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Michael Irby on The Unit

Published February 17, 2007 in Television
By Fred Topel | Image property of CBS.
Michael Irby Michael Irby
If you've ever watched The Unit and wondered how they shoot full scale military operations on a TV budget, series star Michael Irby is here to let us in on some secrets. Though the guys are dressed head to toe in fatigues and all the trappings, they are slightly more mobile than real life soldiers.

Interview: Michael Irby on The Unit

"The full gear would be 40 pounds," said Irby. "We're probably living at around about 17-20 I guess at the end of the day. All those cartridges, all the magazines, all the clips, the grenades, all that stuff is metal. And these guys are rolling around with it and we're rolling around with plastic stuff. But it looks good on camera. And at the end of the day, it's not real. The guns are real when we're [firing] and those guns are heavy but no."

Still, running around with plastic equipment in the hot sun shooting several setups a day takes its toll on an actor. "I think we all have to stay in shape. They got us a little gym there on set that travels with us in the trailer. I think on our own personal thing too, we're actors and at the end of the day, you've got to try and stay in shape. This is one of those jobs if you weren't in shape, you were definitely going to get in shape. And I think we're all kind of tight right now and everybody feels pretty decent about the way they look. Just being healthy too. It's definitely one of those shows you have to stay healthy because we have late nights and sometimes the sleep schedule gets mixed up and you're eating at weird times. Then all of a sudden you're running through the hills with a gun shooting at people and being shot at. I think you always have to kind of stay ready for this one mentally and physically. You really have to stay in tune, what your body's telling you."

They also have to recite military jargon as if they know what they're talking about. "We have our few little times when we get into that. They're all tongue twisters sometimes when you're talking about stuff that you absolutely have no idea what it is, but no. I've turned into the bomb guy, really being able to get in there and dissect a bomb all on paper and making it believable. It's great, I'm watching and I'm like, 'Yeah, I believe it.' It's kind of cool."

Irby plays Charles Grey, one of the go-to guys on the team. Though we haven't found out much about him yet, Irby expects his legend to grow. "I think we're finding much more out as we go along. A lot of the stuff right now, I think it's one of those characters that you're going to find out in season three or season four. I think we just kind of have to wait, myself included. I just have to be patient and know that the way the show is set up and the storylines that are brought up are basically about the men and the women. Until I really have somebody that I'm sharing that experience with are we going to get into that side of the character, although there are things we could do. That's up to the writers and the producers and I'm sure we'll get there at some point. I'm in no hurry. This is great. This is just a great gig and I've been able to just kind of flex my muscles a little bit. It's all learning. As much as I'd like more, I like what I have, but I think I'm capable of doing more and whenever we get there I'll be able to do it."

As a team of actors, all the guys form a real life Unit. "My best buddy is Max Martini, the redhead. Him and I, we had a mutual friend who we'd worked with a couple years apart. She said, 'I think you guys would totally hit it off.' It took a year and a half for us to hook up but then we went down to the table reading, we figured out who we were and who the mutual friend was and yeah, it's been nonstop ever since. He's got a family too. He's just a real guy. I love everybody but Max for sure, we hang out a lot. I'll know that kid forever."

The Unit airs Tuesday at 9 on CBS.

Stay tuned for updates.

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Fred Topel
Sources: Image property of CBS.

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