LOS ANGELES | Don’t look for political subtext in “SEAL Team,” producers say.
“I don’t think our show is about the military,” says creator Benjamin Cavell. “It’s about the people who do this work rather than about the work itself.”
Those on the team “don’t look at the results of elections and decide they want to remain in the military. They do that work no matter who’s in the White House and whether they voted for that person or not.”
Soldiers, according to executive producer Sarah Timberman, “are very cautious about warfare. Their sense of duty and honor transcends parties and politics.”
Star David Boreanaz goes one step further. “I think it’s a workplace show,” he says. “There are people out there that are fighting for our freedom and fighting for us. What’s interesting is how the character deals with that specifically and, when he comes home, how he deals with his own inner turmoils and how he deals with his personal life.”
Boreanaz plays Jason Hayes, the leader of the Tier One team who has let his home life suffer while he serves as a SEAL.
While Boreanaz considered resting after “Bones” ended, he loved what “SEAL Team” was addressing. The idea that a character could be a hero at work and lost at home was intriguing. “I just joined on and I’m happy I’m here.”
Although several other new series address similar themes, “SEAL Team” wanted to avoid the “mission of the week” concept when it could dig into a situation over several weeks and connect the emotional dots.
Producer Ed Redlich says a series about the White House “could be ‘Scandal’ or it could be ‘The West Wing’ or ‘House of Cards’ or ‘Veep.’ They’re all set in the same world but they’re all creatively different.”
Adds producer Christopher Chulack: “We’re not messaging. This is a story about the study of the psyche of the men and women who are involved in these situations. It’s not politics. It’s human study.”
The workplace, Boreanaz says, is just a different way to get at that study. “It’s a character-driven show.”
To capture the essence of real SEAL Team members, the show’s writers and actors met with soldiers and got to ask plenty of questions.
“We’re going to tell the stories about the toll that this war takes on people that do it personally,” says Timberman. “We’re not going to whitewash the fact that more of their marriages end in divorce, people come home missing limbs and – at some point – someone who’s critical to our show may not make it through. We hope to tell the stories responsibly.”
While members of the TV “SEAL Team” represent a wide swath of political beliefs, “we are all united in our deep regard for the people we’ve met, who are honor-bound and self-sacrificing.”
To make sure the series resonates, Cavell talked with Tier One operators extensively before he started writing. Most of all, he didn’t want it to be like uninformed films and series that came before it.
“There are a lot of things they’ve seen in movies that they think are stupid,” he says. “Their main concern was that we are doing the thing that we all feel such responsibility to do, which is to tell their stories honestly and to not make it about politics but about the lives of these guys, what it costs, how they see it … and what it’s like to try to hold a family together and maintain a personal life. I think it’s a story that resonates.”
Now, technical advisers are found in every department of the series. In addition to working with writers, they’re offering pointers to actors, costumers, designers and producers.
“They were on set for the whole pilot,” Timberman says. “One of our experts showed up on set and said, ‘What are 100 people doing sitting around? I would never run an operation this way.’” It wasn’t efficient. “It was a real window for those of us who really have no background in the military and very little knowledge…like an education.”
“SEAL Team” airs at 8 p.m. Wednesdays on CBS.