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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Richard Burgi

By Deanna Barnert

Actor Richard Burgi has had quite the career since he got his start on Another World in the late '80s, landed recurring roles on former sudsers such as One Life to Life and CBS' As the World Turns, and then caused trouble on Days of Our Lives.

Whether you recognize him from his early soap days, his run as a Desperate Housewives hubby, his years solving crime as The Sentinel or his many other primetime stints, you know that this handsome actor can bring the charm… and also play deliciously dirty!

From the way fierce and possibly dangerous businessman has been described, those talents should come in handy when Ashland arrives in Genoa City on March 11!

Watch spoke to Richard Burgi about his new character, his new co-stars, and what he likes to get into when he's not bringing the drama.

The Young and the Restless airs Weekdays on CBS. Watch the latest full episode on Paramount+.

Richard Burgi

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Richard Burgi

Watch is all about television's hottest shows. Tell us about your character Ashland Locke on Y&R.

He's cagey. He's worked hard. He's gone through some tribulations and trials in his life, and I think he's arrived at a place where he's enjoying the fruits of his labors and the little quiver of arrows that he can throw at people in so as far as psychological manipulations in his world of big business.

He's a terrific, personable, charming, intelligent, kind person… who, like many characters that have been labeled as nefarious, is just misguided. I think Victor Newman was castigated as a bad guy for a while. He's just misunderstood!

Richard Burgi

Richard Burgi as Ashland Locke.

Photo Credit: Sonja Flemming/CBS

Ashland Locke is coming to town to negotiate with Genoa City's biggest players… right after Kyle Abbott learned he's the real father of this dangerous man's son. Should we be worried for Kyle?

You know, Kyle's like a lot of young men. They like take chances and risks. Sometimes that pays off... and sometimes it come back to bite you in the keester.

Describe how you felt when you read your first script?

"Wow, I hope I can do this!" You know, every actor has gone up on stage and blanked, and I've done it on the stage and screen. And that first day, I had a fair amount of material. It's a lot. And because of the pace, it was a concern—a concern that amplified the intensity for me to focus and take care of business!

Michael Mealor as Kyle Abbott with Hunter King as Summer Newman and Richard Burgi as Ashland Locke

Michael Mealor as Kyle Abbott, Hunter King as Summer Newman, and Richard Burgi as Ashland Locke in The Young and the Restless.

Photo Credit: Sonja Flemming/CBS

What was your first day on set like?

My first scene, I believe, was with Michael Mealor (Kyle Abbott) and Hunter King (Summer Newman). They are such pros. And Christel Khalil (Lily Winters) was delightful. She and I had a lot of fun.

I got right into the thick of things with some the major guys and gals. It was great just to meet all these people who were so willing to play and explore and work and support each other. And it's a beautiful thing to have the company of a show that's been around for so long.

Richard Burgi with Christel Khalil and Jason Thompson

Richard Burgi as Ashland Locke, Christel Khalil as Lily Winters, and Jason Thompson as Billy Abbott in The Young and the Restless.

Photo Credit: Sonja Flemming/CBS

What did you make of the Newman and Abbott patriarchs, Eric Braeden and Peter Bergman?

Eric Braeden (Victor Newman) has such an air of gravitas... and the first thing he uttered out of his mouth was some line from Seinfeld. [Burgi appeared in the 1994 episode "The Hamptons."] He's a big Seinfeld fan and he really wanted to talk about it. And I've seen his work over the years. I'm a big fan of his. I so respect him, and he's just such a different person than I expected. He is sweet, funny, engaging, and self-effacing.

I had met Peter Bergman (Jack Abbott) years ago. Maybe on a junket or through a mutual friend? I remember that I thought he was delightful when I met him—and I think he's just as delightful now!

Peter Bergman as Jack Abbott and Eric Braeden as Victor Newman

Peter Bergman as Jack Abbott and Eric Braeden as Victor Newman in The Young and the Restless.

Photo Credit: Jill Johnson/JPI Studios

Why did you decide to become an actor?

