Why SEAL Team isn't a mission-of-the-week drama
Showrunners Benjamin Cavell and Ed Redlich fill EW in on their new drama: 'We wanted to explore the effect that this work has had'
Jason Hayes (David Borenaz), the character at the center of new CBS drama SEAL Team, has given his life to his Tier One Navy SEALs team — his marriage is in tatters, so is his relationship with his child — but his tough-as-nails mentality is starting to show cracks.
“We wanted to explore the effect that this work has had on soldiers more than the work itself,” executive producer Ed Redlich tells EW. “None of us ever wanted to do a mission-of-the-week show just about catching bad guys. [Borenaz’s] character has been doing this for 13 years and as we meet him, he’s beginning to have a new sensitivity to the work. That’s the starting point.”
Instead, they’ll follow Hayes’ squad — rounded out by Ray (Neil Brown Jr.), Sonny (AJ Buckley), and, eventually, Clay Spenser (Max Thierot) along with CIA intelligence analyst Mandy Ellis (Jessica Paré) — from the Middle East to the Philippines and back. “We’re aware that what SEALs do in real life, in many cases, involves really familiar targets in Afghanistan and the Middle East,” Redlich continues, “but we’re trying to keep that broad. We’re not simply going after Arab terrorists every week or Muslim terrorists every week. The SEALs operate everywhere. [And] the fun of it is also the fun of how these guys do missions in different environments. Not only do we get to write about great people but you get to get on boats and get helicoptered off of boats.”
Across the entire season, the viewer will never break from the perspective of the team. There won’t be clips of home when the operation is abroad — and there will be no peaking at the bad guys before the SEALs arrive. Says executive producer Benjamin Cavell: “The truth of the life is that, for one thing, you’re absent for much of the time from your home life and when you go back, much of it is fraught because you’ve been absent for so long. We want to be faithful to that.” He adds, “And one of the realities for these guys is that when they go through those doors [on missions], they really don’t know what’s on the other side.”
SEAL Team premieres Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET on CBS.