'SEAL Team': Emily Swallow on Natalie 'Rocking the Boat' & Jason's Surgery

Meredith Jacobs
Q&A CBS

Jason (David Boreanaz) may have walked out of the doctor's office instead of having the surgery he needs on SEAL Team, but he'll be on that operating table sooner rather than later if research physiologist Natalie Pierce (Emily Swallow) has any say.

She's the one who's been pushing him, especially lately, to listen to his body, even as he sought non-surgical options. And we'll see that continue in Wednesday's "Danger Crossing."

Here, Swallow offers some insight into Jason and Bravo Team.

For someone with Natalie's job, physical strength and health are important, but mental strength and health may be just as or more important, right?

Emily Swallow: Absolutely. That's the piece of the puzzle that is providing the most interesting wrinkle in the role she wants to serve. She's armed with a lot of very practical, very cutting-edge information about how the human body withstands stress and what it means to go through what these SEALs go through on a day-to-day basis.

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But the piece that she can't possibly predict, as we're definitely seeing with Jason, is how it's affected them mentally and how to work with that and how to even be able to earn the trust to work with that. That's a part of the challenge of the job that she really enjoys and maybe winds up getting herself a little too involved sometimes because she is so passionate about it.

What are Natalie's impressions of Bravo Team?

She's really impressed with the way they function as a unit, but it's pretty clear [they] all [have] strong personalities and are all so emotionally tied to each other without really acknowledging it — because in many ways, it pays for them not to acknowledge that, they need to be able to compartmentalize, they need to be able to work as a unit but do so under incredibly high-stress circumstances without giving into the stress.

(CBS)

She's definitely seen that Jason is incredibly strong as Bravo 1 and the leader of this unit, but because it's so vitally important to him and because he doesn't even really know maybe who he is outside of that, the other guys on his team support him in that and they would never question that. We do see them trying to encourage him to listen to his body and maybe pull back for a beat and assess where things are, but they're reluctant to rock the boat too much. That's where Natalie comes in, because she's willing to rock the boat.

Who is she most worried about besides Jason?

Sonny. It seems to be clear even to people who don't know about his relationship with Lisa that he is really overcompensating for something. There is this aggression to that and he's definitely not kind to himself and it feels like he's trying to block out some emotions by just going full throttle into things he might normally do on a slightly more moderate level, like going out and partying and begging people to fight him and just these really violent compulsions that go beyond the battlefield.

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That strikes me as something that would be a little concerning, but we also see that he's not too interested in what Natalie has to say. He seems to be working that stuff out on his own.

Jason walked out of the office when he went for surgery. What can you preview about what happens in regards to his injury in this week's episode and the role Natalie plays?

She's not going to give up on him. I love the moment the writers gave us in the last episode where he's pressing her about physical therapy and alternatives to the surgery and other things he could do and she finally just lays it out for him in a very direct way and says, "I get it. I know that you're scared of being helpless and being stuck at home with nothing to do," and she says, "the thought of being at home with nothing to do scares the hell out of me, too."

(Cliff Lipson/CBS)

She's willing to share something of herself with him to let him know it's OK to have all of these fears and worries and to not know if this surgery is going to work. But stepping into it, even with those fears, is worth doing. She does not back down and she's going to make sure he gets in there and gets on the operating table.

Speaking of that conversation, we're getting bits and pieces about Natalie's personal life. Are we going to learn more? She's so focused on helping others that that could get lost but is likely an important part of why she is the way she is.

What you just said is really important to who she is. Her focus can be so much on other people and helping them that that's the way she's not paying attention to what she needs. We do get to learn more about her, and it's usually because of things she's butting up against in Jason and ways she's having trouble breaking through to him. She reveals those things as a means to help that.

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Then when she's frustrated with him and when she feels like maybe she's earned his trust in a way and then he totally backpedals, she starts to reveal a little bit more about where she comes from and about what her own hopes are for him as he's relearning how to be connected to other people. She holds him to a high standard and sees something in him that he doesn't even really trust in himself about what he could be capable of and what he deserves in terms of having meaningful relationships with people because it seems like he's a little scared of that right now. He's lost a lot.

Are there any interactions with other characters coming up?

There's really not. [Laughs] I am so locked into him. We don't see much of her in relation to anybody else. We do get little bits and pieces about where she stands in terms of feeling accepted by everybody and how other people are viewing her research. We do get to hear a little bit about that, but it's really Jason.

(CBS)

Then eventually, we might get to see her interact with some of the other people in his life that are not there on a day-to-day basis but who are an important part of his life.

SEAL Team, Wednesdays, 9/8c, CBS