After a long and winding road to Hollywood, Shemar Moore is finally going to be the leading man in a network drama. The 47-year-old stars as Daniel “Hondo” Harrelson in the new CBS show “S.W.A.T.” The show follows the S.W.A.T. lieutenant leader “Hondo” Harrelson, who struggles to balance his relationship with the community he grew up in and his work in law enforcement. Moore returns to CBS where he became known for his portrayal of Derek Morgan on “Criminal Minds.”
Moore talked with CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith about his dream job on “S.W.A.T,” making the transition from baseball to acting and why “S.W.A.T:” will be unlike any other show on network television.
DJ Sixsmith: How did you get your start as an actor?
Shemar Moore: I wanted to be a professional baseball player when I was growing up. My uncle from Boston was a very good baseball player. He was a mentor because I grew up without my father. He and my high school baseball coach were my mentors and father figures. They taught me to think outside the box and dream big and if it scares you to walk into that fear. I was a really shy kid. I used to watch kids in the acting department and I would sneak in because it wasn’t cool for an athlete to be with the actors. I would sneak in because I was curious. I watched kids that I knew from class put on wardrobe and do “Othello” and Shakespeare plays and become different people. I thought that was fascinating.
DS: What was the biggest challenge of making the transition from sports to acting?
SM: Fast forward to college where I got a communications degree with a theater arts minor. That was my first dose of acting class and lighting design and one act plays and memorizing lines. I thought that if I could act, I could give myself permission to do things in life that I couldn’t do because I was shy. When you act, you get to be someone else. I got hooked on it and never imagined it was something I would do professionally. I did some modeling work, but my butt and legs were too big. I ended up getting a GQ shaving add, which was seen by my future agent and that led to me getting a part on “The Young and The Restless.” I auditioned against 268 other guys and I somehow got the part. 24 years later, I’m going to be Daniel “Hondo” Harrelson on “S.W.A.T.”
DS: You’ve spent your career bringing many different characters to light. What is it like being Lieutenant Daniel “Hondo” Harrelson?
SM: This is my dream job. It has all the pieces that I know I can flourish in. I’m very proud that I get to be a lead. Everything that I’ve done from Derek Morgan on “Criminal Minds” to Malcolm Winters on “The Young And The Restless” groomed me. I treat my acting career like school. “The Young And The Restless” was high school and I felt the need to graduate. “Criminal Minds” was the next step and I treated that like college. I did all I could with the character of Derek Morgan. I tell my fans all the time that you are witnessing the journey of a dreamer. Daniel “Hondo” Harrelson is Derek Morgan on steroids and not just physically. I gained 10 pounds for the role. Hondo is a S.W.A.T. member and the members of this show have a responsibility to make things authentic for the men and women that serve. We want to pay homage for the men and women that see life and death situations every day.
DS: How would you define S.W.A.T as a show?
SM: First and foremost, S.W.A.T. is a fun show. I think with what’s going on in this country, we need to all come together. I emphasize together. Black, white, men, women, young, old, it doesn’t matter. Let’s just have some fun together. It’s a fun show, but it is going to surprise some people because it is a poignant show and a relevant show. The only thing similar to the movie and the show 15 years ago is the theme song. We’ve put some stank on the theme song and slowed it down and put some bass on it. You are getting the name, the franchise and the theme song, but other than that it’s a whole new take on S.W.A.T. It’s showcasing the real humanity of the men and women in S.W.A.T. and also the real life issues of our civilians. There’s fear and distrust and we are going to tackle some of those issues. On network television, there is no show like what S.W.A.T. will bring.
DS: Why will S.W.A.T. be different than other shows on television?
SM: S.W.A.T is a breath of fresh air. I believe it is raising the bar for the way you put television shows together. It represents a lot of diversity and not just with the faces on the screen. Right now, there’s “How To Get Away With Murder,” “Empire,” “Scandal,” “Blackish” and now there will be a non-black one hour drama and I’m one of the only African-American male leads on television. I’m proud of that. It’s a heavy responsibility, but it also sheds light on a void. I think that television is starting to get that it has to keep up with real life. We are seeing a movement towards more diverse characters, diverse lead actors and diverse storytelling. S.W.A.T. is very representative of that movement.
S.W.A.T. premieres tonight at 10pm EST on CBS & CBS All Access. In New York, due to Thursday Night Football, S.W.A.T. will air on CBS’s sister station WLNY. That is channel 10 or channel 55 depending on your cable carrier. Check your local listings.