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MILE 22

Assembling the Team
MARK WAHLBERG

The two-time Academy Award nominee Mark Wahlberg reunites with Peter Berg for their fourth collaboration, following Lone Survivor, Deepwater Horizon, and Patriots Day. Mile 22 marks their first pairing for a film not based on true events; instead, they've teamed up again to create what could become a new thriller franchise. Wahlberg plays James "Jimmy" Silva, the senior officer of an elite team of operators in the CIA's Special Activities Division known as Ground Branch - experts who specialize in all manner of conventional and unconventional warfare.

"Jimmy Silva is more of an intellectual than anything," Wahlberg explains. "At the time, I felt we had already seen the kind of brooding anti-hero man of few words, so this time let's hear from a guy who's very opinionated and likes to get into the conversation. He's the kind of guy that when his team gets the green light he decides who lives, who dies, and what happens in between. He's a very cool, interesting character who doesn't care about right or wrong or who started it. He's just going to do his job and that's it."

"I thought it was interesting because when we first started working on it, I always kind of referenced Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive - just very unapologetic, didn't care for right or wrong -he has a job to do and he's going to do his job. Nothing and nobody is going to stop him doing that," explains Wahlberg. "But, Jimmy just takes a lot more pleasure in, and is obviously a lot more vocal in the fact that once it's a go, once it's green lit, he's the end all, be all and I think he likes playing God to a certain extent. And that's obviously a very dangerous thing, you know - power, obviously can be addictive and can be a bad thing. But I think people will love this character because they understand that when you're in these situations, the same rules that might normally apply don't. It's about survival and the big picture. Whatever we have to do to protect our homeland and our country and our people. So, the rules change when you're dealing with bad people."

When asked what drives Jimmy Silva, Wahlberg has a bead on that motivation: "His upbringing, his youth, his adolescence, and then his commitment to the job, you know? He has no family, no ties to anybody. He's committed to the job," the actor states. "And this is an every and any man left behind type of situation. The mission comes first, last, and in between. So, it's a very unique kind of skill set that these guys have that are requirements for the job."

Silva is a tough, demanding, team leader, with high expectations and extremely low tolerance for bullshit. He is hyper-focused on the mission at all times; no distractions allowed. He's a true leader, though, and when Alice's source delivers information that appears bogus, Silva refuses to throw her under the bus, instead claiming that the responsibility rests with him. "Yeah, you know, Silva doesn't really like to connect with anybody, but he does have a soft spot for Alice," Wahlberg confirms.

One of Silva's habits is regularly snapping the rubber band on his wrist. Perhaps it's his way to remain focused. Perhaps it's a constant reminder of the pain he has endured. In one particular scene, Silva confronts Alice (Lauren Cohan) over her source's faulty intel as fellow operative, Sam (Ronda Rousey) watches as Silva delivers his tirade. After Silva exits, Sam exclaims, "He hears everything, never listens." Alice responds, "He listens to what works for him - actionable intelligence. And pain." She understands Jimmy like no one else does, probably because they are more similar than either would care to admit.

"These are very real people - Pete and Lea had a lot of exposure to these people and what they wanted to communicate more than anything is that they were still people at the end of the day," Wahlberg adds. "They do a very specific job that could make them seem a little less than human, a little more robotic, but very much people. A lot of them do have families, but in this case, we thought it would be interesting if Jimmy had no family, no ties to anybody, therefore really capable of doing anything. So, there's this kind of gray area: is this a good guy or a bad guy?"

In his research and experience with the military during the making of Lone Survivor, Peter Berg met several real Ground Branch and CIA people. "One of the things I find interesting is that these are people living in a very complex mindset twenty-four seven," he says. "They're dealing with unimaginable, violent scenarios and complicated problems that are almost like Rubik's Cubes spinning in their mind with high consequence. And I thought that the pressure and stresses on someone like this character would be quite significant and could create almost a bipolar, manic type of character. That was something that Mark [Wahlberg] and I talked about. And so, we sat down and started constructing this character with the idea that this is a man who doesn't have the luxury of small talk, doesn't have the luxury of grey thinking, and is very black or white and to the point. And he's somewhat tormented by the nature of the work that he has to do every day."

Regarding the film's very timely essence and what he wants audiences to take away from it, Wahlberg exclaims, "There's a lot of crazy things going on in the world and it's not just here, you know, it's all over the world. It's happening in countries where they didn't think it would apply to them, in Europe, in places like that. But at the end of the day, we are really just trying to entertain people. We want people to sit down, strap in, and go on this ride. And with all the twists and the turns and the action I think people are really going to love it."

