Jaylen Moore currently stars on History Channel’s hit show SIX as Armin “Fishbait” Khan. Despite not being a season regular in season 1, Jaylen was an immediate audience favorite. I’m happy to say we’ll be seeing much more of him going into season 2 since he was promoted to series regular! As Fishbait, Jaylen is making history, portraying the first Afghan Muslim Navy SEAL on TV. Jaylen took time out of his very busy schedule and away from his new, adorable baby boy, to speak with us about the upcoming season.
So first let me say that Jaylen was super friendly and kind and when I tried to jump right into the interview, he stopped me and asked about me. This. This never happens lol. So we had a chat about me which I will not bore you with, and then finally jumped into the interview. Jaylen had just made a joke about being a fake SEAL and an actor and that led into this:
You guys do a lot for the military as a cast. You guys did the Tough Mudder for charity, just this week y’all did the Flags and Flowers challenge.
Yes right, and some of us will be doing The Murph. (if you don’t know, the Murph is a physical challenge meant to honor LT. Michael Murphy who was a SEAL killed in combat) I did it today in my home gym.
Good for you! That’s a rough one!
Me and a buddy, I was like, I need to do this so I know I can do it on Monday (Memorial Day). I know I can, I just needed to get it out of my head. I’m running on not too much sleep, not as much as with a newborn, and then with my toddler. But it’s good, we finished. We did it in 48 minutes and so that’s a decent amount of time for a couple tired dads.
Ok. Well, I have no idea what average times are but that sounds great to me! Ok, so I love SIX obviously. Fishbait is such an interesting character, the first Muslim SEAL on TV which is pretty cool. What got you interested in the show and in that character?
So I don’t know if you know this. The way this show hit was um, let’s see. It’s a pretty long story but I’m trying to shorten it for you. There was a casting for it in L.A., William Broyles who is this phenomenal writer. Academy Award-winning writer, Flags of Our Fathers, Castaway, Apollo 13, just a few of those
So just some little things.
Yeah. He teamed up with his son David Broyles and they created SIX. Then I actually missed the casting call in L.A. because where my career was at, I was a working actor but I wasn’t a big enough name. They were looking for some higher up names, a little more seasoned. I was like, “Damn it I gotta get in there.” So the director of 2 episodes of season 1 was Lesli Linka Glatter. I did a few episodes on Homeland so I knew her well because she’s an executive producer on it. So I pulled contacts anywhere I can. I didn’t get it.
Finally, my agent calls and she’s like, “so um. This is going to be shot in Wilmington, and some casting directors that I know down there are trying to look for a guest star role. It’s a few episodes, the character dies, and it’s the role of Buckley. But you’re the token guy that they want to throw in because they know your work and you’re a great actor. So are you willing to put it on tape?”
I’m like, “for what project?” and she says, “SIX.” Yes. So I put it on tape. I remember that day, I got 13 pages of sides and less than 24 hours. I was like, “oh crap” and I’m looking through it. I started changing stuff, I started taking risks. As an actor sometimes that works in your favor, sometimes it does not. My cousin, who is a former Green Beret, just retired and is now a military consultant. My cousin Kawa, you can see him on Instagram, he’s phenomenal. I call him and ask him to give me some acronyms, some military jargon that I can kinda change it up. Make this my own thing.
My wife, she’s a writer and an actress as well. She’s like “babe, this is William Broyles. Bill Broyles wrote this. Bruce McKenna wrote this.” I said, “I’m not gonna get it. The role of Buckley? This is a Texas boy who dies, so I’m just going to make it my own. Whatever.”
I did. I spent a couple of hours on tape doing it, I gave them a really good slate at the beginning. Told them who I was, that my father is from Afghanistan, my mother is American but of Spanish descent. So. Spanish and Afghani, blah blah.
3 weeks later I get a call from my agent, “So. Remember that role of Buckley you auditioned for? You didn’t get that.” I was like, “Coooool. Why are you calling?” She goes, “well. They want to create a role for you.” I paused, “what!?” I was in the gym and I dropped my phone. She goes, “Weird thing. Bill Broyles called me, he said that they were so impressed by your take and the risks you took. They were watching and thought we have to have this guy on our show. We just don’t know how or what.”
