This image released by CBS shows Shemar Moore as Daniel “Hondo” Harrelson in a scene from the series “S.W.A.T.” In the episode titled, “3 Seventeen Year Olds,” airing in the first hour of a two-hour season premiere episode on Nov. 11, Hondo, his father Daniel Sr., played by Obba Babatund, and his teen charge, Darryl, played by Deshae Frost, confront the history of racial tension in Los Angeles through flashbacks to the city in 1992 following the Rodney King verdict. (Bill Inoshita/CBS via AP)

This image released by CBS shows Shemar Moore as Daniel “Hondo” Harrelson in a scene from the series “S.W.A.T.” In the episode titled, “3 Seventeen Year Olds,” airing in the first hour of a two-hour season premiere episode on Nov. 11, Hondo, his father Daniel Sr., played by Obba Babatund, and his teen charge, Darryl, played by Deshae Frost, confront the history of racial tension in Los Angeles through flashbacks to the city in 1992 following the Rodney King verdict. (Bill Inoshita/CBS via AP)

’S.W.A.T.’ dives into Black, police conflict in season debut

Story line directly linked to Floyd’s death last May

LOS ANGELES — The ghost of a bitter chapter for Los Angeles haunts the season debut of “S.W.A.T.,” which casts today’s police-connected African American deaths as part of a cruelly repetitive history.

Series star Shemar Moore and executive producer Aaron Rahsaan Thomas are proud to claim ownership of the result airing 9 p.m. EST Wednesday on CBS (paired with a second, gear-shifting episode at 10 p.m.).

“We’ve been successful for three years playing super-cops and entertaining folks,” Moore said. “For ‘S.W.A.T.’ to take on what’s been happening around this country, in the world, is very brave and very bold.”

Thomas said it’s a step toward fulfilling the vision for the series he co-created with Shawn Ryan (“The Shield”). It’s a reboot of the 1975-76 series with Steve Forrest as Daniel “Hondo” Harrelson, head of a mostly white SWAT unit. This time around, Hondo is an LA-born African American striving to uphold the law and connect his multiethnic team with the community it serves.

“We attempted from the very first episode to try to say that we’re going to be a show that entertains but also engages our audience. Well, 2020 allowed us to double down on that,” Thomas said.

The episode is one answer to whether network TV dramas, ever reliant on law enforcement officers as unalloyed heroes, can reflect opposing views as the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others drive demands for systemic change in police practices.

The “S.W.A.T.” story line is directly linked to Floyd’s death last May while in the custody of Minneapolis police, Thomas said.

Three months earlier, Thomas had been working on an episode intended to mark the anniversary of the April 1992 acquittal of LAPD officers in the beating of Black motorist Rodney King. The jury verdict triggered days of protest and destruction in Los Angeles, a deadly parallel to the 1965 Watts-area violence that also followed a law enforcement stop of a Black driver.

“At the time, the intent was to tell a story about how we perhaps had made progress because there had been 27 years between Watts and Rodney King, and since there have been 28 years between Rodney King and now,” and there had been no major crisis, Thomas said. “Maybe, maybe we’ve learned our lesson.”

Efforts to make that episode for last season were derailed by the coronavirus outbreak that halted TV and movie production last March. And then came the outraged reaction to a video showing Floyd pressed under an officer’s knee for nearly 8 minutes before his death.

“The tenor of the episode went from a kind of humble appreciation to now, all of a sudden, there’s kind of a realization that perhaps we haven’t made the progress that we hoped that we had before,” Thomas said.

In the revamped story, Hondo and his dad, Daniel Sr., (Obba Babatundé) are shown in flashbacks that recall their experience. Later, the two clash over whether there’s been progress — even with well-intentioned African Americans like Hondo on the force.

“Ain’t no easy solution when Black people are being treated like they’re disposable,” the older man says bitterly, his tears flowing. The episode is framed by scenes of a protest march and concludes with a powerful recitation of Floyd’s last words.

Straight-ahead heroics aren’t slighted, as Hondo’s team tracks members of a drug cartel and try to deter a terrorist attack — all in under an hour, and with fleeting acknowledgment of the pandemic. (The virus outbreak is prominent in the paired 10 p.m. episode, with the central story involving SWAT-CIA efforts to track an international crime boss.)

Moore and Thomas said the episode had the strong support of CBS and co-producer Sony Pictures Television, but it’s also the result of having a Black star and executive producer with the motivation and authority to initiate it. Moore also is a producer for “S.W.A.T.”

“What the show looks to do, and I’ve always looked to do as an individual, is to try to increase the types of voices that we see,” Thomas said. “Not so much to eliminate the status quo that we’ve had before, but to expand the choices that a viewer has, so that you have different types of cop shows…. not just the standard that we’ve grown accustomed to.”

It remains to be seen how viewers react to a traditional broadcast drama addressing topical issues more common to cable and streaming fare.

Moore said that giving “S.W.A.T.” fans the thrill ride they expect is the priority but doesn’t preclude offering more, and doing it in a way that respects varied perspectives.

