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Bryan Cranston Honors 98-Year-Old Military Hero

Actor pays tribute to WWII veteran at National Memorial Day Concert on PBS

spinner image Bryan Cranston against green ombre background
AARP (Samir Hussein/Getty Images)

Award-winning actor Bryan Cranston, 68, is skilled at bringing fictitious characters to life, but this month, he’ll take to the stage to honor one of our country’s real-life heroes as a guest speaker at the 35th annual National Memorial Day Concert, airing May 26 on PBS. The concert uses dramatic storytelling and inspirational music to honor the service of our men and women in uniform, military families and those who have given their lives for our country.

Cranston will honor a World War II hero, John T. “Jack” Moran, 98. “Both of my parents were in the military,” Cranston explains to AARP. “And so in honor of them — and everyone else who was sacrificing and gave their potential lives for this — I’m happy to be able to donate some of my time to salute them.” He shares how he’s preparing for this special performance, how it felt to play a military officer on film and how he looks forward to taking a break from his busy career.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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What should we be thinking about this Memorial Day weekend?

I hope that when people will watch the event on Sunday night that they will come away with embracing the concept that peace is at hand if we really want it and really, really try. War should be the absolute last element to consider when there’s a dispute. You don’t win a war, you survive a war.

How do you feel about filming the concert in Washington?

I always love going to D.C. I go there probably once a year on average. And it’s been a great experience for me, and I’ve enjoyed it tremendously.

spinner image Jack Moran in military uniform
Jack Moran served in the 87th infantry as a staff sergeant and fought at the Battle of the Bulge, one of the bloodiest battles of WWII.
Courtesy Capital Concerts, Inc.

How are you preparing to honor Jack Moran?

I was touched by his story. And so I’m looking forward to being able to represent him in reading his words to the public. And to just try to get a sense of it and not to overdramatize it but just support his words with some pathos and meaning, and then leave it up to the listener to determine how that affected them. … It is a performance of sorts. And you want to be at your best, to be honoring such a hero like Jack.

You played a war colonel in Saving Private Ryan. What was that like?

You know, what’s interesting is that when you wear a uniform like that, not only do you have the responsibility, you sit upright. There’s no slouching. You walk with your shoulders back. There’s a pride that goes with wearing a military uniform. And I certainly felt it by putting it on. [But] in no way did I associate my wearing a uniform in a movie to be giving service. There’s just no comparison to the real guys who do that.

You’ve played such diverse roles. Which did you like better, playing Hal in Malcolm in the Middle or Walter White in Breaking Bad?

In the theatrical world, there’s the comedy and tragedy masks that are the symbols of performance art. And to be able to do those two shows, to me, was the height of my comedy and tragedy experience. And so I respect and admire them both equally.

As you approach 70, what do you see in your future?

I have a movie that’s going to be in a festival that is an independent film with Allison Janney. It’s a beautiful little film called Everything’s Going to be Great. I’m going to go back to Broadway and do more theater, and maybe even to London. And at some point, in the near future, I do want to hit the pause button and kind of reset and get more life experience. I want to travel more. I want to experience things. I’m looking forward to not focusing on work so much, because I’ve been doing it for the last 25 years.


spinner image Jack Moran standing outside in red sweater in front of houses
WWII veteran Jack Moran, 98, will be honored at the PBS Memorial Day Concert in Washington, D.C.
Courtesy Capital Concerts, Inc.

Honoring WWII Veteran John T. ‘Jack’ Moran

Every year, the National Memorial Day Concert on PBS pairs veterans with celebrity guest stars to honor their service. This year includes a spotlight on World War II veteran John T. “Jack” Moran, 98, who served in the 87th Infantry Division as a staff sergeant and fought in the Battle of the Bulge, one of the war’s bloodiest battles. Of the 42 soldiers in his platoon, only one other made it home.

Asked about his war experiences, Moran says, “We were just young boys. Cannon fodder. Surviving means a lot of luck. When going into battle, you are scared to death. Your adrenaline races to the roof.”

After the war, Moran earned a bachelor’s degree and married “the nicest lady in the world.” They had four children, now in their 60s and 70s, two grandchildren and three great grandchildren. He worked in real estate for 40 years and continues to advise up-and-coming real estate agents.

He is traveling to the Washington concert with his daughter and says, “I have an ego and am excited about being honored and looking forward to seeing the Smithsonian.”

His secret to a long life? “I eat a banana and a grapefruit a day. And drink a tall Manhattan at night while watching the news. And I keep active.”

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