LAUREN COHAN

Lauren Cohan, best known for portraying Maggie Greene on AMC's hit series The Walking Dead and roles in The Vampire Diaries and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, plays CIA Ground Branch officer Alice Kerr, a key member of Silva's special ops team and someone with whom he shares a unique personal bond. Alice is a divorced mother with an eight-year-old daughter, India, who lives in the States with her combative ex-husband, Lucas (played by Mile 22 director Peter Berg in a brief cameo). She often struggles to maintain her mission-first focus, distracted by the difficulties of co-parenting and the guilt of being an absentee mother. "Alice is very dedicated and capable of doing her job, but she's not sure if she wants to do it anymore," Cohan observes. "The frayed bonds that she's experiencing with her daughter and her home life really put a spotlight on that. But ultimately, all these characters have to stay focused, even with all the impedances in their way."

Cohan notes that her character's storyline illustrates one of the film's central themes of motherhood, which is reflected in various ways throughout. "Being taken care of, being watched over," she notes. "There's just such a juxtaposition between being badass and being heart wrenching."

Cohan was drawn to the opportunity to portray a character that combines tremendous intellect, mental and emotional tenacity, and insane physical abilities. "She speaks a whole slew of languages, she's able to get herself into different situations, and get herself out of different situations," the actress muses. "So, it was a really appealing person to tackle, emotionally."

Another major draw was the film's distinctive and deliberate lack of any gender divide. "There's nothing that the men are capable of doing that the woman are not. That's something we all know and appreciate, but we really do get to show that in the movie," enthuses Cohan. "The fact that everybody has emotional intelligence, drive and physicality, just makes for a really good team of people. And at the same time, having the balance of all those skills be equal between the men and the women."

Cohan was already in great physical condition, thanks to her demanding role on The Walking Dead so she was up to the task of training to become a lethal paramilitary commando who is as dangerous in hand-to-hand combat as she is with an automatic weapon. "Alice has this whole skill set that was a real pleasure to learn. I think my biggest lesson with this movie was bringing the emotion to the fight. I'm a pretty emotional actor and to have the structure and the training and the fight style dialed in, but to know that at the end of the day it was all going to be driven by what I needed and what I had to do. And so, when I think about choreography, it's not there to house the fight, it's there to liberate the fighter. "

One of the film's most engaging dynamics is the relationship between Alice and Silva, which came from experiences Peter Berg witnessed in the substantial time he has spent with law enforcement, military, and members of the intelligence agencies over the years. He was always struck by the camaraderie the colleagues had with each other, which is something he wanted to explore between Alice and Silva. "There are men and women working in very close quarters, and living with each other, and fighting with each other, having these very intense, emotional experiences," says Berg. "But these aren't romantic relationships. These are work relationships. And sometimes very intense work relationships. And with Alice and Silva that relationship is just meant to be typical of what I've observed to be true."

Cohan's character gets to see a side of Silva that most others don't, thanks to the unique emotional bond they share. "He's a mentor, a big brother, boss, slave driver, whatever you want to call it," Cohan explains. "He really keeps her on her toes. They really know how to make each other look at the truth and be honest with themselves. The most compelling intricacy to their relationship for me is that as focused as they both are, and almost bullheaded in the tasks they need to do, they are also the only ones for each other that can kind of break the spell. Silva will get caught up in an idea and be seemingly lost to it, and Alice is the only one that can kind of pull him back to reality in a lot of ways. There's a method to his madness for sure, but she's able to recognize when it's going too far."

Reflecting on Alice's relationship with Silva, screenwriter Lea Carpenter notes, "In some ways Alice is Silva's protege. But she's also his monk. She steadies him. More or less everyone in the movie has a meditation practice. And Silva's meditation practice, or one of them, is Alice. She touches him to steady him. She looks at him to steady him." Peter Berg adds, "Alice is the one person who can sometimes check him and try and derail him from really going down a dark hole. Hopefully we all have somebody in our life that will listen. Sometimes it's just seeing that person's face or hearing one word from that person can bring you back to a place that's a little healthier. And I think she is that for him."

Cohan adds that although Mile 22 is a fictional story, their characters are based on the real operatives who go out and do work like this. "We were lucky enough to learn about them and represent them in a really fun, thrilling action movie."

