By Lanford Beard
Updated August 23, 2012 at 01:00 PM EDT
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Credit: Mario Perez/ABC
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Cut to: The most important decision of your life. Only, your life is not all that’s at stake. The lives of hundreds of others, and perhaps the world, are on the block. This is the dilemma facing submarine Capt. Marcus Chaplin (Andre Braugher) in ABC’s new high-concept, low-depth drama Last Resort. “We’re trying to be epic…and tell the big stories that used to be told on movie screens,” says Shawn Ryan (The Shield), who created the show with Karl Gajdusek (Dead Like Me). The showrunners spoke to EW of what’s in store for the crew of the U.S.S. Colorado — including Master Chief Joseph Prosser (Robert Patrick) and Executive Officer Sam Kendal (Scott Speedman) — after the sailors are left to deal with the fallout of Marcus’s make-or-break decision, with two exclusive images to help us get the picture.

Credit: Mario Perez/ABC

In Last Resort‘s gripping, intense pilot Marcus must make a call to enact a military command that could potentially ignite World War III. When his superiors don’t like his decision, Marcus — and his crew — are deemed personae non gratae, cut off from their country and everything they know. In the scene above, Gajdusek explains that XO Kendal is “talking his own people down” after the crew lands on foreign terrain and faces an attack. The invasion only heightens the emotions they were feeling before being forced aground. “The crew of the Colorado didn’t make these choices. They were just doing what they were supposed to do, and these choices got made [for them]. Marcus…made these choices, and now they all have to live with [the consequences]. They’re scared.”

How the sailors conduct themselves under the influence of fear sets up what Gajdusek considers one of the major themes of the series. The sailors are “still Americans and there are certain values they have to hold true to,” he says. “These people do not consider themselves to be rogue defectors flying a new flag. They consider themselves to be patriotic Americans who have, through a series of circumstances, been forced away from their home country, and they’re trying to stay true to those values and get back to their home country.”

NEXT: A rare look at Braugher and Patrick

Credit: Lewis Jacobs/NBC

With their pasts ripped away from them and their futures in doubt, why are these men smiling? “I know this is a behind-the-scenes photo,” laughs Ryan, “because these two characters are a lot more at loggerheads [in episode 2] than they appear here.” He continues, “These two [characters] have come up together on various boats over the years. They know each other well.” By the time we come to know them, “Their friendship is tested extraordinarily.” To play the man who unwittingly sets up the now-crashing dominoes, Braugher landed the part because Ryan needed an actor “who could play two sides of the coin — the respected leader and the man who might be slightly out of control.”

Considering the history between Marcus and Prosser, not to mention a dynamic-shifting disagreement in the pilot, there is no shortage of conflict in store. So it’s not surprising the actors need to cut loose occasionally. And Patrick, who previously worked with Ryan on CBS’s The Unit, is just the man for that job, says Gajdusek. “When Robert is on set, nobody doesn’t have a good time,” Gajdusek notes. “I don’t mean he’s a jokester — he’s very serious about his work — but he has such a warm and giving energy.”

A show with these ostensibly man-baiting plot points could probably use a dash of warm-and-fuzzy. Kicking off ABC’s Thursday night lineup — a block that has in recent years been dominated by the sexual dramatics of Shonda Rhimes series Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, and Scandal — the showrunners remain confident that their show has a little something for everyone. “We may have a different appeal, but don’t pigeonhole us,” says Gajdusek. Adds Ryan, “It’s going to be a high-stakes show with a lot going on, and yet we’re never going to forget that it’s the characters that matter and that you’ve got to fall in love with these people and root for them and really care about their fates for the show to succeed.”

Last Resort premieres Sept. 27 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

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Last Resort

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