Rochelle Aytes on Rekindling Her ‘Criminal Minds’ Romance on ‘S.W.A.T.’

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[Warning: This article and video contains SPOILERS for S.W.A.T. Season 3 Episode 8, “Lion’s Den.”]

In tonight’s S.W.A.T., we saw a new development in the budding romance between team leader Hondo (Shemar Moore) and smart, community center director Nichelle (Rochelle Aytes) who met in the November 13 episode when she helped him save a man’s life after a car accident.

We’re thrilled these characters may have a romantic future, because these actors sure have great history! From 2013-16 on procedural Criminal Minds, Aytes played Dr. Savannah Hayes who married Moore’s character Special Agent Derek Morgan. Becoming a husband and father spurred Morgan to leave his dangerous job (especially considering at one point Savannah was shot by a sniper!) and the actor exited the series in 2016. (S.W.A.T. debuted in 2017.)

We chatted with Aytes about getting back together.

What was it like for you and Shemar to reunite on screen?.

Rochelle Aytes: A lot of fun! It was so easy working with Shemar on Criminal Minds. There was already this sense of comfort and familiarity between us. We fell back into it even though it was totally different characters.

What has the fan reaction been?

The fans are awesome. They really pay attention and are so excited about this. On Twitter they post photos of Savannah and Morgan, right next to a photo of Nichelle and Hondo. They’re super excited to see where it goes.


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Tell us how you see Nichelle.

She’s very intelligent, loves to give back and work with children. She’s that type of person who wants to help.. Her background is different from Hondo’s. She grew up in a more posh area and has had the education. He came from a rougher area. She’s focused, guarded, not interested in any games at this point in her life and not really giving him much attention. I think he likes that: the chase.

She got a report card on him from the ladies in the neighborhood. He got a C-minus! How can he get a better grade?

She’s doing her research! Look, he’s a player, right? To raise his grade he’d have to prove that he’s just not in it for the hit it and quit it. You know what I’m saying? These two are grown folks. The truth is in time. How much time is he going to really put into this, if he really wants a relationship? It’s going to be more than just sleeping with her for sure.

So why did she invite him to the bar for a drink?

She sees he’s not just a ladies man. He shows he wants to be more grounded. He’s got some depth. He, too, cares about people. And looks don’t hurt.

Sonja Flemming/CBS

What is the biggest difference between this new couple and Savannah and Morgan?

In Criminal Minds you didn’t see this part of the relationship: meeting and courting. I love that — seeing the beginning. You get to see the courting in this one. For sure Nichelle is skeptical of Hondo because of his reputation. That’s the biggest difference.

If you could imagine what Savannah and Morgan did after he left his job, what would you picture?

I think Savannah has another job as a doctor somewhere and Morgan, because he’s not a cop anymore, is maybe working at a school or, geez, I don’t know, as a soccer coach. He’s not one to sit still so definitely something active.

How did this S.W.A.T. role come to be?

I’m working on another series called The Purge that shoots in New Orleans. (On that show, my character is Michelle. I’m Nichelle in S.W.A.T. And in life I’m Rochelle. I don’t know how that happens!) Last August they called me and I came to L.A. for one day to audition. [I thought] oh my God, it’d be great to work with Shemar! About four days later he texted me saying they were trying to get me, but it was challenging because I was working. He kept fighting to get me. The producers of both shows made it work. I shot two episodes in one day so that it fit into my other schedule. They really bent over backwards. I felt so grateful they would do that. It was awesome.

Why does the chemistry work between you and Shemar?

That’s a really hard question. I don’t know. The chemistry is an unseen thing. How do you explain that?

Sonja Flemming/CBS

Will we see some romantic scenes between the two of them?

A little bit, sure. Yeah, that’s a little bit of romance going on. I mean, CBS friendly.

Can you hint more about what’s coming up for this couple?

Right now it’s just easygoing. We’re happy. We’re falling for each other. It’s the honeymoon phase. Will the boat rock later? I don’t know.

On Criminal Minds, Savannah ended up in a lot of danger because of her relationship with Morgan. Can Nichelle escape being touched by Hondo’s risky job?

It would make sense that my character would connect in some way to his dangerous job. It would be kind of cool. She works with kids, so maybe something happens with them. There’s danger there because she is working in Crenshaw. There’s a story that could be told.

Do you love shooting the more perilous moments?

Oh sure! Having lovely conversations or kissing is great, but you want to switch it up. Not that I want to be shot and dead! Absolutely not! But if I could have an opportunity to be a part of the actual show itself, which is about the danger, then why not?

What would you love to happen between Hondo and Nichelle?

I would love (for Nichelle) to meet Hondo’s parents because I love Debbie Allen.

S.W.A.T., Wednesdays, 10/9c, CBS