‘SEAL Team’s David Boreanaz on Jason’s Big Decision: ‘I Don’t Know If He’s Going to Make It’

David Boreanaz SEAL Team Season 4 Premiere Jason Hayes Bravo 1
Spoiler Alert
Cliff Lipson/CBS

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the first two episodes of SEAL Team, “God of War” and “Forever War.”]

SEAL Team begins its fourth season the way it intended to end its third (before production had to shut down early): Bravo hunting down the terrorist who eluded them, and major decisions made for three of the team members.

First comes a powerful hour directed by series star David Boreanaz. His character Jason Hayes (Bravo 1) and Cerberus are separated from the team, the dog, who admittedly has gotten spooked lately, is injured, but both make it back in one piece. Then Bravo does track down and stop Al-Hazred, with Clay Spenser (Max Thieriot) the one to take the shot.

But once home from Afghanistan, analyst Mandy Ellis (Jessica Paré) decides she can no longer do the job. “It’s not who I want to be,” she tells Jason. “If I don’t walk away now, I’m going to lose myself forever. And if I stay, you’re going to talk me out of it.”

And there’s a big canine change about to happen, too: With the team recognizing the signs of PTSD in Cerberus, Jason knows it’s time for this dog to just be a dog.

The final scene is when the biggest shock comes, as Jason announces to the others that “leading Bravo Team has been the greatest honor of my life, but war’s been my refuge for too long, and I’m done. It’s time for Bravo 1 to take a step back from operating and find a life for Jason Hayes.”

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Here, Boreanaz breaks down that shocking decision and previews what’s next for Jason and Bravo.

When exactly did Jason make the decision to step back from operating? Was it one or two specific moments or a combination of everything?

David Boreanaz: Well, for him to know that he’s hunting down the son of a guy that he took out, a major terrorist 13 years ago, it’s like a merry-go-round — him seeing the world’s not stopping and the war is not stopping, and it’s like, how many ops and missions can one go on if you’re trying to make a difference? Now, knowing that he does make a difference, for him it’s a very conflicting situation; his love is of teams, and he knows and recognizes that he’s been a better warrior than he has ever been a father or a husband, so for his character to step down, we will examine that.

I think the decision came at a very impactful moment, with Mandy at his favorite restaurant, [where] he always goes after a deployment, and having her open up about how things are not changing, they just continue to evolve. It may have put him over the edge to say he needed to take a step back. How he survives that? I don’t think he will, and we’ll see what happens.

David Boreanaz Jason Hayes SEAL Team Season 4 Episode 2

(Cliff Lipson/CBS)

Does he have any idea who he wants to be if he’s not operating? He’s been this “all in, all the time” guy for so long. We see that begin in those flashbacks, which are so good.

Yeah, for this character and especially for the real people who do it and then come back home, that’s the real battlefield. “All in, all the time” may seem like an easy pivot to be “all in, all the time” on something else, but I don’t know if that’s going to work out too well. We ultimately don’t know if he’ll survive that, and when I say not survive that, I mean either he leaves altogether or he really leaves altogether. And not to sugarcoat it, but what are the options if life has you by its grip and you’re not being accepted by society? It becomes a very heavy-handed situation for Jason, and we’ll see how he deals with it and see what happens to him.

Does he think he’s done for good?

In his rationale, he may have decided that. I don’t want to give away how he deals with it because Season 4, we’re going to see a lot of characters come and go, including Bravo 1. You never know.

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How is Jason’s decision going to affect the way he interacts with the members of Bravo?

He’ll have a linear interaction with them; he’s gotta fulfill his enlistment, deal with his boss. There will be direct contact with Bravo outside of teams. But most importantly is his mind and his mental stability — how he can either get help, learn how to ask for help, or knows how to lean into somebody or something. We’ll see how that goes.

David Boreanaz SEAL Team Season 4 Episode 1 Jason Hayes Team

(Cliff Lipson/CBS)

What is Bravo Team going to look like moving forward? You mentioned people coming and going. You have Jason done operating, Ray (Neil Brown Jr.) off to warrant officer academy, presumably a replacement for Cerberus…

It looks much different on paper, that’s for sure. That’s the most interesting part. Does Thirty Mike flow into that place of being Bravo 1? How do Sonny’s conflicts determine his fate? Where does Ray go in regards to what may happen to him? There’s a lot of stuff that’s going to be lost. Bravo will be decimated yet pulled back together. We’ll see how their roles will change considerably.

There’s a lot to look forward to in this season. In particular, a court case that will define a specific Bravo member; not a huge arc, but enough to affect Bravo Team. Listen, you shake it up and the reality is that these guys move on and either make it or don’t make it. If I’m betting man and look at Bravo 1 right now and where he’s at, I don’t know if he’s going to make it.

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What about Jason’s relationships with his kids with the change?

They’ll have a bigger impact with him coming back and having really nobody there. His daughter will help ease that conflict he has with certain relationships, so we’ll see how that develops.

Episode 2 felt very finale-esque because it should’ve been last season’s. Did anything change from the original plan for it?

No, we literally divided and conquered that second part, which was the season finale, trimmed it a bit in the middle with some character development, but we bumped it to Hayes stepping down and figuring that all out and seeing what life would look like. That’s going to be tough for him.

Dita SEAL Team Season 4 Episode 1 Cerberus

(Erik Voake/CBS).

Going back to the first hour, which you directed, which scenes stand out to you as a director?

The dog episode was just for me that intense day of carrying the dog on my back and picking him up and going through that emotional pain, that physical and mental anguish that the character went through. It was six-and-a-half hours of going and having Jimmy Muro with the camera follow me around and not relying on anyone else but the two of us to get the job done. It was exhausting. I know that it definitely helped with the performance of the character and telling that type of story and where his head is and how it unites those scenes, just with me and Cerberus alone, which is so impactful. I just loved all of that.

Are we going to follow Cerberus or is his story done?

His story definitely opens up. With every door that closes, something new opens, so we definitely will be with him. And we’ll see another dog come into the fray. His name’s Pepper, and it’s going to be awesome. You guys will love it.

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Clay took the fall for Ray when it comes to the letter, and I was pleasantly surprised to see Ray ‘fess up to Jason. How much fallout is there going to be for Clay and potentially for Ray? I feel like the truth has to come out.

Yeah, the fallout will be extensive, but more internal with Bravo Team. We come to some conclusion with that and other Bravo members stepping up for Clay and getting all over Ray because he’s gotta take off and start his path. There’s some heavy [stuff] there with Bravo 2 — something happens to him that’s pretty catastrophic that brings the team back together for a while. I won’t say for a long time, but I think for one or two episodes.

Are you going to direct again this season?

Yes, I’ll direct pretty much the one I usually direct, which is the second-to-the last episode. Our order was cut to 16 because of the late start date. We had to cut out some directors. I was going to direct two of them this year, but now just one.

SEAL Team, Wednesdays, 9/8c, CBS