Exclusive Q&A with Rogers, Metzler and McCallum

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David Metzler, Napoleon McCallum and Matt Rogers answer questions from special guests at an exclusive screening of Coming Home. Photo by Tony Gonzales

The Oakland Raiders hosted an exclusive screening for very special guests of Lifetime TV's Coming Home. Guests had the opportunity to ask the show's host Matt Rogers, the show's producer David Metzler, and Raiders Legend Napoleon McCallum, questions following the screening.

Q: Seemed like you were living a little bit of your [Matt Rogers] dream as well. Would I be far from the truth in saying that?

Matt Rogers: Not at all. I've been blessed to do television shows after being a finalist on American Idol for Season 3, and anything with sports and music I love, and I've always supported our military, but to be a part of something like this and I grew up on Raider football, and I just know what I knew from the television, but getting inside the organization, meeting Amy [Trask] and the unbelievable staff…You guys are seriously are on your A-game. I was blown away by what you guys truly bring to the NFL and to be a part of that, a football player, see you guys out there, I was living my dream. It was unbelievable. I loved it.

Q: The amount of choreography to pull something like that off was just stunning. We were there at the game. What was the hardest part – keeping it from the kids, the stadium, the fans? It worked. We were there and to see it broadcast and how beautifully it was shot, congratulations on that. Sitting in the stands, it was amazing because I felt like I was in the front row because it was so powerful.

David Metzler: First, to echo what Matt said, just to be invited into this world on our end, was unbelievable. Without exaggeration, Amy and Brad [Phinney] and Vittorio [DeBartolo] brought us in, in a way we rarely get brought into places. They just said, 'what do you want to do and we'll make it happen.' So that made something that's very hard much easier and so we're incredibly appreciative and incredibly proud to be part of it. The hardest part was the choreography of that final scene. Myself and my director and VP were up half the night drawing charts of, 'so you're going to move here and then right when that happens, you're going to go here.' It was like a football play. It was like, 'you're going to cut across here,' because what's difficult is I think we had five cameras on the field at that moment and we needed to not catch each other in our shots and we needed to pull it off in seven minutes and we needed to make sure we got those shots that everybody loves so much, which are the close ups of the kids crying while they're hugging their dad. That was definitely the hardest part mostly in the sense that you don't get a second shot at that. It was great and it was just amazing and one of the most exciting shoot moments of my career.

Matt Rogers: The thing that's great about Dave, and what was great about the Raiders, is that they let us do our thing. It's like when you're creating something, if your boss tells me, 'alright Matt, do your thing,' and I have ideas all the time, and he rarely tells me, 'no.' So it kind of lets me be me and it just works.

David Metzler: There may have been a couple, 'no's' in this one. I think Matt really wanted to get in the game.

Q: Was there any point as you were walking out on the field with the family that you're thinking that it's not going to go right, that they're going to recognize that that's their dad, anything like that?

Matt Rogers: I didn't. By then, that guy Bobby [Romanski], the Raiders equipment manager, that dude is unbelievable. I had ideas and he was always one step ahead of me. I'm like, 'well, what if this happens?' And Bobby is like, 'no, I got this.' 'Well, what if that happens.' 'No, I got this.' So we were already prepared for that so walking out I knew there was no way the kids were going to recognize him because he looked exactly like a Raider. I told him to keep his head down and that was it. It worked out. I wasn't nervous at all.

Q: Napoleon [McCallum], thanks for joining us today. Your story is amazing. Being drafted by the Raiders, did it all just kind of come together for you and allow you to do both careers that you wanted to do?

Napoleon McCallum: You know, I've always said this, it was a blessing to come to the Raiders because no one wanted to take a chance on me and actually draft me that early knowing that I had a five-year commitment [to the U.S. Navy]. It was wild, it was tough, I enjoyed serving my country, but I also loved playing here with the Raiders and Raider Nation and all the guys. For Mr. Davis to have that much faith in me, it just makes you dig deeper inside and play harder. I think that's what he's done here. His legacy is that he got guys to reach down deeper, guys that no one else would take a chance on, and that's how I feel.