So they pitched it to the network. They said we could use one more SEAL in the ensemble and we thought it’d be awesome if we found out that his father is from Afghanistan and his dad is Muslim. It’d be awesome to have the first Afghan-Muslim-American Navy SEAL. Essentially making history on History. So I accept and I’m crying, and she says, “ok well, you’re going to be relocating to Wilmington for probably about 5 months with your family. At that time my newborn was my little girl, she was only 3 months old. You start boot camp with the SEALs and your cast mates. In 3 days.”
That’s how fast it happened, and that was the beginning of an incredible journey that has completely changed my life and my career. Thanks to Bill Broyles and David Broyles who saw something in me, who took a risk on me. I thank them all the time. Now I’m part of a show I love, on a beautiful network that cares about veterans. I have a lot of veterans in my family. My cousin Kawa, my brother-in-law. I also had the itch to possibly join, but both of them said, “if you join any military branch, we’re going to shoot you ourselves. You’re the only one in our family that actually has the talent to do what you’re doing. To make it as an actor.” I was like, “Alright. Harsh, but ok.” So for me to book a role like this was such a blessing.
The training and everything was just. (smiles and shakes his head – he loves this stuff you can tell!) There are some new videos out there on my social media, a little blip of some of the boot camp we’ve gone through. Season 1 crushed us, we were out there, sleep deprivation, eating MREs, thrown in the ocean, getting waterboarded in the ocean. Getting thrown in the pool, poor Edwin is drowning. 26-mile hikes, they were like, “We’ll give you a smidgen of what they go through in BUDS! If you’re representing SEALs, this is SEAL Team 6, they shouldn’t have even made a show about this!” (we’re both just cracking up at his imitation of the former SEALs who trained them)
I kept my mouth shut, but in my brain, I’m like, “Um. How many SEAL movies?” There is a joke that I didn’t say at the time because we were getting tortured, but I did after the fact. I said, “Hey Coach! Isn’t there a saying that every SEAL has a script in their back pocket?” And he goes, “WHAT DID YOU SAY!?”
So that’s how I got cast on this. Then the writers and everyone said, “Thanks for coming on, for trusting us not really knowing what we’re going to do with your character and just please have patience with us. We just added you.”
So if you watch season 1, you’ll notice that my character is kind of there and then it kind of starts to grow from episode 4, 5, 6 and then that leads into season 2. Season 2 was really great, you get to see Fishbait open up and to understand him.
I’m really excited about this season. It’s looking dark and super deep. It definitely explores PTSD in a way that I like. Dark and dramatic obviously, it’s a TV show. But with respect, that I think is impressive. I wanted to know if we’re going to see some of those ramifications for Fishbait as well?
Yes, yes as we go darker. The latter half of the season yes, there is going to be some ramifications and some consequences on Fish.
That’s great. I mean, not great for him, but great for you. I think it really speaks to you a lot, one that they add you in, but I know we saw just sort of tidbits of you. Even that was enough to have fans going, “wait wait, where is his family, we want to know more about him!?” You seem to interact with people a lot through social media, do you think that’s also helped? Is it just something you like to do?
I just personally like to do it. Every time fans ask questions or anything I never have an intention of like, oh this might help me, or I want to fill them in on the story. I just like responding. I’m just that dude. I’m like my father, for example when we got married, we had to REALLY cut the guest list down because I’m the dude who’s like pumping gas. The gas station attendant is super nice to me and I’m “Dude! Come to my wedding!” We just met via Skype, so if I was getting married tomorrow I’d be like, “Fly out! Come to my wedding, come party with me!” A lot of my friends are comparing me to a young Dwayne Johnson, which is very flattering by the way. I just love people, I’m overly optimistic. I just enjoy interacting with the fans.
I know how it feels. I’m a fanboy of other actors and so I get it. My journey has been very unconventional as opposed to some other actors and how they got to where they’re at. I have been putting this blood, sweat, and tears in for a very long time now. So the consequence of the career path, the hard work you put in, comes some of the attention, the fame, the fans. I always just remember and remind myself to be grateful for that. To honor that.
Now you talked about your dad is from Afghanistan. You still have family back there; do they know about the show? What do they think of it?
They know about it now. Before they were just like, “Afghan Tom Cruise on TV!” My dad shipped them a DVD copy. They love it, they watched it, they understand. At first I wondered how they were going to take it. I love my job, so really, if they take it and love it then great; if they don’t then whatever. They saw that the character I’m portraying is truthful to his faith and to his religion but also very loyal to his brothers and the soil that he lives on. He’s hunting down these bad guys.
