This year, Lt. Dan actor Gary Sinise won't be able to make the annual GI Film Festival. But, no matter. He's sending in a perfectly acceptable replacement -- actor Mykelti Williamson, probably best known for playing Bubba in that same famous movie, the 1994 hit "Forrest Gump."
"Because his calendar is so congested, I'm going to step in as the ambassador in his place at the GI Film Festival, and I'm really excited about it," Williamson told Yeas & Nays.
The film festival, which each year showcases a selection of pro-military films, is scheduled for Monday through May 12 at multiple theaters throughout the Washington area. Williamson will be on hand May 9, representing the Gary Sinise Foundation, the festival's longtime sponsor, at Wounded Warrior Appreciation Night at the AMC Hoffman Theater in Alexandria.
It turns out that the two former "Forrest Gump" co-stars have been working together on behalf of the military since even before Sinise had his official foundation. Sinise and Williamson were golfing one day and were talking about how nobody was playing the kind of role Bob Hope once held with the troops. A light bulb turned on for Sinise, who in turn launched the foundation. "I had no idea how deep that ran with Gary, but I remember Bob Hope -- I used to travel with his USO tours with my dance crew," Williamson said. "And so it's come full circle again, and now one of my dearest friends, my ace buddy [Gary Sinise], is the new Bob Hope."
Besides doing work for the Gary Sinise Foundation, which includes playing blues harmonica in Sinise's Lt. Dan Band, which raises money for severely wounded warriors, Williamson also tends to choose roles where he can play a military guy or a first responder. He's currently playing a police officer on "Chicago Fire" and is attached to a project about those aboard a Navy battleship patrolling the Pacific coast, titled "The Wild Blue."
"Actors get a lot of credit because we help people in another way, we help people escape for just an hour or two, but we don't really jump in the line of fire like the first responders," Williamson explained. "So ... it's always a privilege to have an opportunity to bring one of those characters to life."