Band Of Brothers star hopes to honour soldiers with D-Day parachute jump

A British star of the war drama Band Of Brothers has said he hopes to honour the legacy of the soldier he played in the series when he joins fellow cast members for a parachute jump over Normandy as part of the D-Day commemorations.

Alex Sabga-Brady, who played Cpl Frank Mellet, is also producing a documentary following the group’s training for the jump, which saw them travel to the real place where their characters trained more than 80 years ago.

The 2001 series Band Of Brothers, which starred Damian Lewis and David Schwimmer, was created by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg.

The cast of Band of Brothers (Sky Atlantic)
The cast of Band of Brothers (Sky Atlantic)

It told the story of parachute rifle company Easy Company, the 506th Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, from 1942 to the end of the Second World War and marked Sabga-Brady’s first acting job at the age of 22.

He told the PA news agency: “I wasn’t a trained actor, I’d come into it through a friend of mine who suggested I go for a casting for it as they wanted some guys that had military experience and guys that didn’t and I was in the cadets.

“I had a series of big auditions for it with Tom Hanks, which was terrifying and amazing at the same time. I didn’t recognise him at the time because he was doing Castaway so he was really tanned, very skinny and brown, huge beard, but I recognised the voice and that was the beginning of it for me really.”

He spent 10 days in a 1940s-style military bootcamp with the cast, where they formed a bond that lasts to this day.

He said: “We were told we had to speak in character in American accents throughout this process.

“It was a group of guys who didn’t know anything about anything, and then turned us into what effectively looked like a believable company of soldiers and still stands today within friendships and brotherhoods between us as a cast.”

The group at jump training (Stuart Bertie)
The group at jump training (Stuart Bertie)

His character Cpl Mellet was killed in action in 1945 but during preparation Sabga-Brady did meet a number of surviving members of Easy Company to build a picture of the person he was playing.

He said: “Meeting the guys that he actually served with, that really gave me something tangible and all the cast something tangible to work with. And unfortunately, none of the guys from Easy Company are now surviving, which is leading us to what we are doing.

“A number of us work closely with veterans foundations, mainly in the US because of the series being a US show and the following that it still has today, and through this, we get taken out to Normandy, and we interact with everyone that’s out there, right from current serving troops through to veterans and the general public and it’s such an amazing and humbling place.”

He added: “And the idea (for a D-Day parachute jump to raise money for veteran charities) blossomed from our experiences over there.

“We thought, what would be the ultimate way to really pay homage to who we portrayed, and to also raise money and to create awareness of these men and these women that served throughout this period of time, to make sure that their legacy never dies? So we thought, let’s try and jump out of a plane.”

He will be joined by cast members including George Calil, who played Sgt Alley; Christian Black, who played Walter Hendrix, Mark Lawrence, who played William Dukeman, Rene Moreno, who played Joseph Ramirez and Nolan Hemmings, who played Chuck Grant, for two jumps, on June 3 and June 8.

They will jump from an original C-47 plane that was used on D-Day in Normandy carrying paratroopers.

The team train for the jump (Stuart Bertie)
The team train for the jump (Stuart Bertie)

The 80th anniversary of D-Day is on June 6.

The group have trained at Camp Toccoa in Georgia, USA, where the original Easy Company trained in 1942 and which is now a museum

He said: “We trained with US paratroopers from an all-airborne battalion and these guys put us through our paces learning, basically, to keep yourself alive by jumping out of a plane and then do it as safely as possible.

“It’s a high risk sport, it’s a high risk activity, but to do it in such a way that we minimise the risk, it was an incredible experience.

“We had been to Toccoa on a set built in Hatfield Studios back in 2000, but to actually set foot on to the place where these guys really did train was a very humbling and very emotional experience for the cast. And it’s something that we’ll never forget.

“And then to start actually training as an airborne paratrooper to learn what these guys did on the same ground that these men did 82 years ago was again another incredible experience and I don’t think you can really bring the seven of us that did it down from cloud nine.”

The documentary, titled The Jump: Currahee to Normandy, will follow the group through their training to the final events in Normandy.