AJ Buckley exclusive: CBS’ SEAL Team star is a kickass entrepreneur and dad too

AJ Buckley can be seen on CBS and soon WGN America. Pic credit: AJ Buckley, Photographer credit: Per Bernal

CBS SEAL Team star AJ Buckley is the hardest working man in Hollywood these days.

Over the course of his career, AJ has appeared in over 30 feature films and television series and shows no signs of slowing down.

He does it all, from noir comedic roles to the nerdy scientist to villainous sociopaths, and a popular Texas tough-talking Navy SEAL.

AJ can currently be seen starring opposite David Boreanaz on CBS’ hit military drama SEAL Team.

The series follows the lives of the most elite unit of Navy SEAL’s and Buckley is cast as the born and bred Texan, Sonny Quinn, who is known for his tough act and no-nonsense attitude.

AJ also recently starred as a misfit cop in the critically acclaimed CBC drama series Pure, which will debut on WGN America on Wednesday, January 23 at 10/9c. We have previewed the first episode and it’s one to watch for!

Born in Ireland, AJ immigrated to Canada at the age of six. Growing up in British Columbia, he began his acting career guest-starring on shows such as The X-Files filmed in BC.

It was after his breakout role in the film Disturbing Behavior that director David Nutter suggested he move to Los Angeles. Read on!

On top of all of this, he has a thriving company too. This dad entrepreneur is the co-founder of Paperclip, an innovative line of high-end diaper bags designed for modern parenthood.

When AJ isn’t on set or working on one of his businesses, he actively supports men’s cancer charities and child welfare projects.

We spoke to this amazing actor about his current slate:

Monsters and Critics: You are a Dublin native, how has transitioning as a teenage actor living and working in Vancouver, Canada and then to the USA gone for you, and do you return frequently back to Ireland, or is British Columbia, Canada considered more “home” for you?

AJ Buckley: It hasn’t been an easy road by any sense . I lived out of my car for over a year but to be honest I wouldn’t trade any of those moments for they have defined who I am today as an artist, a husband, a father and a man.

It’s been a while since I’ve returned to either due to my schedule, having kids etc. however, I would love more than anything to go to Ireland to do a play of some sort.

It’s where I discovered that I wanted to be an actor and it would be really amazing to have it come full circle. Both Canada and Ireland are near and dear to my heart for various reasons.

M&C: It had to be hard at such a young age to be in Hollywood just starting with no real financial safety net, how did you cope and handle this? Who gave you your first big acting break?

AJ: There’s many times that I look back on my journey and I know how hard the struggle was for me.

I had so much self-belief and had a dream that was such a burning fire inside of me that none of it intimidated me. I also had an incredible support system from my mom and dad that encouraged me to dig deep and conquer my dreams!

If it wasn’t for their love and emotional support I would not be where I am today. My first big acting break was on the X-files. At that time it was one of the biggest shows in the world.

The late Kim Manners was the director at the time, whom 15 years later I’ve reconnected with on the set of Supernatural playing Ed Zeddmore.

The movie that got me to Los Angeles was Disturbing Behavior directed by David Nutter. It was David’s advice to my parents to move to LA and find an agent as my character was testing really high.

When I got to LA, I landed a lead role in a Showtime original movie called In a Class of His Own with Lou Diamond Phillips, written and directed by Robert Munic.

I feel very blessed to have had people like Robert and David in my life as they have always gone above and beyond for me.

M&C: So many people love Ed Zeddmore on The CW’s Supernatural, the leader of The GhostFacers. How did you conceptualize and come up with this memorable funny character and are there more comedic roles in your future?

Ed Zeddmore was a paranormal investigator who investigated real ghost hauntings with his fellow team members on Supernatural. Pic credit: CW.

AJ: It kind of happened organically. David Nutter was actually someone who played a big role in me getting this part as the casting director didn’t think I was quite the right fit for this role.

David made a call to convince the casting director otherwise. There are very few times in your career where you meet your co-star and it’s love at first sight.

That’s how it was for Travis Wester and I/ Ed Zeddmore and Harry Spangler had chemistry that was undeniable.

I would love to come back to Supernatural and give the audience the proper send-off that these characters deserve.

We are the longest living characters in the Supernatural franchise. So for all the ‘Super’ family out there, use hashtag #BringBackTheFacers and have us ride off into the sunset in our Scooby van.

M&C: How do you describe the apolitical and volatile Special Warfare Operator and soldier Sonny Quinn, the Texan on CBS’ “SEAL Team” to people not familiar with the show?

AJ Buckley as Sonny Quinn. Pic credit: Erik Voake/CBS Broadcasting, Inc.