I was 16-years-old, at Montclair High School, New Jersey, in the amphitheater. I had an idea maybe I would play some professional sport or go on tour–perhaps as a musician or maybe I'd join the secret service. I was standing there, my junior year, and I just heard this voice. It was clear as day. Call it God or you know, my insanity. It said, "You're going to be an actor." I've heard that voice a couple of times in my life, and each time I followed it. It's just been a really great ride.

What TV shows are currently binge-watching or catching up on?

Oh, you're talking to the wrong guy! I'm not a big TV consumer, because I kind of get lost in the whole thing–from how it's directed to the lighting, continuity, acting. The only thing I binged this last year was Ozark. And I thought that was really well done. When my son and I get together, we watch sports, History Channel and a lot of nature shows like Planet Earth. The last time, we fell asleep watching David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet.

Richard Burgi and the cast of Desperate Housewives

Richard Burgi and the cast of Desperate Housewives.

Photo Credit: Ron Tom/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

When not filming Y&R or social-distancing/staying home as we all are now, what do you like to do?

One of the things I do every day, I just walk around. If my dog needs to go out in the morning, I have my binoculars, but I just like being alone and birdwatching. I love studying nature. I'm a big fan of all things that crawl and grow and fly, and I'm in the ocean all the time. And I wouldn't call myself a guitar player… but I've been studying probably the same 10, 12 chords for five years now.

Other than that, I love spending time with my kids. I still go out and play ball with my sons–especially my youngest, who's 12 now. And I so love spending time with older people. I love going back to see my mom, who 97, and my family back east. I think we forget the beauty and the repository of wisdom in our elderly and our older family.

I'm also on the board of this environmental group that supports endangered species and the habitats that support them. Everything's been closed down [due to COVID-19], but everything has been done via Zoom meetings. Life has gone on.

Who is your inspiration?

Well, I've got a few. I'm a big fan of Jesus. I'm a big fan of Martin Luther King. I'm really a big fan of Larry Elder. I don't know why… but Derrick Henry comes to my head. He played football for the University of Alabama. And Tom Brady's an inspiration. I love the longevity and the way he's handled himself and his career. Johnny Frisbie has also been an inspiration, in so far as staying in this place of lightness. She's sent me a draft of her book. She's from a little island and she's got this most delightful story!

I get inspired all the time by people. Eric Braeden has inspired me, recently. To have had that longevity, stay as vital and as light as he is? It was really lovely to connect with him.

Richard Burgi guest stars as Councilman Tommy Mancini in Blue Bloods

Richard Burgi guest stars as Councilman Tommy Mancini in Blue Bloods.

Photo Credit: John P. Filo/CBS

Any last thoughts for fans during this strange time?

My urge is for people to not succumb to fear, to go out and help others and be good to themselves. Try to improve your lot in life, every day, and support those around you to do just that. Just stay firm and be a part of the whole thing.

The Young and the Restless airs Weekdays on CBS. Watch the latest full episode on Paramount+.

Photo Credit: John Paul Filo/CBS

As told to David Hochman

The 48 Hours correspondent and lawyer has covered the most gut-wrenching stories of our time: the death of Princess Diana, war in Iraq, school shootings, wrongful convictions. None of it—not even a global pandemic—has dampened her spirit for shining a spotlight on justice.

SUBSCRIBE NOW: Enjoy 4 Digital Plus 2 Print/Digital Issues Of Watch Per Year— For Free!

48 Hours airs Saturdays at 10/9c on CBS and streams on CBS All Access.

6:30 A.M. I used to always wake up at 5:30 for a 6 a.m. barre class down the street. Barre still exists, but it's on Zoom now, so I get a whole extra hour of sleep.

8:00 A.M. In high school I took French but never became fluent. Now I'll pour some coffee and do Duolingo for 20 to 30 minutes every day. It's almost like meditation because it takes me so far away from everything I deal with as a journalist.

9:15 A.M. Before COVID, I was just a correspondent. Now, doing live shots from home, I'm my own tech person, my own lighting and sound engineer, and the cameraperson. Oh, did I mention my hair and makeup is DIY, too? That was very traumatic in the beginning, but I've got the hang of it now—mostly.

