A Conversation with Scott Alda Coffey
I had the pleasure of speaking with American actor and producer Scott Alda Coffey about his role in the film The Outpost — available NOW on Amazon Prime Video. We also discussed the ups and downs of the entertainment industry, and the best places to hike in Los Angeles.
Yanis: Tell me about The Outpost. What’s the film about?
Scott: It’s about a small unit of American soldiers at a remote combat outpost in Afghanistan. This outpost was at the bottom of a valley surrounded by three mountains, so it was essentially a death trap.
They ended up getting ambushed by hundreds of Taliban fighters. It ends up being a fight for survival. It’s a true story and it ended up being the bloodiest American engagement in the Afghanistan War. It’s a really powerful true story.
Y: I couldn’t agree with you more, it’s a very powerful story. You really took this role seriously. You did eight days of basic army training. What were some of the biggest challenges of doing eight days of basic army training?
S: A lot! That was probably the hardest week of my life, in the best way. It was really challenging. The main thing was we wanted to make sure we looked and acted like soldiers as accurately as possible. So it was a lot of weapons training, a lot of tactical training.
What was probably hardest for me was this isn’t a world I knew very well at the time, so it took a lot of work to get into that mindset to and to learn a lot of things about the military I didn’t know before. But it was really cool and I think looking back it was so valuable. I’m really glad I had that opportunity.
Y: You played real life war hero Sergeant Michael Scusa. How did you prepare?
S: When I got the part I was lucky enough to be able to speak with his family, which is invaluable as an actor to be able to get that opportunity. Something I kept hearing from pretty much anyone I spoke to about him was what a kind, good human he was. He was the nicest guy, everyone got along with him.
Getting the opportunity to play someone like that was just an incredible honor. What was difficult was I didn’t have any videos of him or anything like that. There was only so much I could go off of, and having this information from people who knew him was really helpful.
I thought “how do I do this?” because he is a real person and I’m obviously not him and I could never be him. How do I do the best to represent him, especially considering he is an American hero, so I asked myself what similarities in myself do I have with him? What things have I heard people say about him that I can bring to myself and kind of go from there as a launching pad.
Y: You found he had a catchphrase, is that right?
S: Yeah that’s right he always would say “it’s all good man.” Anyone who knew him, that’s what they would associate with him. He would always say that. So when I heard that I immediately knew that I needed to make sure that was in the movie so I could slip that in any chance I got.
Y: What did you learn from Sgt. Scusa’s wife, what was the most valuable thing she shared with you?
S: That’s a good question. His phrase of “it’s all good man,” that really helped click for me because that really showed what everyone was saying about how positive he was and good spirited he was. Just the idea of being in Afghanistan, in this death trap essentially, this undefendable place and yet he would continuously say the phrase “its all good man.” That just shows the kind of positive spirit he was.
Y: I couldn’t agree more. There was an improvised phone conversation. How did you approach that scene?
S: That’s a good question. What we all did is we took what we had learned from speaking with the families and figured out what family member our characters would be speaking to. Michael was a really really big family man.
He loved his family, he loved his son, he loved his wife beyond measure and so I knew that a conversation with his wife was probably the route to take
But ya it was just a lot of taking what we had heard from people we spoke to and being able to incorporate that into a conversation.
Y: How did preparing for this role changed your perspective on the war in Afghanistan?
S: When I first read the script when I was getting ready to audition for the part I was kind of shocked that I had never heard of this battle, considering it is one of the deadliest American engagements in the war.
There are two medal of honor recipients from it. To me that showed how disengaged a lot of American civilians have gotten from the war in Afghanistan and that kind of blew my mind because I knew I really hadn’t been paying much attention to what’s been going on overseas, not for a very long time. And so when I saw that I knew I immediately wanted to be a part of telling this story. It’s really changed my outlook for the way I see the military.
Y: Right now Americans are feeling divided. Will this movie help people feel more connected at a time when they feel so divided?
S: I think so, because one thing we kind of strived to do was we didn’t want it to be a political movie. I mean it’s written by Jake Tapper who’s an anchor for CNN, but the movie and the book are about these soldiers who are trying to survive and fight for each other and we didn’t want this movie to take a political side.
It’s a very human story about these brothers trying to fight for each other and I think that’s something everyone can relate to and understand regardless of political spectrum.
So I think something really cool and really impressive this movie accomplishes is not taking that political stand one way or the other but unifying with these soldiers.
Y: You worked with Orlando Bloom, how was it working with one of your heroes, being a huge Lord of the Rings fan yourself?
S: It was a lot of fun. He was a really nice guy. He was only on set for about five days but it was really fun to work with him. All the actors in the movie were incredibly fun to work with.
We all got along so well. It was really cool because ya as you said I grew up with Lord of the Rings, I grew up with Pirates of the Caribbean and those movies also really were really inspiring to me when I was younger. I would watch them religiously, so in some ways its almost full circle to have my first major film be with Orlando Bloom. That was really cool.
Y: Did you ask Orlando any fan questions about Lord of the Rings?
S: I didn’t. I think I was a little too star struck. I didn’t approach him a whole lot.
Y: You didn’t ask him about how Legolas seemingly has infinite arrows? I’m sure he gets that a lot.
S: I’m sure he does! I didn’t. That’s a good question to have asked though.
Y: You come from a family well versed in show business. Your grandfather is Alan Alda. Did seeing the ups and downs of the industry deter you or do you think it prepared you?
S: Acting’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve been saying I’ve been wanting to do it since I was three years old, which was probably crazy because I don’t think I fully understood what acting was at three, but it’s something I’ve always been working towards.
