'SEAL Team' Director Max Thieriot Says Deployed Bravo Team Is 'Shook Up'

Meredith Jacobs
Max Thieriot Directs SEAL Team Preview
Q&A Michael Yarish/CBS

Bravo Team's deployment in Afghanistan begins in Wednesday's episode, but this one is quite different for the SEALs.

Not only is the team without Sonny (AJ Buckley) — who's in Texas serving his disciplinary training action and getting reacquainted with his childhood friend Hannah (Rachel Boston) — but they're also in Afghanistan during peace negotiations. Plus, heading into SEAL Team's "Drawdown," directed by series star Max Thieriot, everyone is a bit conflicted, with themselves and each other.

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Here, Thieriot previews Bravo's deployment and discusses directing the episode and Clay's career path.

How's Bravo Team doing going into deployment? There's quite a bit of conflict, and Sonny's not with them…

Max Thieriot: Bravo Team is obviously super shook up at this point. Jason really feels it before he's leaving. Everybody's head is somewhere else. That's the big theme going here. Even Jason. He thinks he's alright, but obviously he's got stuff going on with Natalie. He has some uncertainty and some conflict that he's dealing with. Ray's got a lot of the stuff with his daughter, who's pressing him now and becoming older and understanding what he does and concerned about his life. Clay's got the STA-21 stuff.

SEAL Team 317 Jason Clay Ray

(Sonja Flemming/CBS)

Everybody has some stuff going on, and so the team is not 100 percent together. They're also feeling the loss of leaving Sonny behind. It's a little uneasy, and it doesn't feel like a normal deployment for them at this point in time leaving.

And they're there during peace negotiations, which isn't what they're used to. That changes their mindset, right?

Totally. They're walking into a totally different situation. They're normally expecting to get off and start getting ops and stuff to do right away and targets to hit. Instead, they're like, "hey, you guys are coming over here, get ready to hang out for a while." It's a different world, starting this deployment off.

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Bravo hasn't had the best luck with a new guy this season. So how's Sonny's replacement? 

His replacement is definitely interesting. Every time we see a replacement come in, it's not 100 percent one of the team members. The biggest thing about the replacement we'll see for Sonny is we're going to see a guy that also has a history with Bravo. He's not a new guy. He's been around for a long time, and there's a lot of history there.

We saw Clay struggle with not being with the team when he was injured. Can you talk about his decision regarding the job offer from Lindell?

Clay always has aspirations to do more. Like Sonny says, nothing's ever good enough for him. He comes from a family of SEALs. His father was a team guy also, and so for Clay, everything is to just do one step ahead of everybody else. He's like, "okay, I've gone to regular SEAL teams. I've made it to SEAL Team 6. Now, what's the next step? What can I do? Well, I can be an Admiral."

SEAL Team Bravo Deployed Sonny Replacement

(Sonja Flemming/CBS)

Obviously, there's a lot of hesitation though. On one hand, he sees what he could be, and Clay's a super intelligent kid. He's a great operator. At the same time, he realizes he could also be more valuable to the navy. He's definitely struggling with deep down inside, he knows the guy he is. He's fighting against that a little bit.

You directed an episode of Bates Motel, but this was your first SEAL Team episode. Can you talk about prepping for this episode? 

Chris Chulack is the godfather of the show. I chatted with him before. For me, honestly, I feel so comfortable directing, and it's something that I just really understand in and out from the camera to the acting side to all of it. For whatever reason, it's just one of those things that just makes sense to me.

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As soon as I got my script — and I obsess over this stuff, I literally lay in bed thinking about scenes and shots — I just dove right into it. The cool thing was everybody offered as much help as I wanted, but at the same time, gave me as much freedom to do whatever I wanted to do as well. It was great. I appreciated that. Jimmy Muro, who's an epic DP — just a great dude, as far as operating a camera, the dude's a legend — and I had a lot of fun just coming up with cool stuff.

For me, it's all about keeping everybody happy. My biggest thing is if you have a crew that wants to work hard for you and everybody's having a good time and they're enjoying what they're doing, everybody's going to do a better job and really bring it and so my biggest thing is just keeping that attitude on set. It starts from the director when you're shooting something like a TV show. And so I like to keep it fun and let everybody know I'm passionate and feel free to speak up if they don't like something I'm doing.

SEAL Team, Wednesdays, 9/8c, CBS