There are a few military shows premiering on TV this fall, but The CW's Valor is setting itself apart with an underlying conspiracy.
Matt Barr (Harper's Island) and Christina Ochoa (Blood Drive) star in the new series as Captain Leland Gallo and Warrant Officer Nora Madani, elite helicopter pilots covering up a rescue mission that goes drastically wrong. The series will explore the pressures and high emotions of being an elite agent in the military while battling post traumatic stress disorder and trying to solve a government conspiracy.
TV Guide talked to Barr and Ochoa at the Television Critics Association summer press tour about preparing for their roles and how they're adding extra drama to one of the most high-stress careers.
How much is the mystery of this show going to play into the season? Will we have an answer by the end of the season?
Christina Ochoa: The storyline of the conspiracy and what happens with whole failed rescue mission in Somalia kind of establishes not just the plot line for the majority of Season 1 but kind of where they are as characters. Nora and Gallow share a big secret and went through very high stakes and a near death experience. That brought them much closer as we see in episode 1. We'll get to see much more throughout the season.
Matt Barr: I like that it set up this whole puzzle for the audience. It's very engaging for an audience member to put it together week to week. In the end there's a big pay off.
Nora and Gallow are really drawn together by this situation. What do you think about their personalities really pulls them towards each other?
Ochoa: I would describe Nora and Gallow as a very well-oiled machine.
Barr: They do! They finish each other's sentences. They're this little in sync symphony in the cockpit. It's essential for what they do. It's very bonding too. I think the residual of that is flowing into their personal lives. They're trying to really identify if that goes beyond the cockpit.
Ochoa: To be in these elite, covert ops missions and to be in these units, they have to be at high-level competence and be on their game at all times. It's something that's watching two characters high-functioning at that level with very distinct personality traits is interesting.
Barr: It's definitely a certain breed of people that do this job. They are both chasing something and are probably still finding out what that is.
Is this a couple we should be rooting for? It is very complex.
Barr: It's tough because it creates this love triangle. Christina's character is in a serious relationship with a great guy. He's a stiff...
Ochoa: Ian has his charm! He's played brilliantly by Charlie Barnett and honestly, the relationship is something that we'll see play out a lot. That conflict for her with what Gallow presents as her partner, her confidant and her superior, which adds a lot of interesting layers, versus what she has at home with Ian, which is very comforting, loving and trustworthy up until now. Now she has to keep these secrets from him. We'll get to explore that love triangle a little bit.
Nora has a really cool way of de-stressing, which is the drums. Did you already know how to play?
Ochoa: I did not know how to play the drums before the pilot. I was thrown in to some drumming lessons and loved every second of it. It is a big destresser once you get into it. Just banging on the drums is an incredible release. To parallel what we talk about in the pilot, your hands and feet move independently. They move in different rhythms so coordination was a big deal. It is a big deal for Nora, obviously.
Gallow: Nora drums and Gallow just drinks. He drinks and finds his way into different bedrooms. He has different coping mechanisms than Nora. You have to live hard to be hard, you know?
Did you guys do any training to get into this world and these characters?
Barr: We met at our first helicopter lesson. We have a great technical advisor Dan Laguna who not only helped us navigate the cockpit, which is its own world — it's a different language, but just all the progressions that you would go through so we'd have the right composure and hopefully give us a chance to improvise too.
Ochoa: Physicality is so important to us to be able to portray these characters as with any role. How they move is different. For me, rhythm plays a big role into these characters and for me as an artist that's important. How do they sit? How do they stand? How do they walk? How do they run? How do they train? All of those questions come to mind as soon as we get a script and a character to play with.
Barr: It's like a golfer. You can tell if it's a good golfer by the way they swing. It's smooth. It's fluid. There's a finesse to it. I was surprised by how much finesse there was even to a soldier like Luke. The subtle thing really sells the authenticity of it.
What was the craziest thing you learned during the training for this show?
Ochoa: Some of the rules within the military are the most surprising thing we learned, at least I did. I was not as familiar with that world I think. Everything that comes with that world and that hierarchy. Nora and Ian can't touch when they are in uniform and on the base. PDAs are frowned upon and not allowed... Special ops, their elite special treatment within the military were the things that were most surprising to me, that world and that culture.
Barr: I would say just how insanely difficult flying a helicopter really is. It is very, very hard. I have a lot of respect for pilots.
Valor premieres Monday, Oct. 9 at 9/8c on The CW.
(Full disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS, one of The CW's parent companies)