On set

Henry County native Kevin Kent (center) consults with actor Chris Hemsworth (right) and assistant director David Venghaus (left) during filming of the movie “12 Strong” in New Mexico.

In its first two weeks in theaters, the movie “12 Strong” made $29.8 million at the box office.

So, it looks like Kevin Kent has another hit on his hands.

Kent, a Puryear native who spent 21 years in Naval Special Warfare and now makes his living as a military technical adviser for movies and television shows, was heavily involved in “12 Strong,” the story of a Special Forces team from Fort Campbell that was deployed to Afghanistan shortly after 9/11, becoming basically the first American group to battle the Taliban.

He spent a month before Christmas in 2016 and nine weeks in early 2017 in New Mexico, working at various filming locations for “12 Strong,” which stars Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon and Michael Peña.

Kent, the son of Ed and Paulette Kent of Shady Grove Road, provided what he has for numerous Hollywood productions during the last eight years: military expertise stemming from his more than 15 years as a Navy SEAL.

His contributions came in the form of helping with the script, the wardrobe and the storyline, as well as with technical tips on how a certain move should look on-screen.

“When I’m on set, I’m pretty much attached at the hip to the director or the assistant director,” Kent said. “We want things to look as authentic and genuine as they possibly can, because we don’t want people who are or were in the military to watch the movie and say ‘that’s not real.’”

He said that sometimes authenticity might be sacrificed a bit just because it’s awkward to show a certain move on-screen and make it look correct. He gave an example of a case where a soldier might be loading ammunition near his belt in real life.

“On-screen, you want the viewer to be able to see what the character is doing and it’s usually better in that case just to have him loading the ammunition up near his face so the camera can get a nice close-up,” Kent said.


A 1992 Henry County High School graduate, Kent joined the Navy after high school, staying in service for 21 years before retiring in September 2013.

“I had a great time in the military, and it was definitely worth it. I worked with some of the best people in the world,” Kent said.

Earning the rank of Chief Special Warfare Operator, Kent completed nine special ops combat deployments during his career. Many of those were in some of the most dangerous places in the world. That’s a big difference from his current career, where he has been able to travel to movie locales that are some of the nicest places in the world.

He said he thought about stepping into the realm of movies and television as an actor, stuntman and military technical adviser since late in his active duty. A friend from the Navy, Harry Humphries, was hired by director Michael Bay to work on a 1996 movie called “The Rock,” which starred Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage.

“He was kind of my in, how I got a chance to make some connections and start to get hired,” Kent said. “I started thinking I could make this my new career, and it seemed like a seamless transition for me, since I was still 40-ish and my body’s not too wrecked yet.”

In his career, he has worked on “RED,” which starred Bruce Willis and Helen Mirren; three of the “Transformers” movies with Bay; “Kong: Skull Island,” and five seasons of the TNT series “The Last Ship.”

One of his unique opportunities was to work on the film “13 Hours,” which detailed a 2012 attack on the U.S. Embassy in Libya and the American security team that tried to restore order there. Much of the filming was in Malta.

Kent actually led the actors who were playing the security team members, including former “The Office” star John Krasinski, through a “short boot camp,” as he called it — a two-week training regimen that prepared the actors for filming.

“A couple of my buddies had actually been killed in that attack in Libya, and these actors wanted to honor those guys, so they wanted to do it right,” he said.


Kent lives in San Diego with his wife and three young children, two of whom have already gotten the acting bug themselves. But most of his work now is out on the road.

For instance, he just completed working on the upcoming Amazon series “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan,” which will also star Krasinski. For that series alone, Kent traveled to Montreal, Washington D.C., Morocco and Paris, France.

He’s also been working on the next “Transformers” movie, to be called “Bumblebee,” and a movie titled “Peppermint,” for which he has been teaching actress Jennifer Garner how to shoot a weapon.

One of the biggest names he has dealt with lately, though, has been Hemsworth, who has shot to enormous fame and popularity through his role as The Mighty Thor in several Marvel Studios movies, including “The Avengers.”

Kent got to know Hemsworth quite well during the filming for “12 Strong” and called the Australian actor “a very humble guy. He was a great guy to work with.”

“There’s not a lot of big cities in Australia, and I think that might have something to do with how he is. He’s just down to earth and doesn’t have a very big head at all.”

Kent said Hemsworth would become irritated with him, however, when Kent made some late changes in dialogue before filming. Hemsworth has a very thick Australian accent, and was using a dialect coach because his character in “12 Strong” is an American. He would study his lines the night before filming, so when Kent adjusted the script the next day, it meant more time devoted to lines Hemsworth thought he had already learned.

“He would tell me, ‘Hey, can you give me these lines the night before?’” Kent said.

Good-natured ribbing from the God of Thunder — all in a day’s work for Kevin Kent.

Load comments