Screen capture of Moriarty's coverage of wrongly convicted Ronnie Long.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of CBS News

10:00 A.M. Even though I'm not on the road—and I was always on the road—I'm as busy as ever. I'm juggling three 48 Hours pieces, two more for CBS Sunday Morning, and I have a podcast in its second season with a new episode out every week. I do all my recording from inside my closet, which works great because the sweaters and jackets muffle all the sounds of New York City.

11:00 A.M. Things are lonelier now. I miss my friends. I miss the camaraderie of work. I miss the contact with the human beings I'm interviewing and getting an understanding of where they are; 2020 forced me to talk to myself more.

A healthy meal of grilled salmon and green salad.

Moriarty enjoys healthy meals.

Photo Credit: Claudia Totir/Getty Images

12:30 P.M. I don't have a lot of imagination when it comes to meals. Whether it's lunch or dinner, I keep it super basic: salmon on rice. Salmon on salad. Pesto with pasta. Red sauce with chicken. My weakness? That's easy—Ben & Jerry's Vanilla Caramel Fudge!

1:00 P.M. The hardest part these days is doing an emotional, touchy interview. When you're in per-son, the source gets to see you, feel you. You can warm them up. Screens make that so challenging. My approach now is no small talk. I never want to give people time to think about the medium. So I'll get right to the point and also look straight into the camera. There's nothing more unsettling than talking to someone who's staring off to the side.

3:00 P.M. I do a walk-run kinda thing around Central Park every day. It's my Zen moment. I'll go for about an hour. With work as intense as mine is, you have to get outside into nature to get that big-picture perspective.

4:30 P.M. News never stops. For a quick hit, I'll look at Twitter. I can usually tell if something big is happening in a few minutes. I'll check email. I'll check Slack. Honestly, I thrive on staying informed. It's why I love what I do.

A snowy central park at dusk.

Moriarty enjoys walks in Central Park.

Photo Credit: DenisTangneyJr/Getty Images

5:15 P.M. After doing this job for so long, viewers know me. They trust me. But once in a while, you'll run into someone who tries to "de-person" you as a member of the press. When I encounter that, I'll say, "Yes, but I grew up in the Midwest and I'm a mother and I'm a wife and I'm a sister and I'm a human being." That usually makes us feel a little less awkward.

6:30 P.M. I try very hard not to miss the CBS Evening News, which I'll watch over dinner, and then Jeopardy! I'm very good at Jeopardy!

7:30 P.M. I was always a big theatergoer. It's one of the main reasons I wanted to live in New York. That's been lost right now, but there's a lot online. The Old Vic from London has a series called In Camera that feels like you're in the theater. You go into a dark room and stream a two-hour play. The sad part is that it's London time, so we're watching it at 2:30 p.m. instead of 7:30 p.m. But it takes you totally out of your life.

A scene from an Old Vic performance.

Moriarty enjoys streaming plays from The Old Vic.

Photo Credit: The Old Vic/Getty Images

8:15 P.M. My dad was a judge. I think about justice day and night. If I had to name a hobby, it would be uncovering wrongful convictions. Nothing energizes me more. I recently did a story about Ronnie Long, who was wrongfully convicted of rape and spent 44 years in jail. I did a quick study and CBS This Morning let me tell his story this summer. Here's the best part: A month later, he was released.

9:30 P.M. Bedtime. If there's a silver lining to 2020 it's that I'm getting more sleep, I'm eating better, and I'm not pushing as hard on the road. But I miss being out there. I miss random interactions, like the time I was in Washington state getting on a plane and a woman said, "Hey, that's Erin Moriarty," and another woman replied, "Oh, I wonder who was killed here."

Ben & Jerry's Vanilla Caramel Fudge shown close up in delicious detail.

"My weakness? That's easy—Ben & Jerry's Vanilla Caramel Fudge!"

Photo Credit: Ben & Jerry's

Originally published in Watch Magazine, January-February 2021.