“I don’t care who you are when you watch that show, you are moved. And to be able to entertain folks but also move them and create a conversation, a debate” is the goal, the actor said. “We don’t care what side you take, but just let us present all sides, because that’s what we need, we need more communication.”

By The Associated Press

Entertainment

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A nurse gets a swab ready at a temporary COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal, on Friday, May 15, 2020. Health Canada has reversed course on home test kits for COVID-19, saying it will now review applications for such devices. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Employee at Bethany CollegeSide in Red Deer tests positive for COVID-19

An employee at a Red Deer continuing care facility has tested positive… Continue reading

The Government of Alberta has identified 1,828 new cases and 15 new COVID-19-related deaths, which brings the provincial death toll to 590. (File photo)
Alberta identifies 1,828 new COVID-19 cases on Friday

Central zone has 1,251 active cases

Higher sales of cannabis helped Canadian farmers come out in the green. (Black Press Media File)
Drumheller RCMP lay charge for unlawfully distributing cannabis

A joint forces investigation involving the AGLC investigation team partnered with Drumheller… Continue reading

Three weapons have been seized and four people are facing charges following a police operation in central Alberta. (Photo contributed by RCMP)
RCMP, Lacombe Police seize loaded guns, arrest four people

Four people have been arrested and multiple prohibited firearms are off the… Continue reading

The Salvation Army's 2020 Christmas Kettle Campaign includes a new $5 tap feature for pandemic-friendly donations. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Salvation Army officers safe, touchless options for Kettle donation this year

The Salvation Army in Red Deer needs help. Kettle donations are needed… Continue reading

Dan Cochrane, senior pastor at CrossRoads Church. Contributed photo
CrossRoads Church closes its doors for two weeks after staff member tests positive for COVID-19

CrossRoads Church made the decision to cancel in-house services for two weeks… Continue reading

Montreal Alouettes' Michael Sam is set to make his pro football debut as he warms up before the first half of a CFL game against the Ottawa Redblacks in Ottawa on Friday, Aug. 7, 2015. Sam became the first publicly gay player to be drafted in the NFL. He signed with the Montreal Alouettes after being released by St. Louis, but abruptly left after playing one game. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Study finds Canada a “laggard” on homophobia in sports

Study finds Canada a “laggard” on homophobia in sports

Canada's Kadeisha Buchanan (3) and Mexico's Jacqueline Ovalle (11) battle for the ball during a CONCACAF women's Olympic qualifying soccer match Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020, in Edinburg, Texas. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Delcia Lopez
Lyon defender Kadeisha Buchanan named Canadian Women’s Player of the Year

Lyon defender Kadeisha Buchanan named Canadian Women’s Player of the Year

Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Andrew Harris celebrates his touchdown against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats during the first half of the 107th Grey Cup in Calgary, Alta., Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019. Running back Andrew Harris, who was instrumental in the Winnipeg Blue Bombers ending their Grey Cup drought in 2019, tops the CFL team's list of potential free agents. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Grey Cup MVP, top Canadian Harris among Winnipeg Blue Bombers potential free agents

Grey Cup MVP, top Canadian Harris among Winnipeg Blue Bombers potential free agents

24Toronto Raptors' Fred VanVleet (23) goes up for a shot agains the Boston Celtics during the first half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Friday, Sept. 11, 2020.. Watching Connor McDavid let a slapshot fly or Fred VanVleet sink a deep three can be a salve to the soul of a sports fan run down by the difficult realities of the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Mark J. Terrill
Bubbles are best: experts say return of sports risky as COVID-19 pandemic continues

Bubbles are best: experts say return of sports risky as COVID-19 pandemic continues

Coastal Carolina's Grayson McCall (10) scrambles past Texas State's Nico Ezidore (95) during the first half of an NCAA college football game in San Marcos, Texas, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Chuck Burton
BYU presents tough challenge for Chanticleers, Canadian Makonzo this weekend

BYU presents tough challenge for Chanticleers, Canadian Makonzo this weekend

Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, arrives at B.C. Supreme Court to attend a hearing, in Vancouver, on Friday, November 27, 2020. The U.S. Department of Justice is refusing to comment on media reports that its lawyers are seeking a plea deal of sorts with Chinese tech executive Meng Wanzhou. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
PM won’t confirm reports U.S. Justice Department seeking plea deal with Meng Wanzhou

PM won’t confirm reports U.S. Justice Department seeking plea deal with Meng Wanzhou

Alek Minassian is shown in a handout photo from his LinkedIn page. A psychiatrist retained by the defence will testify for a fifth consecutive day today at the trial for the man behind Toronto's van attack. Dr. Alexander Westphal says Alek Minassian does not truly understand the moral wrongfulness of killing 10 people, but says criminal responsibility is a legal opinion, not a psychiatric one. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO
‘I know what I did was morally wrong,’ Alek Minassian told psychiatrist, court hears

‘I know what I did was morally wrong,’ Alek Minassian told psychiatrist, court hears

A look at what provinces and territories have said about COVID-19 vaccine plans

A look at what provinces and territories have said about COVID-19 vaccine plans

Most Read