Q: Can you talk about what your daily life was like as well because I don't think people understand that when we say you served two nations, you literally did on a daily basis?

Napoleon McCallum: When I was here, I was stationed in Long Beach and we were on an amphibious assault ship, and it was dry-docked, so the Navy is 24 hours. So I would go into work extra early, I was a food service officer then. I took care of the breakfast and lunch. Right after lunch, I was in the car driving to Raider practice. I would miss the morning practice and then I had guys like Frank Hawkins, Marcus Allen, they were trying to tell me what I had to do because I had missed all the training going on in the morning and then after practice and after spending some time with my coach, every fourth day, I'd actually have to go back to the ship and stand watch or a duty. It was a four-hour watch, protecting the ship, and stand duty on the ship in case something went wrong and being able to handle any kind of emergency. So that was my life back then. The break I got was that on Saturdays and Sundays I didn't have to stand duty or watch.

Q: With the flyover at that game and everyone staying in their seats at halftime, I knew something special was going to happen.

Matt Rogers: For those of you that weren't there, literally, no one left their seat. I was blown away because you go in thinking, 'I hope we have a pretty good turnout. Oh, it's halftime so half the people are going to be at the bathroom and concessions.' As a camera guy, you want it to look big and you want it to look packed, so they stressed hours about which direction to shoot. But we literally could have shot it, which we did, from any angle and everything was packed. I was blown away and the fans, it was really cool to be in the middle of that and no one left.

David Metzler: Brad had it all coordinated that the second that the team was coming off, they were making the announcement up in the booth and Matt was walking on. That was the other thing – just don't let any dead time pass. Before anyone could even stand up or think about going, something is happening. That all worked really well too.

Q: Talk a little bit about the fact that this was the largest live audience you've had watch this happen. Was there any concern about that many people and what might possibly happen? Did you have a plan B?

David Metzler: That's sort of the fun and the torture of our show. There's never a plan B. You just go at plan A with everything you've got and hope for the best. The bigger the crowd in the show, the better, which is really one of the many things that made this really, really special. When you put people in front of a crowd that big, it's like a football game, the stage is bigger and the emotions get heightened. Having Raiders fans cheering like crazy, those kids and their dad and the family, they felt it. It's visceral, you're in that moment, and that's just great for our television show. It's just what you want, you want everybody's emotions to rise up and become something you can capture. That happened to a level beyond our expectations really at that moment. It was great.

Q: Where did you find the Eaton family?

David Metzler: Finding families for our show was tough because we have a production schedule and the military and the servicemen have a different schedule. We have a network of consultants and people within the Department of Defense, and we put the word out that what we needed for this one was somebody who is just crazy for the Oakland Raiders. We needed a fan. His application came in and I remember he had written like pages of the history of the Raiders and where he fit in and how it changed his life and changed the course of where he was going. If this isn't the guy…we started talking to his commander in the field and were like, 'look, the game is this day and we know he's going to come back right around there, but we need it to be right at this moment or the whole thing doesn't work.' Everybody really helped us out and was really excited about it and got him back in time and it was really cool.

Q: You need to remind people that when you see shots in Coming Home of fire fights, of that apache helicopter dropping something, that explosion, that's not special effects. That's real. This isn't the movies, this isn't TV, that's real ammunition and those are real bombs and those are real lives. Do you sense that every moment that you're with these servicemen, and in some cases servicewomen? Is there a constant reminder or do you have to remind yourself sometimes?