IKO UWAIS

Mile 22 marks the American film debut of Indonesian action star and martial arts master Iko Uwais, best known for his starring roles in the acclaimed action film series The Raid: Redemption and The Raid 2. Uwais plays Li Noor, a local Special Forces officer in the fictional country of Indocarr who has become a trusted source for the CIA. When Noor arrives at the U.S. Embassy offering top-secret information regarding stolen radioactive materials in exchange for being transported out of the country, he starts the countdown clock to the film's explosive climax.

To ensure his request is taken seriously, he has placed the info on an encrypted hard disk, which will self-destruct in two hours, and he will only give the password to unlock the disk when he has been safely delivered to the waiting plane for extraction. After Noor's identity is confirmed and he thwarts an assassination attempt within the embassy by agents of the hostile host country, it's determined that this is an Overwatch operation. The mission: transport Li Noor to the getaway plane and obtain the decryption key. However, the route from the embassy to the waiting plane will be filled with assassins, law enforcement, and street gangs trying to stop them by any means necessary, resulting in a grueling 22-mile gauntlet of violence, mayhem, and carnage.

"Li Noor is a character who has lost trust in his own government and who comes to the CIA with information," says screenwriter Lea Carpenter. "Because of his job in Special Forces, he has an unbelievable cache of information. But he's locked it in such a way that it cannot be unlocked unless he gets what he wants, which is to get out of the country."

According to Mile 22 director, Peter Berg, "Iko is a big reason for me wanting to do this movie; he's probably what started it. A very talented filmmaker named Gareth Evans made two films: The Raid and The Raid 2, and Iko was the star of both. And these were lower budget films shot in Jakarta, Indonesia, and I remember hearing about them. I generally don't go see fight movies, and this movie was starting to get a buzz and Gareth's direction was getting a lot of acclaim at film festivals. And people were talking about "the next Bruce Lee" that was popping up out of Indonesia - Iko Uwais."

"I went and saw the film and I was just mesmerized by him and by the soul and the texture and the emotion and the physical brutality. There's something there. You can see a hundred guys fight, but one of them kinda touches your soul, and Iko definitely had that quality," enthuses Berg. "And that's what started it. In the back of my mind, I said, 'I wanna work with that guy. I don't know how or what or when or where, but Iko's special.'" Shortly thereafter, Berg began formulating plans for an action film to bring Uwais to a worldwide audience. That film became Mile 22.

As with his work on The Raid films, Uwais was also trusted with creating his fight choreography for the film, which features Silat, a traditional Indonesian form of martial arts handed down to Iko through his ancestors. Uwais gets to showcase his Silat fighting techniques in several scenes, starting with an explosive fight sequence in the infirmary at the U.S. Embassy. Throughout the 22-mile journey, even while handcuffed, Li Noor joins Silva's team to fight the pursuing assassins in several battles, including the mid-city motorcycle ambush and the penultimate showdown at the apartment complex.

Berg and Uwais shared the ideology that the film's action appeared realistic. "Nothing seems fake," says Uwais. "Every fight scene, every action scene should be realistic and believable. It's not all about effects." Uwais says their collaboration during filming could not have been stronger. "He was like family, not like a boss. We were very close. There was no ego. It was my honor to work with him. We had the best time."

Wahlberg says he had an absolute blast working with the Indonesian action star. "He's spectacular," Wahlberg enthuses. "He is also a sweetheart of a guy. Very funny, very sweet - but he's badass. We had a lot of laughs. And I loved hanging out with his crew. He was teaching me Indonesian and I was teaching him a lot of English slang." Wahlberg was impressed with Iko's ability to learn the language and feel comfortable in an environment that was infused with a lot of improvisation. "I like to throw some curveballs and obviously we're improvising within the context of the scene, and he just did an outstanding job."

"This is really the beginning for me," Uwais says of his first starring role in an American movie. "It's a perfect collaboration between martial arts and Hollywood action." Uwais hopes that it shines a light on the Indonesian style of fighting he employs, interspersed within a big Hollywood film. "When people leave the theater, I hope they feel it's the coolest action movie they've ever seen!"

RONDA ROUSEY

Ronda Rousey is widely known for being the former UFC women's bantamweight champion fighter. More recently, she has showcased her physical prowess, both in the ring for WWE, as well as onscreen in Furious 7 and The Expendables 3. In Mile 22, she gets to defy expectations and flex her acting muscles in the role of Ground Branch officer Samantha "Sam" Snow, a member of Jimmy Silva's elite team.

