‘S.W.A.T.’: 6 things to know about the Shemar Moore show
While it features the same upbeat theme song as the 1975 original show — which may invoke thoughts of campiness — Moore says this version of S.W.A.T. isn’t like that. Considering the political and social climate we’re in, there are many issues at the forefront of policing that need to be dealt with.
“We upgraded S.W.A.T. for 2017,” said Moore, cheekily referencing the theme song, which he says is the same but with “a little more stank on it.”
Perhaps most telling is a quote from the first trailer, when a black citizen asks Moore’s character, S.W.A.T. team member Daniel “Hondo” Harrelson, what colour he is: black or blue? The so-called “blue curtain” (a code of silence among police officers) is a big part of the discussion these days, especially in the U.S., and Moore says the 2017 version of S.W.A.T. is not shying away from any topic.
But it’s not all heaviness, he said. Of course, there will be deep-dives into interpersonal relationships and character growth stories, as is the case in every primetime drama. Global News caught up with the diverse cast of S.W.A.T. at the Television Critics Association summer session, and here are some of the things we found out about the show.
S.W.A.T. was partially inspired by real-life experiences with police officers
Several cast members know actual real-life police officers and coupled with the spate of recent police shootings of unarmed black men in the U.S., it can be a dichotomous, complicated situation to portray on network TV. The showrunners (and Moore) are confident that they’ll be able to pull it off.
Co-executive producer Aaron Rahsaan Thomas believes that real-life inspiration is the key to authenticity, and makes Moore’s character particularly compelling, since as a biracial man he’ll be juggling both sides.
“On one hand, a 12-year-old kid who was a neighbour of mine was shot and killed by a police officer,” he said. “On the other hand, another neighbour of mine was an actual police officer, so we had a love-hate relationship with police growing up.
I always felt as though someone who understood both sides of the Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter debate would make for a fascinating character. So, when it came time to think about show ideas, this idea of a character, to marry that with an iconic title like S.W.A.T. just seemed to be, to me, a really, really great place to start. An entertaining show as well as conversation that’s been in the zeitgeist lately regarding someone who might have their foot in both sides of that debate.”
Co-executive producer Shawn Ryan agreed.
“I think the characters on the show are heroes, and I think you can be pro-police and yet also be pro-truth, but that there are certain instances and times and events that shouldn’t happen,” he said. “That’s what fascinated me about this show, was to look at the police and the communities that they’re policing, and figure out if there’s a way to bring these communities closer together, and Hondo really is that vehicle.”
This isn’t just a ‘dumb’ action show
It’s tempting to think of S.W.A.T. as just another cop show without substance, but it sounds like the entire cast and crew is aiming for something bigger and better. Their ultimate fear is that people dismiss the show before watching it.
“My biggest worry is the assumption that people make… that this is just a dumb action show,” said Ryan. “You hear S.W.A.T., there’s going to be some gunplay and some run-and-gun and some chases. And we’re going to have some elements that I think are very familiar to audiences. To us, what’s really satisfying about doing the show is doing some elements that aren’t always so familiar. I think viewers recognize the truth, appreciate the truth, and can embrace the truth when you show it to them. So, then that becomes a challenge for us, to try to represent the truth as we understand it, and the truth of what’s happening out in the world as best we can.”
S.W.A.T. doesn’t care what colour you are
Moore is thrilled by the conversations already starting around his show. He emphasizes that it doesn’t matter what your skin colour is, S.W.A.T. is watchable for everyone.
“This is a diverse group of people,” said Moore. “Aaron is from Kansas City, and the rest us… we’ve got black. I’m biracial. We’ve got Latina. Got Asian, David Lim. We’ve got white.”
“It’s not just black vs. blue or black vs. white,” he continued. “It’s every ethnicity. It’s fear. It’s racism. It’s terrorism. It’s subject matter of today. I don’t want us to preach to you. It’s not going to be a heavy — this is S.W.A.T. You’re going to have a good time. It’s a thrill ride. It’s everything you know S.W.A.T. to be, but I really believe we’re going to surprise you.”
It may be a pro-police show, but it’s also a pro-community show
Ryan drives the point home again that this show doesn’t push a certain narrative like many other cop shows have done in the past. It does its best to find a balance.
“This is a pro-cop show, but this is also pro-community show,” he said. “I think specific communities have been ignored or underrepresented on television a lot. So, Hondo isn’t just policing the South Los Angeles neighbourhood, but, at least in the pilot and ongoing series, he lives in this neighbourhood. That’s going to be an ongoing theme: Who are his neighbours? Who’s his family? How does he deal with this community? I want to see how the cops deal with the people. I want to see how the people deal with the cops. The basic notion of this show is that Hondo does it in a different way, that he views the community more like family, that he takes a more humane approach to dealing with people.”
The S.W.A.T. team is led by a woman of colour
In an unexpected surprise, the S.W.A.T. team is led by a female person of colour, Jessica Cortez, played by Stephanie Sigman. Normally, and especially on TV, positions of power are normally cast with men. On nearly every military and police show (with few exceptions), the leader is almost always male.
“It’s a really male-driven environment,” said Sigman. “We went to the S.W.A.T. facilities last week and they’ve had female captains before, so I think we’re ready to see that on TV because we usually don’t see that. I think it makes it really interesting because as a female, as an immigrant, as a young woman, you need to make a double effort to get there, and there’s a lot of work that you need to do and keep doing to stay there on top of things. And I just feel like we’re so ready for that. I’m super, super happy to be able to portray that.”
Lina Esco, who plays Christina “Chris” Alonso and is another member of the S.W.A.T. team, agreed.
“There’s a sense of a responsibility with the roles that Stephanie and I are playing because we think about the young girls, women or the older women that are watching us,” she said. “We want to inspire them to show women in a different light, in a much more powerful light as strong female role models. So it’s something that we’ve been thinking about a lot.”
You won’t be able to predict what happens next
Best of all, Moore promises, S.W.A.T. will leave you guessing. Again, he drives home the point that this isn’t your typical cop show.
“S.W.A.T. is a good time that’s going to surprise you, and it’s going to make you talk,” he said. “Television is getting more exciting because it’s getting more diversity, not just in the faces you see on the screen, but in the content of the stories they’re telling. This is one of those shows. This is not a predictable show. I promise you, once you see the pilot and let us get two or three episodes in, you are going to say, ‘Whoa.'”Follow @CJancelewicz
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