SEAL Team returns with an all-new episode this Wednesday at 9:00 PM ET/PT called “Drawdown” which was directed by series star Max Thieriot. “Drawdown” sees the team heading to Afghanistan to broker peace talks while Sonny reports to an Air Force base in Texas to serve his disciplinary training action, where he gets reacquainted with an old friend.
CBS Local’s Matt Weiss caught up with Thieriot ahead of Wednesday’s new episode to discuss directing his castmates and bringing people entertainment when they need it most.
MW: Hi Max, what’s up buddy, how’s it going?
MT: All good, all good, just laying low. I’m super fortunate to live up here in North Carolina. I live on a ranch, so my two boys have plenty of room to run around. We’re not going too crazy, so that’s good. I have a lot of chores to do.
MW: That’s good, plenty to keep you busy. And on top of that we have this Wednesday your debut directing an episode of SEAL Team. What was it like for you pulling double duty playing Clay and directing at the same time?
MT: It was busy. It was definitely a little different. I directed on Bates Motel and they wrote me out of the episode I directed, so I just focused on the directing, I knew it would be a little more challenging. It’s a little weird when you’re not watching the monitors because when I’m directing I’m sitting there staring at that stuff. Nitpicking little things here and there. You have to be present in the scene without worrying about directing while you’re acting and got to go back and look at it.
There’s also a real sense of, from an acting standpoint, you just sort of feel the vibe and you know when a scene feels right, it’s like everyone is really present. That part’s easy and we have a great crew that makes sure the camera stuff is on point. I have a lot of people I can rely on in those times.
MW: So it was new experience, not in directing, but doing it in this manner and on this show. Was there any kind of initial weirdness to work through with your castmates in that altered dynamic?
MT: We all have such a great relationship. Sometimes you get outside directors that come in and they just don’t have the rapport with everybody. So, as an actor if you’re asked to take a chance to try something or push yourself, it’s hard because you don’t have that level of trust yet. With this cast, thankfully they trust me, and they know whatever I’m going to use is going to be the best for the show and it’s going to make them look great.
There’s a certain level of trust there when you’re being directed by your coworker and someone who is your friend and you’ve known for a long time and that comes across. I also know, I don’t think all of our outside directors have watched every single episode, so I know every single thing about every character on the show. I’ve also watched every episode of the show, I’ve been there at the filming over every moment of the show. In a way I feel like the actors know more about the show than anyone.
MW: That makes total sense.
MT: It’s an interesting process, because of that I know what every actor on the show’s process is. If I’m going to ask them to do a certain thing, I know how to respect their process at the same time.
MW: The new episode is called “Drawdown”. We’re going to see the team deployed to Afghanistan for peace negotiations. What can you tell us from your perspective about the episode? What do you want people to get out of it?
MT: For me this episode is really about all of the characters having conflict going on in their personal lives. We’re thrown into a deployment without Sunny, we’re thrown into a deployment where we normally would be jumping into ops and kicking down doors, shooting bad guys, but instead there’s all of these peace talks going on, so it’s a very different kind of deployment for us.
At the same time, I think what’s cool about this episode is, it’s like a mini pilot, it introduces four or five new very crucial characters to the show. It also introduces back into the deployment world, the dusty, gritty feel about Afghanistan. It sort of hits a reset button, so I hope people will like it and like that it’s a reset back into a deployment and that it kicks off the rest of the season.
MW: Last question before I let you go, obviously with everything going on in the world, people need distractions, some entertainment to put the real world on pause for a bit. What does it mean to you that this episode, that you directed all that time ago, is going to air now at a time when people really need a distraction more than ever?
MT: It means a lot. That’s one of the important things we do as actors, we entertain people. I think people need entertainment; they need distractions. I hope this will bring them some enjoyment so they can see something that’s artistic and beautiful and isn’t just the ridiculousness of Tiger King. [Laughs]
MW: [Laughs] Can’t beat that. Well Max, it’s been a pleasure talking to you. Stay safe and all the best!
Tune in for an all-new episode of SEAL Team on Wednesday, April 8th at 9:00 PM ET/PT, only on CBS and streaming on CBS All Access. Check your local listings for more information.