"They put the script in my lap and it was a completely fresh and different role for me, and I absolutely loved it," enthuses Rousey. "My role was not so dependent on being physical and fighting; it was like completely the opposite. Pete was like, 'I don't want you to do ANY fighting. I don't want you doing anything Ronda-ish.' [He] really wanted to give me an opportunity to actually not just lean on the physicality part. I actually really love the fact that my character is great with guns and she's not really so much hand to hand combat at all, and so it was something very different for me."

Although we don't get to see the hand-to-hand fighting skills Rousey is known for, as Sam Snow, she does get to exhibit some physicality, from yanking a male Russian operative off his feet and throwing him to the ground like a rag doll, to displaying her character's marksmanship with an assault rifle. Still, it's a Ronda Rousey we haven't yet experienced. "She brings a vulnerability that one might not expect to that character," explains Berg. "I'm very proud of her as a human in terms of the adversity that she's overcome and what she went through in the UFC. To go from being that dominant, having suffered back-to-back losses would be enough to send most people to the North Pole forever. But the fact that she picked herself up, got married, has a new life, and has reinvented herself - I'm very impressed."

Sam Snow is more than just a foot soldier on a tactical team. "She is extremely intelligent and gifted in combat; she has had extensive tactical gun training. She doesn't really get nervous or anything like that. She's very relaxed in high-pressure situations. She keeps a cool head as crazy stuff happens around her all the time," says Rousey. "Sam doesn't trust anybody, but she is extremely loyal to her friends. Her friends are everything to her. Although she's got walls up, she still has a really big heart." Still, Sam Snow is part of a highly skilled group that will do anything to carry out their mission. "They do whatever is necessary, even the dirty stuff," Rousey explains. "They'll even leave their own people behind. It's mission before everything."

For the weeks prior to filming, Rousey joined the other lead actors at a special weapons training facility in Atlanta, where they trained with former Navy SEALs and Army Rangers to learn specialized skills like how to properly clear a room or hallway and how to problem solve in the moment, under tremendous pressure. "There was a lot more to it than I ever imagined," Rousey admits. "I tried my best not to look like a fool and to represent the people that I'm playing in a way that they would be proud of, because they put in so many years of work and time into their craft."

Rousey says the film provided just the challenge she needed in her life to prevent her from stagnating. "I love the process of mastering a new skill from scratch; it's what's most invigorating to me. Being here every day, I've been learning so many new things and I've been put outside my comfort zone - with Pete, Mark, Carlo, and Lauren all guiding me through it and being so patient," says Rousey.

As for what she wants the audience to experience with Mile 22, Rousey puts it simply: "I just want people to say they had fun. Walking out, I want this to be the kind of movie that makes you feel energized and drained."

JOHN MALKOVICH

Two-time Academy Award nominee John Malkovich reunites with his Deepwater Horizon director Peter Berg and co-star Mark Wahlberg for Mile 22, portraying Bishop, the ranking officer for Overwatch. Along with his team of tech experts (who are known only by chess board monikers: King, Queen, Knight, Rook, and Pawn), Bishop monitors and is in constant communication with Silva's Ground Branch, directing them and feeding them information in real time to guide them through their mission.

While Silva's tactical team utilizes heavy-duty combat weaponry, Bishop wields a different but equally powerful and effective weapon: state-of-the-art technology. It's that technology that allows Bishop to calmly do his job. "They just study and direct every element of the operation, from the route or navigating an alternate route. If they have to fight, we direct the fighting," explains Malkovich. "We have an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) control, which can shut down the power grid of the entire country, disabling media, law enforcement, et cetera. We also have two drones." Those high-tech countermeasures prove very effective in monitoring and aiding the Ground Branch team as they attempt to navigate the treacherous 22-mile gauntlet.

Bishop is an enigmatic figure, even to his colleagues; he is reserved and well-mannered but uses all the intelligence under his command to make swift life-and-death decisions. "Bishop is very experienced and generally quite calm," Malkovich says. "He's had previous missions with Mark's character and his team before, but the film doesn't get into those details. Obviously, they know each other; Bishop refers to Silva as 'My old friend'. That's all we know."

When she was forming the characters of Silva and Bishop, screenwriter Lea Carpenter drew from her own experiences and relationships with members of the Special Operations community. For example, she knew they would both be ultra-intelligent students of history. "I think this idea of the warrior poet is very much alive," she says. "My friends in Special Operations are incredibly well read, thoughtful, students of history, literature and philosophy," says Carpenter, citing novelist, naturalist, wilderness writer, and CIA agent Peter Matthiessen as one of her models for Bishop. "He was a Zen monk, but happened to also be a writer. I thought Bishop could be this aesthetically-minded student of history who just had dedicated his whole life to killing people."

