Made by the team behind The Shield, Timeless and Friday Night Lights, it stars Criminal Minds’ Shemar Moore as SWAT leader Daniel ‘Hondo’ Harrelson. He’s promoted amid a PR nightmare for the division – a stray shot from a white cop has accidentally hit a black teenager, causing some real bad blood in the community.
Those above think born and bred Angeleno Hondo is the man to smooth things over. But it’s no easy job. And, when the incident triggers more race-related crimes, Hondo is faced with a second shooting and a police ambush. All while trying to break in mouthy newbie Jim (Alex Russell), and work out what the step-up means for his off-the-books relationship with supervisor Jessica (Stephanie Sigman).
Justin Lin (Fast & Furious, Star Trek Beyond) directs the first pulse-pounding episode.
S.W.A.T. star Shemar Moore told us why the breathless US cop drama is like nothing you’ve seen before
So what attracted you to S.W.A.T.?
Money! No, I’m kidding… Money and girls! What attracted me to S.W.A.T.?
First and foremost, I’ve been in this business 24 years and I don’t care who you are, if you want to have a good time and see an entertaining movie-esque show, see crazy action, super cops, cool stories – you can’t not have a good time watching S.W.A.T.
What makes S.W.A.T. different?
We’re trying to bring humanity to the perception of the police. The police are not perfect.
There is a lot of division between police and civilians, there is fear, lack of trust, a sense of power being abused. A TV show can’t fix all that, but we can change the mindset, maybe open up a dialogue.
With the amazing Shawn Ryan at the helm – who wrote The Shield and The Unit – you’re going to have a good time, you’re going to see crazy action, but you’re also going to see relevant messages.
It’s not a political show, we don’t want to be heavy-handed and preach, but it is relevant issues. It’s Black Lives Matter, human trafficking, cyberbullying, domestic terrorism, immigration issues.
And as the show unfolds, you’ll really care for the people and understand where they are.
What is it like being the lead actor?
Now being the lead of the show is a milestone for me after 24 years in the game. I’m so grateful for Derek Morgan and 251 episodes of Criminal Minds.
The evolution of him – being a tough guy, then seeing his kryptonite. There were so many layers to him, and now I want to create layers to Hondo. On a larger theme, bigger than myself, bigger than S.W.A.T., bigger than CBS – I’m the only male African American lead on US network television.
What do you think are the pressures on Hondo as a leader?
In the pilot there’s a shooting in a park and an African American, in the midst of all the chaos, walks by Hondo and says, “Are you black or blue brother? You’re gonna have to pick”. That’s his struggle. In real life, I had to deal with, “Am I black enough?”, “Am I white enough?”, “Am I street enough?”, “Am I a sell-out?” And so I had to find a balance as I got older. And it’s similar for Hondo.
He’s always got to prove to the community that he hasn’t lost his way. But at the same time, he has to play the game and he has to earn his stripes. And in earning his stripes, it is tough to balance taking care of his people and taking care of all people. You have a black leader who always looks out for his community, because that is what he knows, but he’s going to look out for all communities because that’s his heart. We’re all human beings, we all bleed red. That’s the message that I live by, and I like that the writers are giving that goal to Hondo.
Do you think the US needs more leaders like Hondo?
Hondo wants the police force to treat people equally, which is what the world wants, which is what the US desperately needs.
Now is it going to happen in totality? No, maybe not ever. But there can be more of a sense of tolerance, patience, unity and coming together. Because right now, people are divided and at odds. I don’t know if a TV show can fix it, but it can at least raise the arguments and start that dialogue. Because if people start talking to each other, I think progressive change can happen.
S.W.A.T. is on Sunday at 9pm on Sky One & NOW TV