11:55am PT by Kate Stanhope
'Valor' "Makes a Political Statement" by Highlighting Female Army Pilot, Star Says
There are three military shows debuting on broadcast television this fall, but, like its CBS and NBC counterparts, the producers behind The CW's take, Valor, insist they have something unique to offer.
"This is a female-driven military drama which I think does set it apart, and it's a story I think we're all excited to tell," executive producer Anna Fricke told reporters Wednesday at the Television Critics Association's summer press tour.
Valor centers on a U.S. Army base that houses an elite unit of helicopter pilots trained to perform clandestine international and domestic missions. Specifically, the drama looks at Nora (Christina Ochoa), the first female on her team.
"Special ops in real life has just very recently been taking female pilots in combat-forward positions. It's really the first special ops combat position that has been available to women, and that struck me as really important and a really fascinating story," said exec producer Kyle Jarrow.
Jarrow was inspired to write a project about the military after hearing about his brother's experiences in the armed forces. "To tell a story about a badass woman who is really pioneer in her field, that felt like such a special merging of stories to get to tell," he said. "There are women in the armed forces, and we feel like that's a story that is true but hasn’t been told a lot."
Not only must Nora deal with being the first female on her team, but her work is also complicated by her relationship with another member of the team, Gallo (Matt Barr). "It's not easy. She does have to fight for this a little bit every day, and she is constantly reminded that she is the first female," Fricke said. "She is treated differently, and we are aware of it."
In addition to the recent rise of military dramas across the TV landscape (see also History's Six and USA Network's Shooter), the timing is also ripe for the launch of a specifically female-driven military show, according to Ochoa, because of current political times.
"It makes a political statement," she said. "Bringing strong, empowered females to the forefront in telling these stories and their fight and showing them as nuanced and filling them with subtleties … is incredibly important, especially nowadays, if we have the opportunity to take this as a our little soapbox and have a platform for that voice. I'm incredibly proud to be apart of any project that has that mission."
That premise has been warmly received by those in the military thus far, according to Fricke. "We've had very positive feedback when it came to having the female element in the forefront, having a female point of view and a new storyline to go with that," she said.
However, for all the grounded parts of the story, there will be some soapy elements as well, since the show lives on The CW. But the producers insist it will be "grounded" while also dramatic.
"Hopefully, we can get some good soapy intrigue in a way that feels authentic and true to the those military people," Fricke said.
Ochoa added that Valor will always be "human first, military second."
In addition to the more soapy aspects of the two protagonists' romantic relationship, the series will also deal with military-specific storylines like addiction and the coping mechanisms those in the military use to get through the tougher parts of their job. Said Ochoa, "[These] are things that are very important to us to tackle, as well as the relationships."
Valor is set to premiere Monday, Oct. 9, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on The CW.