Law & Order: SVU is tackling post traumatic stress disorder.
In Wednesday's hour, Once Upon a Time alum Eion Bailey plays Frank Patterson, an Iraq war veteran with PTSD who becomes a key witness in an investigation of a sexual assault in a nightclub. The role was "years" in the making, says Bailey -- who credits his experience filming HBO's Band of Brothers as the catalyst for his interest in U.S. soldiers. In fact, the writers had been toying with doing an episode like this since last October.
When they reached out about a potential guest-starring gig on the NBC procedural, Bailey jumped at the chance.
"I've done two USO Tours, one in the Middle East and one in Asia, and spent time with the troops. I'm very interested in soldier recovery projects and in Bradley Manning's story, the army intelligence officer who's being held as a detainee and is going to trial for crimes of treason," Bailey tells The Hollywood Reporter.
To hear him tell it, Bailey is appreciative of what soldiers are expected to do as part of their duty but had his own take on the recruitment process. "They're called to defend liberty, freedom and justice for all," Bailey says. "Oftentimes they're tricked or manipulated into fighting for this cause and the truth is, they're fighting for a militarized industrial complex that makes bombs, weapons and needs to create war in order to sustain itself to even exist."
Bailey, who grew up in a military family (his father is a Navy commanding officer and two of his grandfathers were fighter pilots), notes that his research for his Law & Order: SVU role came in the form reading books, his USO Tours and studying up on Manning's story.
"I have particular interest because I live in the city (Los Angeles) where there are more homeless veterans than any other city in the nation," Bailey says. "There are more than 7,000 soldiers sleeping on the streets, on the corner of Wilshire and Fairfax, so the subject is very important to me. It's part of my family history, it's part of my nation's history and it's part of my artistic career."
In regards to his Law & Order: SVU arc, Bailey praised the way the series' incorporated the story into the DNA of the episode. "They found a way to weave in this story line, which feels authentic and respectful without shying away from the difficulties that service men go through," he says.
For him, the court room scene was standout moment. "The sequence that connected for me most was being cross-examined on the witness stand about what my character witnessed," Bailey says. "The opposing lawyer starts to think that the testimony is insufficient because he's rambling and being incoherent when he's actually suffering a flashback. He's living in two places at the same time. He's dealing with the questions asked and he's also stuck in a moment of agony and horror that his body has never quite left."
As for Bailey's next gig, he's working on a multimedia project centered on Manning and hopefully "a project with homeless veterans in Los Angeles."
Watch a preview below:
Law & Order: SVU airs at 10 p.m. Wednesdays on NBC.