Charlie Ebersol is joining forces with the first lady.
The producer (and boyfriend of Britney Spears) got together with Michelle Obama – as well as American Sniper actor Bradley Cooper and various media leaders – at the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C., Friday morning to discuss the portrayal of veterans in news and entertainment and to launch the 6 Certified program.
The bipartisan campaign comes from Got Your 6, an organization Ebersol recently partnered with that aims to lobby for accurate representation of troops who’ve returned from the frontlines.
“The media tends to say, ‘They’re victims, or they’re heroes.’ People see these very extreme depictions of hero or martyr or victim,” Ebersol, 32, tells PEOPLE. “When you normalize the view, it really affects the public perception, and it leads to positive and powerful movements.”
Ebersol says there are two prime cases of what the program is aiming for in pop culture right now: the mega-successful American Sniper, and the Emmy-winning Modern Family.
“Ed O’Neill’s character, Jay Pritchett, on Modern Family is a perfect example. He’s a veteran. A lot of his character is defined by being a veteran, but he as a character is not defined by it,” he says. “It’s not like he has some military experience that inexplicably altered his life. But his commitment to his family, his technical understanding – they’re all things he learned while in the military and drive his character.”
As for Sniper, which tells the story of the late Navy SEAL Chris Kyle: “He comes back, and he’s a productive member of society, and he was using his military experience to make people’s lives better, and he wasn’t an extreme hero or an extreme victim,” Ebersol says of the film’s depiction. “That’s the ultimate goal.”
An entrepreneur, Ebersol has actually met the Obamas before. While President Obama was running for office, Ebersol was in talks to make a documentary with them, and he says he’s excited about reuniting with the first lady for the cause.
As for whether he could score some chat time with the president, the basketball fan says he wouldn’t be opposed to shooting some hoops. “He talks a lot of game, so I think I would definitely want to get on the basketball court with him for sure,” Ebersol says with a laugh.
But in all seriousness, Ebersol notes that “there are very few people that I’m genuinely in awe of, and he’s somebody that I would be excited to listen to. I think understanding the mechanisms of government, of change, those things are significantly important.”
As for why he got involved with 6 Certified? “If my legacy 20 years from now is that I produced television, that’ll be disappointing,” he says. “But if my legacy is that I was able to affect real change in the lives of other people, then that’s a big win for me.”
Ebersol – who is the son of longtime NBC exec Dick Ebersol and actress Susan Saint James – found a drastically renewed perspective on life 10 years ago when he and his family were in a plane crash that killed his brother.
“One of the things that occurred to me when the plane was crashing was that up to that point, I wasn’t really very happy. And I’d gotten everything I wanted,” Ebersol says. “When I talked to my mom about it afterwards, she said that I had to be careful that I wasn’t doing things that I was good at and mistaking them for things I loved.”