STARS EARN STRIPES -- Season: 1 -- Pictured: (l-r) Tom Stroup, Andrew McLaren, Brent Gleeson, Grady Powell, Talon Smith, Dale Comstock, Chris Kyle, JW Cortes -- (Photo by: Chris Haston/NBC)2012 NBCUniversal Media, LLC
Courtesy of JW Cortes
Hollywood is paying respect to America’s men and women in the service with a new reality show called “Stars Earn Stripes.”
The reality series, which pairs eight celebrities with real-life veterans in missions for charity, features J.W. Cortes, the only Latino on the show, (aside from wrestler Eve Torres) who is an ex-Marine, police officer and actor.
The new venture kicks off with a two-hour premiere Monday night at 8pm on NBC.
“We are paying tribute to the everyday law enforcement [officials and] people that put their lives on the line for us,” Cortes told Fox News Latino. “We are showing celebrities that what we do is not easy.”
The eight celebrities include former 98 degrees singer and TV Host Nick Lachey, WWE Divas Champion Eve Torres, funnyman Terry Crews, Sarah Palin’s husband, Todd Palin, and boxing superstar Leila Ali.
“I felt incredibly honored,” Cortes said about being chosen to be a part of the show. “I was surrounded by living legends, people that books are written about [and] movies are made about.”
“I was unsure about how the celebrities would respond to us but these eight celebrities were nothing but respectful and humbled and were there for all the right reasons.”
Cortes says the stars are paired up with eight “operatives,” men and women who teach the celebrities what it takes to win the challenges set for them. They train the stars anything from operating their high tech machinery, dodging bullets and throwing themselves out of helicopters.
“The show is fierce and emotionally intense,” said Cortes. “We were using real bullets, real explosives,” Cortes said adding that they were using everything from “shooting with a sniper to a grenade launcher.”
“What you are going to see is real ammunition,” he continued. “Every week it changed. You didn’t know what the missions were, what was around each corner. [It’s about] overcoming your fear. Things get very dangerous.”
At first, Cortes says he hesitated in joining the “operatives” team because reality TV just wasn’t his thing.
But after having a meeting with the executive producers and learning that the mission behind the new show was to pay respect to those in the service and to give to charity, he was sold.
“When I went to L.A. and I was told it was about giving back and showing America what you went through and what people are still going through [in the service], that attracted me,” Cortes told Fox News Latino. “The camaraderie if being paired up and working with these other operators I felt reconnected with that.”
Today, Cortes says giving back to his community is priority in his life. He splits his time between being part of the NYPD, acting, writing and being a filmmaker on the side.
“Most of energy right now is on ‘Stars and Stripes,’” Cortes said. “But, I want to do more community work. I want to talk to kids about staying in school.”
J.W. Cortes can be reached on Twitter: @JWCortes