LOS ANGELES — The large soundstage at the CBS Studio Center is filled with the rear section of a military transport plane. Scattered around the rest of the space is an assortment of military items ranging from uniforms to a member of the military canine corps. All of these items are used in the filming of the new CBS drama “SEAL Team,” which stars David Boreanaz, AJ Buckley, Max Thieriot, Neil Brown Jr., Toni Trucks and Jessica Pare.
Despite the evidence that the series will be about one aspect of the military, those involved are quick to counter with the idea that this production is about a whole lot more than guns and battles. Executive producer Benjamin Cavell couldn’t state it any clearer when he says the show is not about the military.
“I think it’s about the people who do this work rather than about the work itself in some way. I don’t know what the prevailing mood is and how that affects whether people are going to watch our show, but I think we want to be true to the people we know who do this for a living and, frankly, the things that they do transcend politics,” Cavell says.
Saying this series is not about the military is like pointing to a show where a group of police officers go around arresting people and refuse to call it a cop show. In the case of “SEAL Team,” Jason Hayes (Boreanaz) is the leader of the Tier One. They work closely with CIA analyst Mandy Ellis (Pare) who is waging a major war on terrorism. Their missions take them into some of the deadliest areas of conflict in the world. On paper, that sounds a lot like a military show.
Part of the caution of calling the series a military show is that it’s launching at the same time two other programs dealing with the military are hitting the network schedules. NBC has “The Brave” while the CW Network is adding “Valor.” The cast and crew stress that they have been so busy trying to get their production up and running, they have not had the time to look at whether or not there are similar shows on the network schedules.
“SEAL Team” executive producer Ed Redlich points out that just because a show features a lot of military trappings, the true test of what kind of show it ends up being comes down to the writing. As an example, Redlich points to all the shows that have been set in the White House — “West Wing,” “Scandal,” “House of Cards,” “Veep.” All are extremely different in tone and design.
The design of “SEAL Team” is to balance the military actions with stories about the toll war takes on the people. Executive producer Sarah Timberman promises the series will not whitewash the fact that more of military marriages end in divorce than not, people come home missing limbs and death is a constant threat.
In the case of “SEAL Team,” those stories will unfold around Boreanaz. Even Boreanaz balks at referring to “SEAL Team” as a military show.
“I think it’s a workplace show. I really feel these characters and these people represent people that do things for a living that we all go home and go to bed and are cozy in our blankets at nighttime, and there are people out there that are fighting for our freedom and are fighting for us,” Boreanaz says. “And for me, specifically, what’s interesting is the character that’s involved in the workplace show and how he deals with that specifically.”
The work places just happen to be in places such as Syria. The cast and crew are united in their determination to make the show as respectful as possible to the people who protect the country.
A big element in accomplishing that task is the group of military advisers working on the series.
Cavell says: “I’ve never been in the military, and I frankly never really wanted to write anything about the military before this because I was terrified of having it be unauthentic and or inauthentic. And listening to some of these guys, and one in particular of these former Tier One operators, that’s why I signed on.
“Maybe because there aren’t so many, and certainly there aren’t shows about these Tier One operators who are doing really a lot of and the vast majority, frankly, of the work that now being done by our military in lots of places and going after some really, really bad people. There aren’t shows about them, and there haven’t been really a lot of movies about them. Not at this level.”