Unfortunately, a lot of my family that is still in Kabul are around these explosions that are happening from these pieces of shit, like a Michael Nasry character. Obviously the real ones. It’s sad. So now some of the cousins who are around my age in Afghanistan are joking that they need Fishbait down here to take out some guys. Yeah, my wife will not let me come over there, let alone as a military person.
My uncle, who is religious, is like, “Pretty good. I don’t like Fishbait drinking, but…” I’m like, “Oh, but it’s ok to shoot some bad guys!?” And he just answers, “Oh yes, yes, yes.”
That’s good, thank you for sharing that. So you’ve done pretty extensive stunt work, you have a lot of martial arts experience. Yet you play a sniper in the series, do you have a desire to get to use more of the hand-to-hand combat and “combat” experience?
Oh yes, absolutely. Some of it is “combat” experience in a sense that I used to compete. Kickboxing, Taekwondo, I did Muay Thai, Jui Jitsu. I’ve been in martial arts for many many years, from 3 1/2, 4. I was a very…passionate…child. That’s a very polite way of saying a hyper, loud-ass kid. So my parents immediately threw me in dance, my older sister was a dance teacher. Dance, sports, and martial arts.
Oh man, believe me. In SIX, I can’t tell you how many times I’d whisper to David, or Bill or one of the other writers, “So…you guys know I can fight. I would love to. Can’t Fish maybe drop his weapon? Maybe he loses it in combat and just goes Liam Neeson Taken style?” They all start laughing, “No. Jaylen, no. We want to, but we’re portraying the real guys. If they don’t have their rifle, they’re on their sidearm.
Some of the SEALs explained to me that if it gets to the point where you’re in hand-to-hand combat with these guys, it’s probably too late. Normally you’re on your shit, and if they catch you on a corner, bang. It’s very rare. The guys I spoke to who worked for 10-20 years never engaged in hand-to-hand. Some of them had close calls, but it was always smooth.
So yeah, I want to. My team pushes it when there are auditions. They always tell the directors that here’s a really good actor, but you can also get your stunt fighting from him. Now if there is a crazy jump off a 100 ft building it’s gonna be no. I’m still waiting for that Tom Cruise role, work with him in Mission Impossible, Top Gun, or something.
You brought up dance. What kind of dance did you do?
I take pride in saying this. Here we go. I grew up doing tap, jazz, ballet and hip-hop. I’m a pretty good salsa dancer and Afghani dance as well. I did dance recitals, I won first place at a dance thing called Show Stopper. I think I did a little Michael Jackson routine, I was 7 or 8. I honestly could have gone all the way with dance, to a point where I’d be one of these people on So You Think You Can Dance, be the choreographer. I saw that in all humbleness because of how my older sister, who is a phenomenal tap dancer, told me that growing up. But I kind of got into that crowd as I got older, “I don’t wanna be a dancer, I wanna do sports.” Then I fell into acting my senior year of high school.
The dancing though, that’s still there. My wife and I go out; we go all out sometimes. We’ll go to salsa nights, there is a swing club she wants to go to. We met years ago, we both do musical theater. There was a musical called City Kid, it was at the Hudson Theatre in Hollywood. We had a good little run, a couple of months. We were showcasing for Broadway, but at the time we were showcasing, our investors dropped because In The Heights. Lin-Manual Miranda! In the Heights got picked up, and it was a very similar book. Hip-hop, kids going through stuff, drugs. So the best thing that happened out of that was the fun experience of being in a musical and then meeting my wife. People thought it was just a showmance, and then clearly it’s like a real romance.
To be knocked out by anybody, for it to be Lin-Manual Miranda is pretty cool.
Oh man, I want to meet that guy!
Everybody wants to meet that guy!
I want to be like, dude, I sing and dance too. Let’s roll. I’d love to work with that guy.
Similar to the military you’re often separated from your family for long periods of time for work. How do you handle that, what helps you make it through?
A lot of Facetime, phone calls, flying out when I could. And/or flying them up to me. My wife and I have a rule, the longest we’ll go is two weeks. If we’re on a project and we’re already hitting that 2-week mark, there is already a plan. There have been times it’s been a little over because I knew I was coming home and at the end of the project, but that’s basically the rule.
But also sometimes, if there is a particular scene or two, that’s coming up and I’m separated from them, and if what I’m feeling feels really as if I am deployed, I will use that. I will tell her, let’s extend this another 5 days, I film this next week. I miss you so much, let me just go dark for a couple of days, not talk to you, and I’m going to dive that into my work. Then the minute I finish that scene, they cut and they print. I’ll call you. She, being a writer and an actress understands that. She’s like, “Great, do it. Kill it.”
