Behind the Shield host Jeanette Thompson sat down with Coming Home producer David Metzler and learned more about the show and filming with the Raiders and Raider Nation.
Q: How did you identify this family that loves the Raiders and bring them here to meet their father and reunite them?
David Metzler: Finding people for the show is always a challenge because we have to find guys that are coming home when we're shooting. We work with a lot of military consultants and we put the word out to basically guys who are down-range and said, 'Who are the Raider fans out there?' They said, of course, that Sgt. Eaton is a huge fan and his commander nominated him. So we found his family through him and we just figured out with the military how to get him home in time for this special event. We got lucky he's about the biggest Raider fan I think I've ever met. It was cool.
Q: How did you select the Raiders as a place that you wanted to announce this homecoming?
David Metzler: I will never forget it. I got a call from Lifetime, who said that Amy Trask just called us and the Raiders want to work with the show and I thought that was awesome. Amy is a force of nature. She decided that she loved the show and she wanted to be a part of it and her and her whole team, Brad [Phinney] opened the doors wide open. There was no way we couldn't have done it, it was amazing. In the years I've been producing, I've not had very many people open the doors that wide and just way, 'come on in.' It was amazing, it was a great moment.
Q: You mentioned opening the doors wide open and some people don't know what that means and how difficult it is to shoot something like this because you've got all these different angles and emotions. What does it mean to have the doors open to you?
David Metzler: It's an amazing thing to think that during an active football season that the Raiders let us come in the day before a game, shoot with the team, really make Sgt. Eaton, our hero in the show, feel special outside of just shooting the television show. Amy took the time to show him around and introduce him to everybody and bring players over. To get on the field at halftime of a home game, it's a huge deal. It's not something as television producers that we take for granted. It's not something we get to do very often.
Q: Truly this is reality TV. You're bringing troops home to visit their families. How exciting is that to involve a live game, fans who you don't know how they're going to react, and to see the outcome?
David Metzler: It's the reason we do this. It's the most exciting thing in the world to say, okay, you've got seven minutes to get out there, you've got a dad dressed up as a holder and you've got his kids waiting to reunite with him. It doesn't get any better than that. Your adrenaline gets going. You just hope none of those cameras fail and you just run out there and it all happens. We felt particularly good about this one, one, because the family is terrific and the dad's terrific and, two, because Amy has been talking all along about how great the Raider fans are. As Matt alluded to, nobody left their seat. The fans were unbelievable to us and to have that packed stadium chanting "USA" at the end, it was a great feeling.
Q: After seeing them reunite, fans relayed their own experiences in returning from duty. Do you always experience that when you have these?
David Metzler: We experience it a lot. There's something very visceral with what we do with these reunions. You can't help but get choked up when you see a parent reunited with their children or a husband and wife reunited after months. The bigger the stage, the more I think it impacts you. This was the biggest stage we've done this on and I think it was in the neighborhood of 60,000 people. To have all those people looking at this family is an intense experience for the people on the field and in the stands. It was cool. You felt it on the field. It was cool to feel that many people feeling the same thing at the same time. So it was a special moment.
Q: Tonight we're having an event with some special guests to see this for the first time. Have you been invited back before to the grounds in which an episode was filmed?
David Metzler: No, this will be the first one. It's great to be back. Of all of them, this was one of the most special episodes of television I've had the opportunity to make so being able to come back and really thank the Raiders for all that they've given to us and to have everybody in this community be able to see this show a little early is great. Its fun and I think we've hopefully done Raider Nation proud.
Q: Talk a little bit about amount of footage or tape you used.
David Metzler: We were like a kid in the candy store. Matt Rogers, who is our host and is amazing and one of the best talents I've worked with, is a former football player and a big fan. So as soon as we told him we were going to shoot with the Raiders, you could just see his eyes light up. We shot as much as everybody would allow us to. We showed up in the morning at the field and we just kept rolling. We have hours and hours of footage that can't fit into a 42 minute show. There's tons of great stuff and that's what we do, we over-shoot. It was difficult to edit it down to the best moments because there were a lot of great moments and people we were able to shoot with. We got it down to what we thought were the very best moments but with everything we were able to shoot here, we probably could have done a two hour movie of "Raiders bring back Sgt. Eaton."
Q: What was your favorite part of the episode?
David Metzler: There's two moments that I think I like the most. One is a very quiet moment when Matt sat down with Sgt. Eaton and talked to him in the locker room right before everything was going to happen. Sgt. Eaton opened up to him and it was a really neat moment and it was sort of surreal as he was dressed in his Raiders outfit about to go on the field. That was really cool and really unique. We don't get the chance to do that in a lot of our shows. Then of course, my ultimate favorite moment was that second he took the helmet off and turned around and was on the field and the crowd went nuts and his kids just darted at him. They just crashed into each other there on the field and everyone went crazy. I'll never forget that. It was amazing.
Q: What are questions you get from the fans or the public about production or the show?
David Metzler: I think people always want to know, 'was that all real?' The answer is yes. They want to know what parts we played a hand in or what parts was a natural reaction. The great thing about our show is that we build everything to that one moment. It's one giant moment where a family is reunited and it's probably the most real moment I've had to shoot. It's as real as it gets. At that moment, what people are really curious about, is 'how does that happen in front of cameras?' The truth is that those families and Matt and everybody in our production, the cameras disappear. All the people that have been on our show will say that. As soon as they see their dad or their mom, who has returned home from Afghanistan or Iraq, they forget that there is a production or a camera there. It's just raw emotion and that was one of the things here that was special. Those 60,000 people disappeared for a moment in the eyes of the family.