AJ: Sonny Quinn is a cowboy. All he cares about is his country, freedom, women and whiskey.

M&C: What have you learned from some of the CBS Seal Team tech advisors on the show? Any great anecdotes you can share with fans?

AJ: Prior to doing the show, I’ve had no military experience and have never even shot a gun. I’ve always had respect for the military but have never fully understood what self-sacrifice meant.

These men and women are willing to risk everything for their love of this country. To anyone that will give the ultimate sacrifice for something that they believe in, I will always have the utmost respect for them and I am forever grateful.

M&C: One of my favorite performances of yours was that of Danny Crowe in Justified for FX. That role, crazy Florida trash! How much fun is it to play a total sociopath?

AJ: Anytime that you get a character that is so rich and deep in layers in a script that is so well written, is an actor’s ultimate dream.

Justified happened at a perfect time in my career as it was such a departure from Ed Zedmore and Adam Ross of CSI:NY.

That role single handedly shifted the direction of my career and allowed me to play the roles that I have always wanted to play.

M&C: Who would Danny rather hang with and have a beer and some laughs, Boyd Crowder or Raylan Givens?

AJ: Boyd Crowder without a doubt. I am such a massive fan of Walton Goggins and have learned so much as an actor working alongside him.

M&C: You have physically transformed from that FX Justified role to the Sonny Quinn Seal Team role, how did you get in shape for that character?

AJ Buckley today, Pic credit: AJ Buckley, Photography by Per Bernal

AJ: I started working with an amazing team of people, Kevin Libby, Rehan Jalali and Eric the Trainer.

With that being said, unless you’re willing to put in the work and work when everyone else is sleeping, it doesn’t matter who you hire.

I’ve learned that if you want to see change and success you have to be the hardest working person in the room at all times.

M&C: You have new twins, born this year and an older daughter, talk about how the diaper bag company, Paperclip, was created by new fathers, your partner Artie, and how it came to be after your daughter Willow’s birth?

AJ: The bag’s inception happened when I went to change my daughter in the men’s restroom and there was no changing table there. I had to take off my shirt and change my daughter on the floor.

When I went home I thought I failed as a father and started to look online for bags that had a built in changing station. I realized then that there was a gap in the market for this invention and wanted to create something fashionable and functional.

A bag design not just for a dad, but one that moms would also buy knowing their husbands would enjoy it as much as they do.

The Paperclip partners and their kids, Artie (L) and AJ (R)
The Paperclip partners and their kids, Artie (L) and AJ (R) Pic credit: AJ Buckley

My business partner, Artie Baxter and I started this company 3 years ago with not having any clue about diaper bags and now cannot keep them on the shelves.

We’ve grown to be one of the top diaper bag companies today. Paperclip is now expanding into more of a travel lifestyle brand competing alongside the likes of Tumi etc.

M&C: How can fans buy this amazing invention of yours to own? Are there any other products in the works for Paperclip you can share with fans?

AJ: Sure you can purchase any bag from Paperclip directly from our website. We occasionally have exclusive collector’s pieces that will release on our website as well.

Coming this year we will have a bunch of new products aside from diaper bags.

M&C: Many actors really love their voice-over work. Talk about how you got the Disney Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur role of T-Rex Nash, and the process of auditioning for a voice versus an on-camera role?

AJ: The director of Good Dinosaur was actually a fan of Justified and he took a sample of my voice from an episode of Justified and meshed it with Anna Paquin and Sam Elliot and it was a match.

Shortly after that, I received the offer to be the voice of Nash on The Good Dinosaur. As for voiceovers go, they can be extremely challenging however is a lot more laid back in the sense that you don’t have to show up for hair and makeup.

Nowadays, some people have the luxury of having a voiceover booth in the comfort of their own homes, which makes [the] audition process even easier with technology. It’s as easy as recording via your iPhone through certain apps.

Because it’s that easy to send auditions and what not, means there is a hell of a lot more competition. I would like to get into more live action material with video games in 2019, specifically in the likes of Call of Duty.

M&C: Any interest in stage work, or is being an entrepreneur eating up too much of that time? Any advice or strategy you can share with other working moms and dads to cover all the bases and be present for your kids?

AJ: Without a doubt, I would love to do stage work. Theatre takes up immense amount time and commitment, so it would have to be the perfect timing for everything to work out.

Theatre is where I found my passion for acting and where I discovered that I wanted to be an actor.

Watching plays and taking part in them are both amazing and I would love to return to the stage someday. Some type of Broadway has always been a dream to me.

My advice for the working moms and dads out there is, “get off your phones.”

SEAL Team airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on CBS.

Pure will premiere Wednesday January 23, 2019 on WGN America

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