It’s great having a partner who really is your champion and supports you. I couldn’t have done this without her. She’s always been my rock. I am for her, she is for me. She’s more so for me that I am for her because I’m a head case. I’m tough. I’m difficult. I’m a crazy, passionate Scorpio. I’m pretty strong, but having a stronger woman who can really pick me up when I fall, and I’m a big dude. It’s the world to me. I don’t know how I bleed into that part, but that’s the whole answer.
You post some really incredible looking Afghani dishes on your Instagram. Do you have any recommendations for fans who are like, “That looks amazing!” and want to try eating/cooking some of those dishes?
I would tell any fan or anybody out there. If you can find an Afghani restaurant, go there and order mantu. Mantu is a dumpling filled with ground beef and some spices, and this yogurt/meat sauce is poured over it. It’s just…I’m so hungry right now even talking about it. That’s my favorite food. Tell them to get mantu, and to get qabli. Qabli is a brown rice cooked with chicken, carrots, and raisins. Delicious.
You’ll see some of that when my dad comes to visit me. My mother passed about a month ago, she was the best cook. Man, Kelsey, she was like the chef. They were 48 years together. My father taught her what he learned from the homeland, how to cook the Afghani food. Then she looked it over and threw her own two cents into it. My Aunts, anyone who comes over is always like, “We want Ruth to cook it! The way she makes Qabli is just way better.”
I was, and am sorry to hear about your mom. If it’s ok for me to say, I am happy that she got to meet your son. They got that time.
No, it’s fine. I mention in interviews too. She was my rock; she was my foundation. She was my biggest fan. She always told me, “One day you’re going to be on a billboard!” And uh, God bless, she missed it by a week. When she was down here I told her, “Mom, in a week billboards are going up. I have been told that I’m on it, but I don’t know what it looks like.” They were very secretive about it. She couldn’t wait to go take a photo of it. That’s why I took a photo and posted, “This is for you mom”. It’s on my Instagram. I know she’s got the best view now. She can see it. Yeah. I miss her a lot.
With this whole show and having my dad come down, he’s going to stay for 3 weeks and be a part of the festivities. The big premiere party, he loves it. You’ll see some food on Instagram, my dad cooks a little. He loves the boys, “How’s Kyle, how’s Barry?” He thinks it’s cool.
The boys have been great. I have the best castmates in the world. I wouldn’t trade it for anything right now.
Y’all certainly seem close. I know it’s all social media, but outwardly it seems like you’re a real team.
Oh, my God. I think that every show, maybe even every business if you want to build team camaraderie? You know they have those team building events? Put them through training with the SEALs. We legit had life and death situations, I’m not kidding. There were times, like climbing that mountain in Canada. There was a moment, we’re almost at the very top of Black Tusk, which is like 7500 ft up. It was day 3, I was exhausted, we couldn’t really sleep. It was very cold, we’re sleeping on snow without a tent. The rock was kind of like shale, so every 3 steps you’d slide. It was very very discouraging.
In season 1 my knee had ballooned up towards the end of our boot camp. The boys were in the ocean and they pulled me out. They told me I was done. I asked how much longer we had, it was another 12 hours. We’re really at the end of this insane boot camp. I couldn’t bend my knee, my leg was shot, it was done. They told me Mitch was going to take me back to the headquarters and I’m, “No. I’m not leaving. I’m not leaving my team. If you’re going to torture them in the ocean right now, torture me too. Maybe I can’t stand and dive in and do what they’re doing, but I’ll lay in the water if I have to. I’ll come over here, I’ll come over to the sand and throw up, I’ll do one legged burpees. Whatever.” It was kind of cool because they were like, “Ok. Actors for real.” It was cool to earn that respect in that manner, and the boys respected me more. Dude, we just met this guy and he’s not leaving his team.
So then cut that to season 2, and we’re on this mountain. My legs, my right knee, I was trying to be very careful on it. I was doing well, I was stronger, luckily it did not balloon up. But my legs were cached. I’m not necessarily 100% afraid of heights, but I’m not 100% comfortable in them either. We were way up there and my legs just shut down. I stopped. Mitch is behind me, everyone else is up the line, Juan and Barry are doing great. Edwin is next to me, going on. Mitch is like, “What’s wrong. What are you feeling?” And I’m, “Dude. I’m not going to lie. I’m scared right now. I can’t go left; I’ll fall off the mountain. I can’t go right; it’s a complete drop. And then the incline. And I can’t turn around because that’s even more dangerous. My legs are done. I’m done. I’m so winded. Honestly, I’m scared right now.