DISCOVER MORE: Check Out The 15th Anniversary Issue Of Watch—Available Now!

48 Hours airs Saturdays at 10/9c on CBS and streams on CBS All Access.

Photography by David Needleman. Styled by Toye Adedipe.

By Lisa Kennedy

During a video call with Folake Olowofoyeku —the Nigerian American star of the hit comedy Bob ❤️ Abishola—something subtle but unmistakable occurs. Although it's two days before her birthday, a cloud drifts over her face, blocking her smile—a gap-toothed wonder of an event that can take her from serious to incandescent in a heartbeat.

Four days earlier, protests against police brutality in Nigeria (hashtagged #EndSARS for the police force's rogue Special Anti-Robbery Squad) turned deadly, with soldiers firing on peaceful protesters at a well-known toll gate in Lagos. Although Olowofoyeku just marked her 17th year in the U.S., the news of the Lekki Toll Gate Massacre was more than distressing. And a flat-footed question about her childhood led to an impassioned tutorial in contemporary Nigerian politics. Her parents would be proud.

Folake Olowofoyeku on the cover of the 15th anniversary issue of Watch Magazine.

Puff gown by BCALLA. Shoes by Nine West.

Photography by David Needleman. Styled by Toye Adedipe.

Felicia and Babatunji Olowofoyeku (the latter a significant player in Nigeria's independence) named their baby girl after a woman of firsts: Folake Solanke, the African nation's first female senior advocate. And though the actor/musician veered away from the political ambitions her parents harbored for her, she, too, is a woman of firsts. One half of the romantic pair in Bob ❤️ Abishola, she brings gravity, grace, and a sly smile to the first American TV show to spotlight a Nigerian family.

Olowofoyeku pulled a fast one nearly two decades ago when, as an 18-year-old, she visited New York City and found a way to stick around: enrolling at the City College of New York, feigning interest in economics and law on calls back home when in reality she was diving deeply into theater and music.

Bob Hearts Abishola star Folake Olowofoyeku wears a blue and white patterned top and pants.

Top and pants by Valentino. Shoes by Nine West.

Photography by David Needleman. Styled by Toye Adedipe.

She did off-Broadway theater, had turns in television (Westworld and Transparent), and rocked the bass in two David Bowie videos, but Abishola has been a grand leap. The single parent of a young son and thoughtful niece of two hilarious kin (Barry Shabaka Henley and Shola Adewusi as Uncle Tunde and Auntie Olu), Abishola works as a nurse in Detroit. Which is how she meets Bob. The impossibly endearing Billy Gardell portrays the harried compression-sock company scion. In last season's pilot, Bob's looney family and family-business stress found him rolled into an ER and awaking post-surgery to Abishola's lovely if stern visage. He was smitten. Abishola, well, not so fast.

Comedy hitmaker Chuck Lorre and co-creators Eddie Gorodetsky, Al Higgins, and Gina Yashere have delivered a valentine to the immigrant experience, to the clumsy cultural grappling and heartfelt embraces that make America so much more than the sum of its parts. In addition to writing , Yashere, a British Nigerian comedian, also plays Abishola's bestie, Kemi. Yashere's creative influence and Olowofoyeku's star turn give the show a warm yet ground-breaking feel. Olowofoyeku and Gardell's chemistry make it an "Audience Heart" pleasure.

Bob Hearts Abishola star Folake Olowofoyeku wears a Rajo Laurel top.

Top by Rajo Laurel. Bracelet by Timelapse Co.

Photography by David Needleman. Styled by Toye Adedipe.

"That's her! That's Abishola." That's how Chuck Lorre and Billy Gardell recall your audition. How do you remember it?

It's vivid. It was one of the easiest auditions I've ever experienced. I mean, there was a lot of work that went into it at home. It was very important for me that Abishola not be a caricature. I wanted her to be real and relatable, not just to Nigerians but also all immigrants as well, and, of course, Americans. So I put a lot of thought into that. But the actual process of meeting casting and meeting the producers, that was a breeze.

Do you feel you're carrying a lot of weight, being a Nigerian actress playing a major role on American television?