I was lucky enough to have a role model like my grandfather who was very realistic with me about the struggles of the industry, that it takes time and it is a long process and it is hard to break into.
But yeah I it never deterred me. It never made me feel like “oh I shouldn’t do this then.” I think I always felt like it’s something I wanted to work towards and I know its gonna be hard and I know it’s not gonna be easy and I felt like this is the path I want to take so I took it.
Y: Should actors whose ambition outweighs their talent be told to quit or should they persevere?
S: I mean it’s true not everyone is going to be able to make it or break through, but I’m a strong believer that people will figure out what path is truly right for them at a certain point.
If acting ends up not being the path that is going to work for them, then they will be able to figure it out on their own.
And also this industry is so big and there’s so many different facets of this industry that I really think that if you really wanna be in the arts, there is a way to be able to be in the arts. And that may not mean acting.
You could then break into directing, you could break into producing, you could break into lighting design or be a camera operator. There’s just so many different things. I really do feel like people’s paths end up figuring themselves out I think it’s important for people to go on that journey for themselves and not have someone necessarily try to deter them because I think it’s important for people to explore their dreams.
Y: I understand. I think the people who deter actors are trying to be realistic with them about the time commitment and don’t want the actors to waste their time or the time of anybody else.
S: Absolutely and I get that and that is a good point because this is a huge time commitment, and in a lot of ways a money commitment. I mean it’s a lot of times safer to go another way.
I feel like following your dreams can just make you happier in some ways if that’s really what you wanna do, and sometimes you need to follow your dreams to then realize that “oh maybe this isn’t right for me,” and then figure out what else could make you happy.
Y: You’re a big reader. You love Stephen King’s novel The Shining. How do you feel about the Stanley Kubrick film adaptation?
S: It’s interesting. I’m often usually very laxed when it comes to movie adaptations vs book adaptations I know they’re two different mediums and I know that changes have to be made.
It may just be because The Shining is my all time favorite book. But that is one movie adaptation that I struggle a bit with, and a lot of it just has to do with the fact that the book just has the time to deal with Jack’s descent to madness that the movie just didn’t have time to do.
The movie did it much earlier and for me that was always harder to grasp, but I also understood it’s a tough book to adapt, so with that being said I think they did well with it.
Y: They did a TV miniseries of The Shining.
S: They did. That was much more involved with Stephen King I believe and it was much more like the book.
Y: What are you reading these days?
S: I've been reading the prequel book to The Hunger Games, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.
Y: The one about President Snow when he was young?
S: Yeah exactly and it’s pretty good, I’m actually really enjoying it. It’s fascinating.
y: Does it humanize President Snow? Do you think someone like him can be humanized?
S: I think absolutely. And I think it has actually. It’s been really cool because it’s told from his perspective and you don’t get that in The Hunger Games. You were following Katniss in The Hunger Games now you’re following President Snow so you really do see a very human side of him, one that you didn’t see before and it does kind of change the way you view him. I’ve been really enjoying that so far.
Y: You’re a big TV fan, what are you streaming?
S: Yes, big TV fan. I’m currently watching Narcos: Mexico the spin off to Narcos on Netflix which is good. I’ve been really enjoying that and I recently finished Dark which is a Netflix German series I really liked that as well.
Y: I’ll have to check those out.
S: Highly recommended.
Y: You recently had a Star Wars binge. How was that?
S: Yeah I did actually. As soon as I finished Star Wars: Episode IX — The Rise of Skywalker I felt like “why don’t I go through and watch all of them” and re-watch some of the animated shows I hadn’t seen in a while.
Y: So you saw Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels?
S: Yeah, which are actually pretty good. They’re pretty sophisticated for animated shows.
Y: They’re some of my favorites. So in what order should someone watch the Star Wars franchise?
S: I feel that if you’ve never seen Star Wars before, definitely watch it in the release order. I still think you can’t beat the famous reveal. But if you have seen it before, then I think it’s really fun watching it from the beginning to the end just to see the story play out chronologically.
S: Interesting I haven’t heard that order before.
Y: It bridges the prequels and the sequels together nicely.
S: Oh that’s really cool I like that.
Y: So you’ll pass it on? That’s awesome.
S: Yeah I will I think I will pass on that order.
Y: So Mr. Lord of the Rings fan, how did you like The Hobbit films?
S: I think I like them more than a lot of people did. As the movies went on I definitely could really feel them stretching the book out, and to me that was most noticeable in the third one.
I felt like Peter Jackson probably would have benefited better sticking to his initial plan which was just doing two Hobbit films instead of three. Because I feel there was like a really solid two movies there that just got really stretched to try to have three. So that’s kind of my stance on those.
Y: There are fan edits.
S: Are there?
Y: The fan edits redeem the movies because they literally play out like the book. It’s literally like watching the book.
S: Oh that’s amazing I should check that out then.
Y: You love hiking. Where are your favorite places to hike? You live in Los Angeles so I assume Runyon Canyon is a fave? It’s certainly mine.
S: I’m actually lucky enough to live right next to Runyon Canyon so I go there, I mean I don’t hike as much as I probably should living right by there, but usually when I do hike I go there. I also go to Griffith Park a lot which has been a fun hiking place.
In fact before I left to shoot The Outpost me and a few of the other guys from the movie who lived in the area, we’d go to Griffith and hike together and kind of start our pretraining for boot camp.
Y: Thanks for the recommendation. What’s next for you? Where can everybody follow you?
S: At the moment it’s a lot of just trying to stay healthy and continue the quarantine, but people can find me on Instagram @scottaldacoffey and they can also find me at my website at scottaldacoffey.com