Regarding Bishop and Overwatch, Malkovich is very clear. "These are people that are contracted - not for the U.S. government and not as employees of any of our intelligence agencies or military - to undertake certain activities. For the purposes of the mission, they have no allegiance to any state, any country, flag, or any rule. They're ghosts, leaving no history and no traceability to either the actors or to the acts which take place during the operations."

Unlike his co-stars, Malkovich didn't attend tactical and weapons training to prepare for his role. Instead, he relied on research to help him connect with Bishop. "I did a ton of reading, including The Looming Tower and The Ghost War. We have expert technical consultants who can explain things in detail. The best research I ever did was tour the KGB museum, which was a brilliant couple of hours. The Russians think much more long-term than we do. They have a very specific process they go through to get in people's heads, which takes generations."

After having such a great experience on Deepwater Horizon, Malkovich was looking forward to his second collaboration with both director, Peter Berg, and Mark Wahlberg, for whom he has tremendous respect. "I think he's the first actor I've ever seen who came into a reading where he knew the entire script. I don't even think he brought a script, so that gives an idea of his level of preparation," enthuses Malkovich. The Steppenwolf Theatre Company-trained actor also had high praise for his director. "Peter's style is sort of like controlled demolition. He's interested in the poetry of the real. He's super present. He takes what you do and he moves it over here, and he takes that and he puts in here, all in very unexpected ways," Malkovich says. "He's super collaborative and a terrific director. He changes a lot of things and it keeps you very alive, very awake. It makes you really be in the story, in the moment."

EMILY SKEGGS

Silva's team works alongside a staff of intelligence case officers and specialists, operating out of the U.S. Embassy in the city center of the unidentified host country, under the direction of the Embassy Chief and U.S. Ambassador. One of the specialists is a coding prodigy, known only as M.I.T. and played by 2015 Tony Award-nominated actress, Emily Skeggs. Trading the Broadway stage for the world of special operations, Skeggs describes her character as "a self-taught prodigy coder who's sort of the tech brain of the team. She approaches everything from the tech perspective."

Although the role of M.I.T. was originally written to be a male, the decision was made to switch the character's gender, a challenge that intrigued Skeggs. "I think there's a stereotype, an idea of what we think a coder looks like - and that stereotype is totally wrong," she says. "I was excited to take on the role from a female perspective, bring gender into play, and crack that stereotype open."

When Li Noor arrives at the Embassy with the top-secret information on a highly encrypted hard drive, it's M.I.T. who must try to crack the code. As the countdown timer on the drive ticks away, devouring the information contained on it, M.I.T. relies on her intellect to solve the puzzle. "The longer we're waiting for this time, the more information we're losing. The only other option is to figure out the author of the code," explains Skeggs. "That's where it got super-interesting for me, as an actor. They've left no trace, no distinguishing signatures to tell me who they are so that I can crack it. The one thing that stands out is this extraneous piece of code that doesn't fit in with the rest, which gives her a clue - and leads to a huge twist."

While researching to prepare for her tech-savvy role, Skeggs watched the documentary Zero Days, which follows the invention of Stuxnet, a highly sophisticated piece of self-replicating malware as yet largely unseen by the world. "Cyber warfare is the war of tomorrow. Technology is developing at such a fast rate, we can't even keep up to figure out how and when to protect ourselves, so we're left vulnerable. War is not relegated to the battlefield anymore," Skeggs adds.

She also learned that the tech world has gender disparity. "I watched this awesome documentary called Code: Debugging the Gender Gap, and the main thing I took away from it is that a lot of young women and girls are taught in school that they're not good at math or science - so they don't perform at the level they should," says Skeggs. It made her realize she'd doubted her own abilities and encouraged some self-reflection. "I took a step back and said, 'I'm good at language, logic, and puzzles. I can do that. That's all that coding is, so let me try.' I learned really basic code, and now I'm hooked!"

Her character's gender may actually give her an advantage in cracking the code. "I love the idea that M.I.T. can't figure out who the coder is, but she knows that the coder is a woman. She gets to that conclusion because the code is written in such an anonymous way - there's no ego there. It harkens back to this idea that throughout history and time, women have sort of quietly and without ego been working behind the scenes to get shit done."

