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NBC's Chloe Melas talks to actor playing her grandpa, Frank Murphy, in WWII drama 'Masters of the Air'

Melas grew up hearing her grandfather's stories about his time in the U.S. Air Force. Now, she's watching them play out, thanks to actor Jonas Moore.

NBC's Chloe Melas listened to stories from her grandfather, Frank Murphy's, time serving in the U.S. Air Force in WWII.

Now, Chloe and her family will get to watch them play out — sort of. Murphy is one of a few real-life people turned into characters in AppleTV+'s "Masters of the Air," the Air Force-centric companion to "Band of Brothers" (2001) and "The Pacific" (2010).

The series stars Austin Butler, Callum Turner, Nate Mann and Barry Keoghan as American airmen dropping bombs over Europe. Georgia-born Murphy is played by the England-born Jonas Moore.

"Our family is over the moon about 'Masters of the Air. I'm so excited that my two young boys are going to have this and be able to watch it, and show their children, and that these heroes are immortalized forever," Chloe tells TODAY.com.

Jonas Moore / Frank Murphy
Jonas Moore and Frank Murphy.Getty Images / Courtesy Murphy Family Collection

Murphy, who died in 2006, had self-published a book titled "Luck of the Draw" about his WWII experiences for his family. When Chloe and her mother, children’s book author Elizabeth Murphy, learned that Murphy was going to be featured as a character in "Masters of the Air," they dusted off the book and spent three years working on getting it published. It hit stands last year and became an instant New York Times bestseller.

“My grandfather and I were so close. Being able to publish his book and being a part of this project has made me miss him more than I could ever imagine because there’s so much I wish I could tell him and show him, but it’s also made him not feel so far away,” she says. “I hope he knows somehow all the hard work and love that went into the book and the TV show to get the stories right, and to honor him and these men.”

The book's title relates to the sheer danger of Murphy's time in the U.S. Air Force. Murphy served in in the 100th Bomb Group, a division in the U.S. Air Force that flew over Nazi-occupied Europe during WWII.

Men who fought in the 8th Air Force were required to complete a total of 25 missions before returning home. But the odds were stacked against them: On average, in 1943, these 10-man crews only completed a quarter of their tours.

Murphy's plane was shot down on its 21st mission. He spent the next 18 months in a German prisoner of war camp.

Chloe Melas and her grandfather, Frank Murphy.
Chloe Melas and her grandfather, Frank Murphy.Courtesy Murphy Family Collection

Chloe remembers that her grandfather used to call her the "brightest star in his sky" and says, "it’s taken on a new meaning knowing he was a navigator and he used the sky to get him where he needed to go."

Below, Chloe and Moore have a conversation about bringing the story to life and honoring the real Frank Murphy.

Courtesy Chloe Melas

Chloe Melas: As a family, we've heard about 'Masters of the Air' since it was a kernel of an idea 10 years ago. I remember the day that you were cast. I immediately friended you on Instagram, didn't I?

Moore: Yes. I think I sent you a message after. I was like, "I've gotta say something." This is the craziest Instagram follow of all time.

Talk to me about when you were cast as my grandfather, Frank. What was your next step? Did you want to make him your own or did you stay true to who he was?

Because of the context of the show, because it's a show about the generation who essentially saved the world, I wanted it to be as accurate and as honest a portrayal as possible. Obviously I did start thinking up a biography. But then I discovered he's written a book, "Luck of the Draw." I brought that and smashed through that a couple of times. I can't stress enough how much of a gift it was, as an actor, to have an autobiographical account of the time in which you're playing that character. It's unheard of.

Courtesy Chloe Melas

I was cast during the third lockdown in the U.K. I was a COVID tester in a school. Life could not have gone down more of a different way.

I also read "Masters of the Air." I think people underestimate the impact the airmen had in the Second World War, especially the American airmen in the U.K. This is a story that I don't think many people in the U.K. knew about — the sacrifices these guys made.

I had it in my head that one day I might meet you guys. When you saw the casting, what did you think? Your grandpa would be played by a load of brits?

I thought you had a striking resemblance to my grandfather. I loved that you are a musician. My grandfather played in a POW band and played the clarinet until the end of his life. You sent me a picture of yourself with your clarinet on set.

That's right. I watched that episode last week. I had a clarinet solo, I promise. I was sad to see it was cut out.

For us, it's been so special. My grandfather died in 2006. To have you playing him, and for my grandmother to have met you over Zoom ... that was special.

That was special for me too. It was amazing to meet your grandmother and your mom. All of you have been the most warm, kind people. I can't thank you enough for championing me as you have and sharing this enthusiasm in the story, in Frank with you.

Talk to me about the accent! How was that as a Brit? Having to learn how to do this Southern drawl, and hours doing that when you recorded "Luck of the Draw"?

That was fun. I love accents. Southern accent was one I found tough. Listening to him speak, it's more subtle than I thought. When I got the part, one of the first things I did was watch a video interview with Frank with the Atlanta History Center. That was handy for giving me a sense of him, his character, his mannerisms, his accent.

Courtesy Chloe Melas

I'm excited for people to see the prison camp episodes. What was it like being on set?

Very somber. You can't escape that they built it one-of-one. They literally re-created Stalag Luft III. The towers, the dogs, the barbed wire. All of which were on set and used. All of us went into the POW stuff with an appreciation that this was not the time for mucking around or the jokes. We ate less and had makeup that made us look malnourished. Everyone knew it was a privilege to be playing those guys in those conditions.

I got the sense from Frank's book that these guys were put in this awful position together, and they mucked on through, and they found joy where they could ... and they used that as resistance. We didn't get to show any of that in our show. But we were unapologetic about the conditions, the brutality of the Germans.

What was it like hanging out with the cast?

Our crew glue was the respect and admiration for what they'd done. Also, it was crazy, they were mad, and we had a great time. We had the most ludicrous times in boot camp. They were extraordinary. It didn't matter if you were an A-lister or a first time — no one had seen a set like that. It was a great leveler. We'd all chat about how crazy this whole thing was. The best boys.

You're going to make me cry! I want you to know you're stuck with the Murphy family forever.

Thank you. That means so much. I'm very honored to be stuck with you. What a family. Thanks for having me!