When Gary Dourdan took on the role of American war hero Brad Paxton in Saban Films' Redemption Day, he wanted to capture the experience of the military from the combat, the trauma of PTSD, and capture the Moroccan experience. "I thought it would be a great opportunity to play an Army hero, a marine with some depth," he said. "I thought it was interesting that he had some past and carried with him this PTSD. I thought it would be an opportunity to humanize an action character. It's an opportunity to introduce some psychological drama. I love Morocco. It's my 20th time being there. Too often, we have American and English directors, and they portray it a certain way. Tony Scott put out some great films there."
Dourdan felt it was refreshing to have Moroccan perspectives guiding the film with director Hicham Hajji along with co-writers Sam Chouia and Lemore Syvan. "It has a Moroccan director and writers," he said. "I thought it was a fantastic opportunity for the future of cinema in that country. There are so many different microclimates. You go to the beach, mountains, and city. I urge everyone to travel there at some point. It was important for me to play a character doing covert ops missions while respecting the culture and lay of the land. It was important for the director to capture the experience of Moroccan life there. We don't have to just have close-ups of the big stars there. We wanted to capture the experience these Americans have in these ancient lands."
When it came to prep work, Dourdan admitted he had to do all his training starting in Thailand prior to shooting. "I didn't have a great deal of prep time. I only had two months of prep time. I had three months total. I go to Thailand to train in a boxing camp. I maintained a certain quota of my cardio and also did some gun work in some firing ranges with extensive weapon training. I don't use guns every day, nor do I consider myself an aficionado. In the past, I've been blessed to have friends in the military who I worked with on CSI, as some worked as security helping out screen our fan mail. I model my character from one of them, watching him given how he behaved with his superiors, civilians, and his peers. I know another Navy Seal. I guess they're conditioned to have this very calm demeanor under dire circumstances."
Dourdan also trained extensively with firearms. "In Morocco, the gun laws are very strict," he continued. "It was difficult to get a lot of hands-on training before the film starts. We were well into production, and I was very comfortable with the training. For PTSD, I know people who experienced it. One Vietnam vet woke up every night from nightmares. It was important to translate their experiences on-screen as Brad Paxton. Trust is hard to come by with this character." The actor also had to deal with the budget constraints crunching as much stuntwork within a smaller time frame as an indie action film. "I think there was a learning curve for a lot of us," Dourdan said. "I was happy to coordinate with the stunt coordinator for all my scenes and do the choreography since I didn't have a double. It was hands-on and creative. There was also a time constraint that factored in. We had to keep going. I learned a lot. I watched the greats doing it and learned from it whether if it's Jackie Chan or Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson."
When it comes to if there's any interest in a CSI reunion, whether if it's an original story or a planned cast reunion, Dourdan, who played Warrick Brown, admitted he hadn't heard much. "As far as CSI is concerned, I saw something posted," he said. "I wasn't sure if it's a fan thing because if they do, it would have to be a prequel because my character is dead." You can also see him in BET's The First Wives Club. Redemption Day, which also stars Serinda Swan, Andy Garcia, Brice Bexter, Ernie Hudson, Martin Donovan, and Samy Naceri, is currently in theatres, digital and on-demand.