Matt Rogers: I'm always mindful of it because I want to be sensitive to the fact to where we're trying to film a good television show, but the reality is, is that this guy was probably in a ditch like 72 hours ago taking bullets over his head. And in this guy's situation, Michael Eaton, he's in the stuff, he's kicking down doors, he's the guy that's in there. I remember driving to lunch when we picked him up, and I'll never forgot driving down the freeway, Coliseum is on our left and I'm driving and the cameras are down and he's literally sitting there and scanning the sky. I asked him what he was doing and he goes, 'oh, sorry, I can't help it, I'm constantly scanning.' Because he's the guy that sits on top of the tank and is constantly scanning for Al Qaeda trying to take him out. Then we get to the restaurant and he's sitting with the door behind him and he keeps looking over his shoulder. And I'm like, 'what's up?' He goes, 'do you mind if I go sit next to the wall, I want my back to the wall, because I feel exposed here.' Then he starts talking about if someone were to come through, we would have a choke point and he's planned this whole situation out in his head as if we're going to get attacked at this restaurant. What I try to do is I try to latch on to the guys right away and build that bridge of comfortability with them. I want him to feel cool with me because it is cool with me. I want him to know that we are here for him and I try my best to understand what he's going through. I never will, but the more I talk to him, the more I let him talk and understand and he kind of opens up even more and makes him feel more comfortable and forgets about the cameras and ultimately the show looks great because he can be himself. But I'm constantly mindful of that because it's evident with a lot of these guys that it's still going through their mind.

David Metzler: It's hard to imagine it sometimes because we've been out shooting the show, but we're only shooting one side of it. In fact, that footage you see in the show, we get from the military, those are guys in the field shooting real things happening. They give us the footage so it's all very real, but as Matt said, it can be hard in that moment to remember, you're not just landing at an airport from somewhere else in the country, you're landing from, in Michael's case, from a fight. He was really in the middle of it right before he came to see us. It's a special moment. I think a lot of times I think the, like when you saw his wife meet him at the airport, those moments are unbelievable. That's when it's really real for us and for the production team. You just feel like wow, this woman hasn't seen her husband for almost a year and we're really privileged to be here to document it. And that's when it's super real, you see how much they've missed each other.

Question from Marine Sergeant Joshua Phillips: First off, I'm a huge fan of the Raiders organization. This really does bring back the recommitment and I just can't express enough how admirable it is for the organization and you gentlemen to put all this effort into it. It really brings back, and I think I can speak on behalf of the troops that have been deployed and come home to this same type of scenario like myself, I almost lost it a few times watching this. It really brings back those memories very much so. I can't say thank you enough for putting this together the way you did. And to follow up with a question because watching this I'm tearing up, how did you not lose it while you're filming it?

Matt Rogers: I do. I'm constantly crying all the time. I cry all the time. I don't know why it always doesn't make the cut.

David Metzler: Well, we're always cutting around you. 'Oh my god, Matt's crying again.'

Matt Rogers: I cry more than my wife. I cry all the time because I really do have such an appreciation for my country, for you guys. I have a brother-in-law who was a Marine for 15 years. I hear the stories. I know what's it's like and I see what it's done to family members being away for so long. I have that connection and it's no joke. To be doing what I love to be doing on TV and be a part of something so deep, to be a part in someone's life, I just feel so tremendously blessed. I love it so much, this is one show I hope never ends. It does not get old to me.

Q: I just want to make a comment. I come from a military family. I have family that served from the Korean War on forward and my brother was in Vietnam. What you're doing is indicative of a shift that America has made, which is the willingness and the desire to honor people who have served this country. We did not do that coming out of Vietnam. I'm incredibly encouraged to see that you're placing the focus on this and people get to see these kinds of reunions because these are the types of things we need to honor for people who are willing to lay down their lives so that we can go about doing what we do every day and have the freedoms that we do. So I want to say thank you on behalf of a military family that didn't get that kind of welcome home either from our government or from TV or the rest of America. So I'm very encouraged to see this. I thank you and hope that this does continue for as long as we're in conflict somewhere.

Napoleon McCallum: When I watched that show, I'm thinking about when I was deployed and there were four years where I did not play football and I was on board a ship, on a Westpac, and away from my wife for seven-eight months, and I just know that when I was deployed, I had pictures of my wife, and back then you could text messages that were like 50-cents a word. You're on that ship 24 hours a day for seven months and you're looking at pictures and you're just trying to remember. I just don't know how, I didn't have kids back then, but I don't know how those guys could keep it…it's just amazing. It hurt so much to be away and when you see your wife for that first time, it's just incredible and I think you guys captured a little bit of it so that people that haven't served could see what people go through, the sacrifices that they make. I just think you guys have a hit there. It's good TV that we should be watching.

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