with contemporary interviews with actual veterans who shared their harrowing memories of the events covered in that episode.

“It’s an incredible, powerful revelation of all the episodes, to hear from veterans who were actually there, who lived through it,” Madio said. “After putting it off for 60 or 70 years and never talking about it and then coming out, they were afraid to open up those old wounds.”

During the productions, Madio worked with an all-star cast, including Scott Grimes, Damian Lewis, Ron Livingston, Donnie Wahlberg, Dexter Fletcher and David Schwimmer.

“The producers sent us to an acting boot camp,” Madio said. “It was brutal: disassembling weapons, doing maneuvers, marching, night duty, tank maneuvers, everything you can imagine in a 16-17 hour day. They broke you. You have realized that you need a person on your left and right. … We all called each other by the names of heroes.”

His favorite battlefield episode is winter episode 6 (“Boston”), but overall his favorite episode is episode 9 (“Why We Fight”), which sounds like Schindler’s List (1993) with members Easy company to liberate one of Dachau’s satellite camps in Bavaria.

“If I had to choose, the Boston episode really stands out with Shane Taylor’s Doctor Doc Rowe, but I’d say it’s episode 9 with the concentration camps,” Madio said. “Many of these young men knew they were fighting for something, but when they came across the concentration camps, they remembered the name: ‘Why We Fight.’

Madio said that Spielberg remembered him as one of the lost boys in The Hook (1991).

“When I auditioned for ‘Band of Brothers,’ I was the first one there,” Madio said. “I’m sitting by the front door, nervous as can be. Spielberg approached. … He goes to thank me for opening the door and really getting to know me. He said, “Hey! My lost boy! Glad to see you.” … He said, ‘Okay, see you there.’ Do great things.”

The role of Hook earned him the role of Dustin Hoffman’s son in The Hero (1992) and Leonardo DiCaprio in The Basketball Diaries (1995). Most recently, he starred in the Paramount+ miniseries The Proposal (2022) about the making of The Godfather (1972).

“Dexter Fletcher, the executive producer and director, was Johnny Martin on ‘Brothers,'” Madio said. “He called me and said, ‘Jim, you’re the most Italian guy I know. I’m making a TV show based on The Godfather and I want you to be on it.’ I was just blown away because I’m a huge Godfather fan — I mean, who isn’t?’

WTOP’s Jason Fraley previews ‘American Valor’ with James Madio (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation on my Beyond the Fame podcast.

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