That part hasn't sunk in yet. [Laughs.] I don't feel a burden so much as a responsibility. Now the sitcom is showing in Nigeria. It started this year, so I'm getting a lot of fans trickling in from back home. Each fan feels like they know best how she should be portrayed. I don't know how much power they think I have. I'm able to offer suggestions—and it's a great dynamic—but at the end of the day, the final say doesn't rest with me. I go to work and remind myself I have to be present. I'm here to do my job: learning my lines, showing up on time.

There must be some satisfaction in the clarity of that—of doing the work.

I know that some would argue that more important than the work is social justice and what you're saying and your contribution to society as a whole and what sort of imagery you want to put out there, and I believe that very strongly. And there will come a time where I get my own project and I'll be able to fuse all my beliefs into it.

Bob Hearts Abishola star Folake Olowofoyeku wears a loose sleeved seafoam dress and sash.

Dress by Fe Noel.

Photography by David Needleman. Styled by Toye Adedipe.

Billy Gardell used one word a lot in talking about the show before it premiered—"kind." It's a great word, and a great approach to other human beings. Is he that guy?

Yeah, he is. I'm trying to live up to him. He's my role model. He's very kind. Very forthcoming. I go to him for advice, just about managing it all. He's a funny guy, super comfortable. It's really easy. And everyone tells me that—how easy I have it working with Billy. One day we'd been doing publicity and I'd taken my shoes off in the car. When we got to the front of wherever we were about to go into—a restaurant in New York, I think—the valet kept on rushing us. And Billy got upset. He's like, " Wait! She needs to put on her shoes!" My agent at the time was blown away. He was like "Folake, this doesn't happen often." I can't imagine doing this with anybody else.

Folake Olowofoyeku and Billy Gardell  on the set of Bob Hearts Abishola.

Folake Olowofoyeku as Abishola and Billy Gardell as Bob on the set of Bob ❤️ Abishola.

Photo Credit: Michael Yarish/CBS.

There's something very contained about Abishola, but she's not just the "straight man" to Bob's comedy. Was that your choice?

The writers do an amazing job. And Chuck. He's brilliant. He shows up and whatever isn't fine-tuned, he just [makes a gesture of waving a wand]. Magic. But it's interesting that you say that. Abishola is nothing like me. We're similar in some ways but vastly different in the way we present ourselves in the world. I created the choice for her to be kind of rigid. But I'm finding room to loosen her up. As Billy put it—and I've come to realize as well—Bob and Abishola are the straight men. The straight "folks"—to be politically correct—in this crazy world.

Do I have to spell "folks" with an "x"?

Why not? [Smiles.] The world is spinning around them, and they're like " What is going on? " They find each other in this tornado. It's love. It's this is my person.

Tell me a little bit about growing up in Nigeria. You left at 18.

Yeah. [Pauses.]

Hold on a second. Was that face because of what's going on right now?

Um hum.

So talk to me about that. Are people safe?

For now none of my family members are injured. Where the initial massacre occurred is where I grew up. Whenever I go there, that's where I am. And my family, they're all there. So my auntie, from her home, heard all the gunshots.

Pictured (L-R): Barry Shabaka Henley as Uncle Tunde, Shola Adewusi as Auntie Olu, Travis Wolfe, Jr. as Dele, and Folake Olowofoyeku as Abishola of Bob ❤️ Abishola.

Photo Credit: Michael Yarish/CBS.

This must weigh on you.

Yeah, peaceful protesters were just sitting down on the ground in front of the tollgate. You have to understand the history of the tollgate to understand that it is itself a symbol of oppression. That's why it was a significant point for people to go protest—protesting police brutality, protesting unemployment, and just all the crazy injustices that exist within the country. Apparently, it's escalated. So the #EndSARS protests were about that. The youth that are so often called "lazy" stood up and said, "No more." And they were gunned down.

What do you do with all that when someone's asking you about a show that's pretty effervescent—nuanced to be sure, but very different from the concerns you're carrying at this moment? Do you compartmentalize?

