By Pauline Perenack
As David ‘Deacon’ Kay, Jay Harrington spent all of last year protecting the city of Los Angeles as a key player on CBS’ SWAT.
With the show returning for a second season, Harrington is taking the opportunity to dive deeper into his character, who this season is dealing with not only the birth of his fourth child, but with all of the situations the gritty streets of L.A. has to offer this elite team.
With season 2 fast approaching (the show returns Sept. 27) I caught up with Harrington to talk all things Deacon, what he liked in season one, what he’s most looking forward to in the coming weeks, and which actor he would love to see as a guest star later this season.
Congratulations on the new season of S.W.A.T. But, before we get into that, tell me a little bit about yourself. How did you get into acting?
I’ve been at it since I was a little kid. I grew up in Cape Cod, and there was a theatre down the street from where we would spend our summers. I was about 10 I guess, and there was a class I enrolled in. Something my folks [put me in] instead of camp, and I really liked it. I kept with it even through the school year. I’d do shows in Boston, and once high school came around, I started to take it more seriously, so I actually applied to some schools, and that was my college major at Syracuse. I kept with it, moved to New York, tried that for a few years, and then I moved out here [to L.A.] about 20 years ago and I’ve been going ever since.
Let’s talk S.W.A.T. What can you tell us about the upcoming season?
We pick up right where we left off in terms of the adrenaline. We hold nothing back, and we’ve been going ever since. We started in July, and we’re… I don’t want to say stepping up the game because it was pretty intense anyway, but we’re out and about, and around the city of LA which is really, really cool to do a show, not just to be working as an actor in the city, but to sort of represent this city and its neighborhoods that don’t necessarily get seen that often. So we’re spending a lot of time downtown. We’re in all sorts of different storylines, and our characters are getting hashed out, which is really fun because you know, after the first season you introduce everybody, everyone has an idea of who’s who, and now we get to go explore that even more, and the relationships between each other, and often times, how do these things affect you? I always think of that when I see events on the news. Now that I’ve been doing the show, I really sort of stop and think about, how do these officers that were involved in situations, when they go home, what is their process to just let it go? We dive into that some, and we’re having a great time.
What about your character? What can fans expect of him and his storylines this season?
Deacon and Annie are having a baby. That’ll be coming up soon. And with that comes more responsibility, and financial responsibility, which is starting to take its toll on my character. And having to support now a fourth child, I actually reach out, and Hondo sets me up with a guy who sort of moonlights with some security, because sometimes just working overtime doesn’t cut it. So hopefully that comes to a head as the season goes on and on. But Deacon is also being put into the position of taking over some situations more and more, since at the end of last season we lost [Jim] Street, so he’s in the process of trying to get back on S.W.A.T. through the S.W.A.T. academy, which is giving Deacon a chance to step up and take control. It’s been a lot of stuff to play with, whether it’s action or the emotional aspect of it, but like you were saying about having the day off, it’s been much appreciated.
And it’s gorgeous out now, and not a thousand degrees.
Exactly. We could tell you all a little about that. We had a couple of days of being outside in full tactical gear when, at 9am it’s already 100 degrees. We’re looking at each other like, what are we doing? Even professional athletes get a time out.
Our recent heat wave was brutal.
Add on the long sleeve, black tactical pants, shirt, and a 25 pound vest and a 10 pound gun, and there you have us.
So you guys lost some weight that day, didn’t you?
I told my wife, we were at an event Friday night for the Emmy’s, and I was eating just everything that was passed around. I was following waiters around, and she was like, jeez, what is going on? And I was like, every week I lose about 8 pounds, so by the time the weekend comes around, I’ve got to put it back on.
So talking about the emotional and physical aspects of the show, which ones do you find that you really like digging into and really like playing the best?
Well, the action is so fun. There was a time last season where Shemar [Moore] and I were up shooting in an area a couple of hours outside the city at 8000 feet on this mountain, and a day into it, we’re up at 8000 feet, huffing and puffing, and just running around being chased by mercenaries with automatic weapons and we were basically looking at each other like, this is the stuff when you were a kid, playing in the backyard with friends, this is it. This is what we were doing, so it was so cool. But then again, he and I last week, had a really nice scene. Like, I was talking about how we process the situation that unfolds, and now it’s back in the locker room and sort of taking a moment. We had a really nice scene where it’s just two guys talking. I really love that kind of, taking it down. The show can move so fast and you’re always going to be trying to catch up, and then you’ll have this nice time where it’s two guys just listening to each other and being there for each other despite the relationships and flaws we have with each other, so it’s great. So both, I can’t really pick.
Do you have a particular episode or scene you’ve done already this season that is your favorite?
In the first episode we had a guest actor, Jimmy Jean-Louis that is a French Haitian actor that is probably most known for Heroes, but he’s great. And he and I have a really great sequence where he’s labeled the bad guy, but we’re sort of in a situation where, it’s just two guys in a pretty precarious situation. It was over the course of three different scenes, but the way we shot it was all at once, like a play, just he and I, and that was our first episode, so that’s the one next week. That was right out of the gate and getting back to it, so it was pretty memorable.
Talking about guest stars, do you have one that you would like to see this season on the show?
I’ve been lucky to have friends I’ve worked with, and I get to be on their shows, so I wouldn’t want to label anyone. Everyone who has come through has been a pretty great time. We had Michael Trucco. He and Kenny Johnson, their first series in the late 90s was Pensacola, Wings of Gold, so they were reunited, which was really fun, and he’s someone I’ve seen out and about over the years in casting rooms, going for the same job, so it was a good time with him. We were hoping there was someone around from the original series of S.W.A.T., but I don’t know if there is. It was quite a long time ago. Robert Urich has passed away. Steve Forrest…They may all be gone, but maybe there was some co-star that was in the original that could come. I’m going to take it back too, someone specific, our showrunner Shawn Ryan did this show, Timeless, which was unfortunately cancelled, but Malcolm Barrett and I worked on a show together. They’re going to be shooting their two hour movie in October right where we shoot, so I joked that it would be fun to have him as an IT guy that gives us all our cool toys.
Going back to Season 1, what was your favorite storyline?
I would say, certainly the stuff with Annie, and when we were stuck in the prison. They didn’t tell me she was sick and had issues and the seizure and all that, so that was probably my favorite, and how that played out. Just to be able to have two emotions happening at once – trying not to get killed, and then trying to protect your loved ones.
How do you prep for this role – it’s very different from ones you’ve already done, which tend to be doctors or lawyers.
Certainly, physically. Coming into the actual pilot, I hadn’t heard about S.W.A.T., but someone sent me an email that they wanted to see me. The casting directors of the pilot, I had known over the years from stuff, and apparently they thought oh, we know Jay, but not for this, so I went in, and since seeing them, I had put on some muscle, and I had a beard, and I was just different, and so coming from a lot of comedy, a lot of lawyers, I had just sort of thought I’d change it up, and had fun doing so. Working out a little harder, and it worked. So now I’m certainly trying to keep up with the rest of the gang, watching Alex, Shemar, and Kenny and David, and if I don’t want to go to the gym, I just look at their social media page, and go, ok, I should go.
I like ending with an easy question – What’s your current favorite book, favorite song, and favorite TV show?
Favorite TV show right now is Better Call Saul. Favorite book, it’s a John Irving book called, ‘A Prayer for Owen Meany.’ Really good book. And then song, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve lost touch with music – I’m more of a sports talk radio guy. I don’t have much of a playlist going, but I don’t know. That’s a tough one.
Season two of S.W.A.T. premieres Thursday, September 27 at 10pm EST/PST on CBS.