"Peter Berg is an incredibly dynamic director. He works very quickly, but in a way that you get out of your head; you don't have time to think about ego-y things. You work fast and you work dirty. He knows certain tricks to get something to feel natural."

CARLO ALBAN

Carlo Alban, an Ecuadorian-born actor based in New York, has appeared in the films 21 Grams, Whip It, and the TV series Prison Break, as well as many Broadway and off-Broadway productions. In Mile 22, Alban plays CIA Ground Branch officer William Douglas III, better known to his team members as just Douglas - and sometimes Dougie. "He's a former Marine special operator and is considered kind of like a younger version of Silva," the actor notes. "He's mainly about loyalty to his team, who are really like his family."

For Alban, who says he grew up watching Mark Wahlberg's films, getting the opportunity to work with him was a dream come true. "Working with Mark is amazing. I just never thought I'd be doing this," he says. "If I'm being honest, it's like a dream come true. And now here I am. I'm driving the car. Mark's sitting shotgun. Lauren and Iko are in the back. It's just kind of mind-blowing to me, like I've stepped into a different reality."

Alban says working with director Peter Berg often felt like performing in a theatre. "Pete is unlike any director I've ever worked with. When Pete comes in, he rehearses the scene, but everything is very loose. He's not really attached to any of the dialogue. The film and scenes have a structure, but within that, there's a lot of room to play," he explains. "He is an actor, so he understands that we need to not feel stiff, and that we have a need to create and be a part of the process. He shoots with three or four cameras at time, so it feels almost like a play. You're actually playing out this whole thing in real time. There's so much more freedom it just makes everything feel more real. And I think it lends itself to this new wave of modern combat cinema that Pete Berg is part of."

To prepare for his role, Alban and his co-stars spent weeks training with two of the film's military tech advisors, former Army Ranger Jariko Denman and former Navy SEAL Ray Mendoza. "We started with the very basics, like how to hold a pistol and the proper form for firing," Alban recalls. "Then we moved to primary weapons, first with rubber guns, then working with the real things, but they weren't loaded. Showing us how to move, how to transition from a primary weapon into our secondary, how to do mag changes, which is something that you have to do in the field. Then they took us to a range and actually got to fire blanks."

The actors' training also involved working for a week in the interior of the apartment complex set to learn how to clear rooms as a military unit. "When you combine the training that we had with Pete's loose style of shooting, we can transition on the fly and it doesn't feel stiff. It feels real, because we actually know how to do these things. " Alban says that although their characters are fictional, they do belong to branches of the US military, so they all felt an enormous level of responsibility to get things right. "These are elite branches of the military, and they're sharing their knowledge with us. It's really an honor. They put their lives on the line every day. We're representing these people, so we want to make them look good."

SAM MEDINA

When the audience first meets actor and stunt performer Sam Medina as the character of Axel, the right-hand man to Indocarr's Deputy Foreign Minister, he appears to be a standard diplomat, with an even tone and a cordial manner. However, we soon learn this is a faƧade, as he verbally spars with Silva in the Ambassador's office, before being revealed as the chief adversary of Silva and his team.

Medina is best known for his roles in action films, including Olympus Has Fallen and the Kickboxer series of films, so he felt right at home on Mile 22. "When I first spoke with Pete, he said, 'Look, he's not a bad guy. He's just there to do a job. The government sends him in, and he has a task to do at any cost,'" says the actor of his character. For the film, director Peter Berg wanted the physically imposing Medina to appear less menacing. "He's like, 'Look, you look badass already. I'm going to tone you down,'" Medina recalls. "He wanted to put me in a polo shirt and make me look a little bit less badass and more nerdy, an executive type. That was Pete's vision and I think worked out perfectly."

Although he has been acting for the past decade, Medina counts his experience working on Mile 22 as a career highlight. "It's the most intense directing I've ever worked with, and I've been blessed to work with some legendary directors," says Medina of Peter Berg's style. "He's an actor's director. He's pretty much an actor's dream to work with."

Medina notes that the relationship between Axel and Silva is partially inspired by the rivalry between Robert De Niro and Al Pacino in Heat, which is evident in one of the film's most tense scenes: a meeting between Axel and Silva in a brief cease-fire. "Pete said, "We are writing this scene with you and Mark Wahlberg where you guys have a meeting. You guys are just going to talk about what's going to happen. And, you know, you guys just walk away and make it go boom. It's very casual, very business,'" Medina recalls. "Mark is an extraordinary actor, so to be able to play his nemesis is really the best thing that ever happened to me."

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