LOS ANGELES – As a child, Shemar Moore used to run around his house “acting like a S.W.A.T. member” every time the 1970s show came on.
“I didn’t really watch it, but I remember the song,” he says with a smile. Now Moore is starring in a revised version – one that addresses the conflicts between police and military.
“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,” says Aaron Thomas, one of the executive producers of the new “S.W.A.T.” “When it came time to think about show ideas, this idea…just seemed to be a really, really great place to start.”
Moore plays Daniel “Hondo” Harrison, a sergeant promoted to run a specialized tactical unit in Los Angeles. Because he’s protecting streets from bad guys who used to be friends, he’s caught between two worlds.
Moore, 47, says he, too, traveled a similar path. “I’m a biracial cat who came from the streets. I had a hard-headed mama who helped me get out or at least make something of myself and not settle. Hondo had his own set of circumstances where he could have fallen victim to the statistics.
“Rather than complain about the injustices and the problems, he gets in there and becomes a part of it. He’s not looking for a fight, but if you’re picking one, that’s a problem.”
While the character will look for creative ways to solve problems, he’s fiercely loyal “and there’s always pressure on him to prove he hasn’t sold out or forgotten where he came from. He’s loyal to his team and forced into leadership, so he’s going to give it all he’s got.”
Now the star of a series (he was a regular on both “The Young and the Restless” and “Criminal Minds”), he knows what it’s like to be part of a team. Having watched Mandy Patinkin and Joe Mantegna lead “Minds,” he got a sense what that kind of responsibility is.
“Joe conducts himself so well professionally and personally. He’s a great family man and he also creates and maintains camaraderie amongst the actors. My 24 years in the game have really groomed me for this opportunity. I’m very competent, but I also have to take a deep breath. I know it’s a lot of responsibility to be No. 1 on a call sheet.”
After his run on “Criminal Minds” ended, the actor says he wasn’t sure what he was going to do. “It was a blind leap, but I just believed in me and I was hungry – hungry to grow. And I didn’t know ‘S.W.A.T.’ was coming. I was an unemployed actor trying to go figure it out.”
While on vacation in Australia, Moore opened his mind to the possibilities. Then he got a letter from producer Shawn Ryan saying, “We see something in you,” and “S.W.A.T.” followed.
This “S.W.A.T.,” Ryan says, isn’t just another show “where a dead body drops in the teaser and you investigate a few different aspects. This is a pro-cop show but this is also a pro-community show. I want the camera to show all aspects of Los Angeles. I want to see how the cops deal with the people. I want to see how the people deal with the cops.”
Sure, Moore says, his character has the same name as the man Steve Forrest played in the 1970s TV series and Samuel L. Jackson played in a 2003 movie, but he’s not the same guy. “You’re going to meet him (and the other characters) in a completely different light.” The theme song will be similar “but it’s a whole new set of circumstances.”
When Moore went back to look at old episodes on YouTube, he was surprised how dated they seemed. His Hondo isn’t a no-nonsense sergeant. “He’s a man from the streets who’s now taking his turn to groom those on the streets, just as his mentor groomed him.”
“S.W.A.T.” airs at 9 p.m. Nov. 2 on CBS.