He took it in. Then he says, “Ok. Ok. Thanks for being honest. So first off, just so you know, there are 7 other guys in the same shit you are. You’re not alone. You’re going to have to make a choice. You’ve got to make a decision. Are you going to die, or are you going to keep going? I don’t know what else to tell you. And imagine being on this, with heavier rucksacks and the Taliban shooting at you. Just perspective.
I’m like, “Fuck you, man.” (we both just crack up at that) I made it up! I got all emotional up there. The boys all make fun of me, Juan Pablo especially. He tries to act like Mr. Tough Guy, but I think he’s more sensitive behind closed doors. But me? We’re up there and Barry goes, “Boys. We made it.” And I’m just (swipes his hands down face to show he was crying) Barry’s all, “Hold it together!! Don’t cry! Don’t cry!” and I’m, “Fuck you man, I’m so happy I made it. I love you!” All the guys laugh, Jaylen is one of the toughest but, sensitive. Hey, that’s how I roll man. I wear my heart on my sleeve.
Y’all really do sound like a group that comes out of actual military training. It’s impressive that those experiences are able to give you that.
We definitely have a brother bond for life. That’s why I said the best cast in the world. The stuff we’ve been through; we have shared pain. Shared sacrifice. It’s great because we know each other’s barometers. I know Barry’s breaking points, I also know his strengths. He knows mine. It’s like in the real military. You know, if you’re going into action, we’ve got to face this challenge; that’s not Edwin’s strength so let me take point. These guys are phenomenal at what they do.
It’s such an honor. Such a life experience that I will never forget for as long as I live. I just feel so blessed every day that I have this job. It’s the best job in the world. All I want is work in between! When I’m on hiatus I jump on my team, let’s keep it going. I have a mortgage and 2 kids. But I love my show so much. I don’t care about another show.
I worked on Quantico, did a nice guest star on that. It’s gonna be a big one for me, the episode is with Priyanka. It’s episode 9 this season which should air sometime in June. We shot that in February and that was fun, getting out there to shoot. Everybody there is super cool. But it was crazy to be on another show, especially a network one to see just what they’re doing. It also made me more appreciative of my job, being on cable, being on History. It’s much more real, creative and the true lives, as much as we’re able to show of these real men.
I think that you guys are able to go places in the story that some of the network shows, um…won’t go. It’s very boom boom, explosion and a soap opera in uniform.
I agree. Barry and I have discussed, well all of us, I do feel that we are the best military show on television right now. Hands down. And that we are the truest to portraying what we are allowed to say. We all take a lot of pride in that. The military is no joke and we love and respect the men and women who wear that uniform. I hope, at least, that it comes across that way.
Alright, well, I think we’ve got a lot. I appreciate you spending all this time with us. Is there anything else you’d like to say or your fans to know?
To the fans, I just say thank you for watching our season one, and because of your eyes, we got a green light for season 2. I only ask that you continue watching so that we can hopefully get a green light for season 3. To the fans, its just a big big thank you for taking a liking to this mighty little show. This isn’t the big Game of Thrones, HBO, it’s History Channel, but it’s a very strong show. We really appreciate the acknowledgment, the accolades, and the love we are getting from the fans. We reciprocate that right back out to you.
Perhaps it can inspire you a little bit. Whether it be a young kid wanting to join the military, or maybe not. But what I hope it pushes and inspires is a tone for you in your personal life to always be better. To better yourself, and to be better to your community and to your family. To your friends, essentially to the world. That’s what I hope a lot of people can get from this show. That’s the underlining of these men who put their lives on the line. They come home to be with their families and they’re doing their best, especially regarding these dark circumstances they just came from.
The SEAL motto is The Easiest Day Was Yesterday, they’re always striving to be better. So if there is one thing we do inspire I hope its self-growth, self-betterment. To be a better person for the world. Literally, I hope somebody out there somewhere gets that from this show. And if not, then maybe from my words.
Season 2 of SIX premieres on History Channel, Monday, May 28th at 10/9c and then moves to its regular timeslot Wednesday, May 30th at 10/9c