Well, I have to. What happened in Nigeria hit me hard. I was at work yesterday and—it was tough—I had to talk to everyone and tell them, " We're doing a show about Nigeria, and I think it's important that you know what's going on in Nigeria. I know I'm a little late today, but there's a lot going on in my world. I want you to understand, I'm not being an a—hole, I just need a minute to regroup and focus." So, yeah, I do have to compartmentalize. I guess we all do. I'm straddling so many experiences: the Black experience in America, the immigrant experience in America, the woman experience in America, the Nigerian experience in America. There are so many different worlds I feel I have to juggle.

Bob Hearts Abishola star Folake Olowofoyeku wears a loose sleeved patterned seafoam dress and sash.

Dress by Fe Noel. Shoes by Imagine by Vince Camuto.

Photography by David Needleman. Styled by Toye Adedipe.

"Intersectional" isn't a great word, but as the concept of overlapping identities, it's pretty spot on.

I feel like I'm at all the intersections. But I'm up to it.

An interview show you were on last year displayed this blown-up photo of you as a baby in your mom's arms. Tell us about her.

My mom . . . gosh, I wish I knew her a little bit more. She was a strong woman, super strong. She was born in Lagos. Her family was from Akure. She grew up in Lagos, Lagos Island. Her name was Felicia. She dealt with a lot of things in the family, and then just being a woman in Nigeria. She was so funny and charming and goofy at times—especially when she left Nigeria and she could relax a little bit. She died of breast cancer.

Folake Olowofoyeku as a baby with her mother

Folake with her mother.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Folake Olowofoyeku.

How old was she when she passed?

I think she had just turned 60. She was very resourceful—resourceful and tenacious. I think I get that from her.

What's an example of your resourcefulness?

Well, I'm here.

Bob Hearts Abishola star Folake Olowofoyeku wears a bronze colored giraffe print dress.

Dress by Retrofete. Earrings by Noa. Bracelets by Timelapse Co.

Photography by David Needleman. Styled by Toye Adedipe.

There is that.

I've been pretty much here on my own since I was 18. My parents didn't want me to be in the arts. They wanted me to follow my father. "Acting? Music? What the hell are you talking about? " The first time I visited New York was on my birthday in October 2001. I figured out a way to stay. And I found a way to say I was studying economics and then ended up in the theater department. Then eventually here.

Bob Hearts Abishola star Folake Olowofoyeku wears a bronze colored giraffe print dress.

Dress by Retrofete. Earrings by Noa. Bracelets by Timelapse Co.

Photography by David Needleman. Styled by Toye Adedipe.

How long were you in New York?

This was 2001 to around 2012.

Music is a love, right?

That's my first love. Music's what I always wanted to do. My father played organ and classical piano. He taught all his kids. My lessons stopped when he was getting old and was ill. I was very young , probably like 6 or something. I would still dabble, trying to teach myself stuff.

Folake Olowofoyeku with Chris Hardwick playing instruments

Folake Olowofoyeku with Chris Hardwick, recording for her appearance on his podcast.

Photo Credit: iD10t

But what I really, really wanted was to learn how to play the guitar. I was obsessed with Michael Jackson, and because of that I got introduced to Slash. I loved his melodies. I used to beg my mom for guitar lessons. It was always a "No!"

This guy at church, I got him to show me some stuff on the bass. That was right before I left to come to America. When I got to America, I bought an acoustic guitar. The first thing I taught myself to play was the first guitar solo from Guns N' Roses' first album.

Bob Hearts Abishola star Folake Olowofoyeku wears a white cowl top and gold bracelets.

Top by Antonio Grimaldi. Earrings by Noa. Bracelets by Timelapse Co.

Photography by David Needleman. Styled by Toye Adedipe.

At some point won't they write music into the show for Abishola? It'll be this great reveal.

We talk about that. One of the songs I sing in the shower in the show, me and my writing partner actually did that together.

What are your ambitions for this show? By the way, congratulations. Bob and Abishola are getting engaged.

