SEAL Team dog handler and actor Justin Melnick revealed how series star David Boreanaz and others helped him learn to be an actor.
“It’s been such an exciting adventure,” Melnick said in an interview with Variety. “I’ve had the best acting teachers in the entire universe in my eyes. Watching Toni Trucks and Neil Brown Jr, AJ [Buckley], Max [Thieriot] and David [Boreanaz] go back and forth in scenes, every week I’ll focus on something else that they do, whether it’s improv or facial expressions or body language or figuring out where the camera’s going to be so they can get their shots in one take.”
The path to appearing on SEAL Team was anything but ordinary for Justin Melnick.
From Small Town Police Officer to Professional Actor
Prior to SEAL Team, Melnick worked as a combat photographer for six years. After spending three months embedded with the troops in Afghanistan, the actor felt called to join the military.
“What I saw over there motivated me to want to be a part of the solution,” said Melnick. “When I came back I started a process called 18 X-ray, which is a direct special forces program. And I had to make a life call. I realized I didn’t have certain qualities that were necessary to work in a special operations unit and that I wasn’t cut out for that job. It was really hard at 29 years old to realize what you want to do, you can’t do.”
By a random twist of fate, Melnick ended up moving to Indiana, where he worked for a small police force there. He spent seven years helping to revamp the department. He utilized the training from bigger cities to create a response program for active shooter situations.
As a result, Melnick met up with a roommate who worked for a larger police force. It was through this roommate that he met his dog, Dita. She had been adopted as a K-9 by his roommate, who ended up not being able to keep her. Melnick then decided to adopt and train her as a narcotics K-9. This decision not only put him on the path to Seal Team, it gave him a valued companion.
“I wish I could take credit for everything she does,” said Melnick. “I’ve never had a dog in my life, but I work well with Dita. Dog trainers have this saying that “Your emotion runs up and down the leash,” so she can feel what you’re thinking just conducted through the leash. It’s just a bond. I’ve never had anything in my life like it.”
Now, Melnick has had the opportunity both to train Dita for the small screen and to appear on it himself, making him all the more appreciative of the other professionals on the show
“These guys are the best at what they do,” Melnick said of his costars. “And not speaking for the first four episodes gave me two months of just school to learn. And we’ve had amazing directors who have pulled me aside and coached me.”
SEAL Team Stars Give Advice to Aspiring Actors
For Boreanaz, hard work is not only its own reward but the key to success. Given his two decades on television, his advice is worth taking.
““I just work hard,” said Boreanaz. “I remember when I was a kid, I would cut the grass and it took all day, and then I’d look back and see how perfect the lines were in the grass,” Boreanaz clarified. “And I’d say, ‘You know what? That was hard work. I’m a hard-work guy.’ That, to me, is an accomplishment in itself.”
As for their costar AJ Buckley, the actor makes it clear that there are no shortcuts.
“You’ve got to create your own path,” said Buckley. “You have to put the work in. There’s no easy way, you have to commit and go after it and most importantly believe. There’s going to be hard days but the hard days make you stronger.”
Moreover, Melnick took this advice to heart, finding an unexpected love for being on set with Dita.
“After the last nine months of my life I cannot imagine doing anything else ever again,” said Melnick. “I’m head over heels in love with absolutely all of it, from the creative process of production to post.”