Lights, Camera, Action! Behind the Scenes of 'S.W.A.T.'
Kenny Johnson (left) gets ready for a rooftop close-up. He and the rest of the cast underwent weeks of intense martial arts training at 87Eleven stunt school in Inglewood, California. They got so into it, “They wanted to go on weekends,” Perry says. “The best way to play a badass? Be a badass.”
Star Shemar Moore gets strapped in for a helicopter stunt at Santa Clarita’s Sable Ranch on August 4. “I was pooping my pants,” he says of taking flight. “Not literally, but it was pretty close for the first hour!”
Hondo attacks from above for Episode 2’s mountaintop rescue. The chopper’s noise required a special communications link between ground and air crews, who could relay cues to Moore. “Like a game of telephone,” director Billy Gierhart says.
Executive producer Lin (left, with actors Stephanie Sigman and Kenny Johnson) loves to up the ante. “One day, I went, ‘Hey, Justin, is it cool if I have a guy jump over a car?’” Perry recalls. “And he was like, ‘Hell, yeah! Do it!’”
The production took over several busy streets in downtown Los Angeles for the pilot’s climactic SUV chase, so the shoot had to be fast and furious. But that didn’t mean stunt coordinator J.J. Perry—whom Lin hired after seeing his work on the ultraviolent John Wick: Chapter 2—scrimped on blood, guts or explosives. He and his team mounted a cannon inside one of the cars to flip it and provide maximum smoke. No CGI necessary.
Sure, It takes guts to reboot S.W.A.T., a short-lived 1970s police procedural that’s known primarily for its catchy theme song (and also a ho-hum 2003 Colin Farrell movie adaptation). But you’ve got to have real grit just to be on S.W.A.T.’s set, where the cast and crew (including the pilot’s director, Fast and the Furious auteur Justin Lin) are pushing TV action to daredevil heights. Seriously.
Lead Shemar Moore, who plays newly promoted LAPD S.W.A.T. boss Daniel “Hondo” Harrelson, has already spent multiple hours hanging from the side of an actual Army helicopter 500 feet in the air, delivering dialogue and gripping a sniper rifle while a second chopper carrying the camera crew circled around him. And that was just for Episode 2!
Shemar Moore adds star wattage to CBS's new reimagining of the action classic
This new S.W.A.T. won’t be all explosions and car chases. The update will dig deep into the racial tensions between Hondo’s diverse team, the police force and the people of Los Angeles. Still, behind the scenes, the actors are majorly hyped about taking the series to the next level with larger-than-life stunts. “I’m having so much fun it’s ridiculous,” Moore says. “People have to know that’s no double. That’s me!”
S.W.A.T., Series Premiere, Nov. 2, 10/9c, CBS