Patrick Labyorteaux: JAG

After a big interview with David James Elliott about his time on JAG, we’ve been lucky enough to catch up with Patrick Labyorteaux, who worked closely with David on the series and played popular character Bud Roberts. Patrick had some very challenging storylines later on in the series and even reprised his role for NCIS. TV Flashback caught up with Patrick to learn more about his time on the hit series…

1) How did you become involved with JAG?

I auditioned in the normal way. It was for a guest starring role in the pilot. I was never supposed to be a regular on the show. That made the auditioning process very simple. I read For Don Bellisario and I got the part. I believe I was the second one cast after David. It was during the filming of the pilot that Don Bellisario, who was directing, decided that he was going to add the character of Bud Roberts to the series as a regular. However, I was already committed to a TV show called “The Last Frontier” over on Fox. That’s why in the first year of JAG Bud Roberts only appears in the pilot and then the un-aired last episode on NBC. That episode later become a “Skeleton Crew” in season 2 when we were on CBS.

[Editor’s note: The episode Patrick refers to, is technically in season 3 (NBC aired the first series) the title in season 1 was Skeleton Crew (unaired in the US, but is available on the DVD), the episode is called Death Watch in season 3.]

2. What was it like being involved in a big budget, big action series like JAG?

It was wonderful! It was very cool to have all of the toys and have the jets and the tanks and the ships in the military involved. We would have over $200 million for set dressing and we would go to Point Magoo Navel Air Station and shoot on the flight line with all of these F-14 Tomcats. The military were amazing and so helpful and the people in the military are the best.

3. Did you do many of your own stunts? Did you get to drive tanks / fly in planes etc?

I did not do my own students. I had injured myself early on the while doing my own stunts and from then on it was thought best if the stunt person did it. I was lucky enough to ride in Humvees and was deployed on the aircraft carrier USS Stennis for 3 days. That was awesome. David and I shared a cabin in officers country under the flight deck. Then we were launched off the carrier in a COD transport plane. It was AMAZING!

4. What sort of training did you do with the military prior to starting on the show and what sort of assistance did the military provide?

I did not do any prep BEFORE the show started – as a TV show the schedule was very quick. However, We had our Military Advisor Matt Sigloch who was the best. He was a Marine Master Sergeant and knew everything about protocol and behavior and was invaluable.

5. You worked very closely with David James Elliott and Catherine Bell during the series, how did you find working with them?

They were both so dreamy! Seriously, both were super professional – David was STILL breaking his scripts down on our very last episode! In addition, we all got along and there was never any drama – which not only saves time and money, but one’s sanity when you work closely for 10 years.

6. Did you have any special bonds with the rest of the cast? Any fun moments on set?

Karri Turner, who played Bud’s wife Harriett was a friend of mine from The Groundlings Improv troupe. That was great to work with her again. But, I would have to say the best, most memorable relationship was with Producer Tina Albanese. We met, secretly dated for a year and then married and had a child. JAG gave me a life, a wife and a child 😀

7. Your character had a lot of big challenges on the show, especially when you lost your leg. Was that a storyline that you felt was important for the show and your character?

Absolutely! That storyline started in the 7th season and was a great gift from Don. To be an actor in the 6th year of a show and be handed such a great storyline was so wonderful!

8. Are there any storylines you would have liked to have explored given the chance? Anything you think the show missed out doing?

I wished they had had a chance to end the show instead of leaving everything up in the air – LITERALLY! I also thought the show was very good at comedic story lines when they had them and would have loved to have played more of those.

9. You wrote an episode “JAG TV”, how did that come about?

The producers knew of my great desire to write for television and were kind enough to let me come in and pitch ideas. They liked the JAG TV story the best and we went with that. I actually wrote the script with Tina Albanese, who I would later create the Nickelodeon sitcom “See Dad Run” with years later. However, due to politics, it’s only my name on the episode as writer. But Tina and I wrote it together.

10. What were the challenges writing an episode? Did you feel extra pressure to get the episode right?

I’m sure every writer feels the pressure to do their best. I had a lot of support from the writing staff. I think the most difficult aspect of the process was taking notes and losing scenes of bits Tina and I had fallen in love with.

11. Were you surprised a show about the US military was so popular in Australia? Why do you think it was?

I was very surprised. I know it’s a good show and there are tons of reasons to love it – but in some ways JAG was more popular in Australia than in the US. The only reason I can think of is Australian’s have better taste in Military Drama’s than the US 😀

12. You shot episode 100 and 101 in Australia, what was it like shooting in Australia? Any interesting stories about your time in Sydney?

LOVED, LOVED, LOVED shooting in Australia! Was freaked out about Bug being on the menu – but found it’s quite tasty! Manly beach was fun to shoot at 😀 Later When I watched the Matrix I recognized the city and was thrilled. I really couldn’t get over how laid back and kind the people were! That is what I remember the most.

Plus, JAG was the very first credit for Sam Worthington!

[Editor’s note: See below:]

13. Did you have a favourite episode or storyline?

I loved the pilot because it birthed EVERYTHING! I also loved “Jaggle Bells” I got to play Santa. And I was really excited about writing JAG TV.

14. What will you treasure most from your time working on JAG, from both a professional and personal perspective?

Personal its hands down meeting my wife 😀

Professional would be the gratefulness of having a job for 10 years that allowed me to write and learn while getting paid.

15. You’ve reprised your role in NCIS a couple of times – what was that like? Did you miss the character?

I love Bud Roberts. he is a real stand up guy and I think he’s very fun to play. NCIS is always fun because of my relationship with Mark. Would love to do more.

16. Do you think a new version of JAG would work now? Do you think Bud Roberts could possibly be the JAG now?

No doubt you could create a JAG that would work today. Not sure it would be the same show as before – but JAG was about people in crisis moments and overcoming adversity. Those types of stories are ALWAYS interesting. The interplay between characters you care about is key – and JAG succeeded in that.

and YES – Bud should be the JAG!

17. What have you been up to recently?

On the acting side I’ve recently worked on the Apple + show “For all Mankind” and the Paramount+ show “The Offer.”

Recently, I have started the WorkingActorsSchool.com. With my history in the business from a child all the way through adult years, I wanted to share my experiences ON THE SET and is a creative approach to the craft of acting and a practical guide to the business. The school is completely online and we like to say, “You don’t have to live in Hollywood, to train in Hollywood!” We focus on teaching how to act in a real world setting from beginner all the way to working professionals. It’s fun and easy to join – check us out or reach out at workingactorsschool@gmail.com.

Thanks to Patrick for a great interview, make sure to check out WorkingActorsSchool.com and he’s also on Cameo.

You can see Patrick in scenes from JAG below (Viewer discretion is advised):