I'd love us to shoot a couple of episodes in Nigeria. Because a Nigerian wedding is quite a thing. It goes on for over a week sometimes. We have the traditional wedding that could be one episode. We have the white wedding that could be another episode. It would be so magical. I pitched the idea, so it's out in the universe. I'd love to see that. I think I can go for eight or 10 seasons. I'm down to do that. I think Billy's down for that, too. I'm ready to do this for a while.

Bob Hearts Abishola star Folake Olowofoyeku wears a white cowl top and gold bracelets.

Top by Antonio Grimaldi. Earrings by Noa. Bracelets by Timelapse Co.

Photography by David Needleman. Styled by Toye Adedipe.

HAIR: Zion Illiwood | MAKE-UP: Samuel Paul

Originally published in Watch Magazine, January-February 2021.

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Bob ❤️ Abishola airs Mondays at 8:30/7:30c on CBS and streams on CBS All Access.

Photo Credit: Sonja Flemming/CBS.

By Fred Schruers

When Aaron Rahsaan Thomas set out to reboot the legendary pulp classic of a mid-'70s cop show called S.W.A.T., there was a key and specific change he began with: "A lot of people may not realize this," he says, "but the original show was not set in Los Angeles, but in a fictional city. The very first S.W.A.T. team was created in Los Angeles, the city that has perhaps the most notorious relationship between their police department and communities of color. I feel like if you're going to tell that story, you lean right into that—what is the reality of a Black police officer in the city of Los Angeles?"

S.W.A.T. showrunner Aaron Rahsaan Thomas\u200b poses wearing a cap and a mauve jacket.

S.W.A.T. showrunner Aaron Rahsaan Thomas.

Photo Credit: Sonja Flemming/CBS.

As from-the-headlines as the show has become, given recent national struggles, Thomas knew he could revisit the world of cops chasing bad guys with a new kind of messaging: "Even as we pitched the show to CBS, [co- showrunner] Shawn Ryan and I approached the material about the tension between police and the community feeling that it's not so much that it's a timely topic as it is a timeless one."

Aaron Rahsaan Thomas, Shemar Moore, Lina Esco, and Shawn Ryan\u200b of SWAT pose at a press event.

From left: Aaron Rahsaan Thomas, Shemar Moore, Lina Esco, and Shawn Ryan.

Photo Credit: Michele Crowe/CBS.

That belief meant that even at S.W.A.T.'s unveiling three years back, before the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other such tragedies, the tensions encapsulated in the seeming dichotomy of Black Lives Matter/Blue Lives Matter already were key to the show's approach. It was crucial to the vision that lead actor Shemar Moore's Hondo character be a Black man from a working class Black neighborhood. Thomas was confident he could meld the show's "kick-ass set pieces" with emotional character insights. As a key player in the success of such series as CSI: NY, Southland, and Friday Night Lights, Thomas was grateful that "I've been able to pick up a lot of really helpful habits and techniques as to how you manage a show and put a story together."

The SWAT team stands amidst the wreckage of a small plane on set.

The S.W.A.T. team, ready for action.

Photo Credit: Jordin Althaus/CBS.

Thomas had been scouting locations for Season 3's finale (now postponed) when the pandemic clamped down. Along with the traditional "A" story (a nefarious plot by a murderous cartel boss), aspects of the city's racial legacy came to the fore. "Our finale was already going to deal with the flash-backs that help to tell the history behind the LAPD and the community—a story about a young Hondo back in 1992, when his [sometime Black Panther] father was a young man. That was in place before a lot of the unrest happened."

A SWAT team membemr wears a helmet with the visor down as he points a gun during a tactical advance.

S.W.A.T. team member Jim Street (Alex Russell).

Photo Credit: CBS Broadcasting Inc.

Finally, COVID-19 had to be addressed. In scenes involving multiple people, "there are masks and responsible distancing ," Thomas says. Still, he promises that the characters will feed into the action, "to keep up the pacing of a high-octane show that has momentum. This is an urgent, lean-forward show. We want to keep you on your toes at all times."

Originally published in Watch Magazine, January-February 2021.

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