Tonight marks the season finale of “S.W.A.T.” Actors Alex Russell and Kenny Johnson spoke to CBS Local about what to expect on this season’s final episode, the show’s physically demanding shoots, and how they incorporate important themes, issues, and current events into the storylines.
Tonight is the season finale of ‘S.W.A.T.’ Alex, everyone wants to know, how are things going to shake out between Hondo and Street?
Alex: Obviously tensions have been brewing between Hondo and Street. Street has this super-ingrained loyalty to his mom, which I totally understand, that’s how I feel about my mom. I do feel that has brought all this conflict and inability for him to do his job in the workplace and everything with Hondo. It comes to a head. It comes to a head in a way that I think– I’ve been saying it’s going to leave living rooms quiet. It’s shocking to say the least.
Kenny: It’s about to go down.
‘S.W.A.T.’ requires a lot of physical performances from the actors. Can you guys talk a little bit about what the action shoot days are like?
Kenny: We’re running around with about 30 pounds of gear on, and we have a tech adviser, Otie [Otis Gallop] from San Diego SWAT, who is on us, and rides us to get everything perfect.
Kenny: What up Otie. It can be pretty tough, you know. You can have 13 hour shooting days, and a lot of you’re wearing your gear and you’re out there all day long. The first episode after the pilot, I remember it being 114 degrees out there and we’re deep in the valley. You just sweat it out. We had a lot of extras that were real SWAT officers, or even Hall of Fame SWAT officers, and they sat out there and basically manned up. So you know, we’re not going to say a word. We want to do it right for these guys, we want to represent SWAT as best we can. And it’s right. I work out like crazy. He works out like crazy. Everyone on the team is super competitive and athletic. Lina [Esco], myself and Alex even go to a gym — Fortunes Gym — and different gyms. Outside of “S.W.A.T.” we train on our own, we have an 18 wheel rig out there that’s fully loaded with workout equipment, so when we have extra time we’re out there working on our lunch hour. You know, everything to look and be the part.
For all the action on the show, a lot of viewers tune in because they become emotionally invested in the characters. Kenny, you recently had your actual daughter, Angelica, on an episode of the show, playing a child that Luca gets help with dyslexia. Was that the most awesome Take Your Child to Work Day you’ve ever had? How did that go?
Kenny: Angelica’s awesome. She’s my heart. I love her. She’s been acting since she was 5. We’ve done a couple of movies together, and this was our first television experience together. She’s so endearing. Kids are so real and in the moment, that it felt like I was in a god-space and I was trying to just be good for her. I struggled from dyslexia personally as a kid all the way into my twenties. So I took that storyline on, and made it for a little girl to be illiterate, and they happened to cast her. She got cleared by Sony and CBS. I was so happy, so nervous. It was very surreal and beautiful. The storyline was very human and real, and dealt with a topic that — you know, every 1 in 5 people is dyslexic in one form or another. I thought it was awesome.
“S.W.A.T.” takes on topical issues, a lot of things that we see going on in the news. Naturally, because law enforcement is tied to so many current events that are going on. How do you feel that grounds the show for the audience?
Alex: I think, as you said, it occurs naturally in this world. You can have shows, or can have content or literature or whatever, that tries to be politically relevant, that tries to tap into what’s going on today. Our show doesn’t try to do that, it doesn’t try to be political. These are themes and issues that are going on in our world and society today, and naturally occur and exist within the stories on our show. They naturally exist within law enforcement and communities and how they’re working together and how they affect each other. I think it’s awesome to be on a show where people get invested in the characters, the drama is compelling and moving, and the action’s awesome. But to have something that also opens people up, that can open good positive conversation in the living room after the credits roll, that means a lot to us.
Kenny: And they don’t hold back on the topics. It organically lives in the world of what’s going on in our society today. Shaw Ryan and Aaron Thomas [executive producers] try not to be biased one way or another. They do to leave it open for conversation because you get to see all sides of what’s going on. I think that’s a great way to start dialogues.
The season finale of “S.W.A.T.” airs tonight on CBS at 10/9c.