Tom Hanks gave this key advice to ‘Masters of the Air’ cast for World War II drama

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By Social Links forMichael Starr

Anthony Boyle and Nate Mann co-star as Lt. Harry Crosby and Major Robert “Rosie” Rosenthal, respectively, in “Masters of the Air,” the Apple TV+ series chronicling the heroics of the 100th Bomb Group during World War II — who “brought the war to Hitler’s doorstep” via the B-17 “Flying Fortress.”

The sprawling, action-packed nine-part series, created by John Shiban and John Orloff, is narrated by Crosby, a navigator prone to air sickness, and is based on Donald Miller’s 2007 book, “Masters of the Air: America’s Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany.”

It stars Austin Butler (“Elvis”) and Callum Turner in the lead roles of Major Gale Cleven and Major John Egan, and also counts Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg and Gary Goetzman as its executive producers — the same team behind “Band of Brothers” and “The Pacific,” considered the forerunners to “Masters of the Air.”

The Post spoke to the Irish-born Boyle and Mann about their roles and their thoughts on “Masters of the Air,” which drops new episodes every Friday on Apple TV+.

Did you read Donald Miller’s book?

Mann: I read the book. I thought for something like this, where it’s not just the source material, it’s the actual people, it’s the actual world, the actual story of 8th Air Force. Especially given the legacy of “Band of Brothers” and “The Pacific,” which are also painstakingly authentic to the people, the characters, the soldiers … I thought it would be good to sink my teeth into that. The bonus of that is Donald Miller, got to know these men quite well over the course of writing [his book] which took him years and years, personal connection for him which shows in the book.

Boyle: Crosby wrote a book called “On a Wing and a Prayer,” which was his memoir of his time at war. The “Masters of the Air” book is great, but [Donald Miller] is writing from conjecture, like, “This is what the men may have felt like.” Crosby’s book was saying “This is how I felt on the day,” “This is how I perceived this,” so I just used that every day as an absolute Bible; there’s bits in it, actual scenes we shot, that he talks about in the book. And he also spoke about himself with such self-deprecating humor … you really get a sense of who he is, the rhythm in which he speaks, and also a good sense of his soul.

Tell me about your characters.

Boyle: When we first meet Harry Crosby he’s not only fighting the Nazis but he’s fighting uncontrollable air sickness, which is a pretty intense double-whammy. He has to go on a real hero’s journey here because he doesn’t feel like he is a hero. Crosby just feels like he’s working it out, he’s an everyman, he’s trying his best, he doesn’t feel like he’s the right man for the job. In fact, when he’s given jobs, he says “I’m not the right man for the job.” So he goes through a lot of trials and tribulations at war and in his personal life and during the course of the series. I feel like, if we’ve done it well, you really get to see him become a man.

Anthony Boyle, who plays navigator Harry Crosby, said he read Crosby's book in order to get a sense of his inner voice, which he used on the series.

Mann: Rosie grew up in Brooklyn and became a lawyer. He started working at a law firm in Manhattan right before Pearl Harbor, and when that happens he enlists right then and there. He joins the Air Force and spends months and months at home training gunners so he has thousands of hours before he ever sees action. When he finally makes it to the 100th, when we finally meet him, he’s a new guy on the scene and he doesn’t know that some of his first missions are going to be some of the most devastating in the 100th’s history. Throughout the course of the series he’s thrust into a situation where he has to reckon with the devastation and the cost that takes — but he also comes face to face with his own courage. Throughout the series, there’s a lot of what gets him back into the plane and what keeps him fighting — and that question for him is very personal and important.

"Masters of the Air" stars Austin Butler (left) and Callum Turner, who play Majors Cleve and Egan.

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