Spoiler alert: This story gives major plot revelations from Sunday’s Paramount+ episode of “Seal Team.” Stop reading if you don’t want to know.
“SEAL Team” viewers were dealt a major surprise blow in Sunday’s episode, late in the sixth season of the Paramount+ streaming series.
Max Thieriot’s Clay Spenser, a beloved, stalwart character since the special forces action series began six seasons ago, was killed in a tragic shooting in the episode’s final moments.
Even Thieriot, 34, who is also the creator and star of CBS’s “Fire Country,” was still reeling as he emotionally spoke to USA TODAY about his character’s final “SEAL Team” moments.
“It’s definitely a bizarre feeling,” Thieriot says, searching for words. “This is the end of something that was such a big part of my life. You feel like a little bit of you is dying too.”
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Executive producer Spencer Hudnut made the tough call of ending Clay’s character in dramatic fashion after Thieriot has been shouldering extreme TV duty – starring in the Los Angeles-based “SEAL Team” and traveling to Vancouver for “Fire Country.”
With the burgeoning audience propelling the firefighter drama to TV’s top new series (averaging 7.3 million viewers per week), it was clear the double acting work was not tenable for the long term.
“I struggled with it,” says Hudnut. “I love Max and this character which has been a big part of me for five years. But once it was clear, it became a question of how. We thought about having Clay ride off into the sunset, but that just isn’t the show.”
Sunday’s episode even suggested that Clay, who has been dealing with his leg amputation from a Season 5 finale battle explosion, might have a sunset ending. At one point, Clay and his university professor wife Stella Baxter (Alona Tal) giddily discuss starting their lives over in a new town.
But the conversation is interrupted by a call from distressed veteran Ben (Joey Pollari), and Clay finds him with a gun outside an Air Force recruiting center. After defusing the situation, and taking away the gun, a security officer mistakenly shoots Clay.
“The idea was to show the sad truth. Like you go around the world and take down some of the baddest terrorists on the planet and that’s how this guy goes down.” says Thieriot. “I don’t think Clay would ever have imagined going down that way.”
But the circumstances around the tragic death do highlight the plight of veterans dealing with the psychological scars of war, a key theme in the drama.
” ‘SEAL Team’ tells impactful stories about the devastating side. It shows the good, the bad and the ugly,” says Thieriot. “So as much as I didn’t want to go, maybe this gives another opportunity to show that here.”
The final scene was filmed at about 2 a.m. following a grueling “SEAL Team” production week. “It was at the end of a heavy and emotional day,” says Thieriot.
Afterward, Thieriot spoke during a subdued cake farewell on the set.
“I gave a little speech and I cried a little myself,” says Thieriot. “I reminded the crew that they should be very proud because they work their butts off to create a great show. But it was crazy. There was no time for a celebration afterward. I actually got on a plane and flew up to Vancouver to work on ‘Fire Country.’ “
Thieriot’s Sonoma County, California hometown of Occidental is a major inspiration for tree-filled, rural Edgewater in the CBS firefighter drama. Thieriot stars as convicted felon Bode Donovan who joins a real-life California prison release firefighting program to battle blazes across the region.
” ‘Fire Country’ is my baby and something I’ve poured my heart into,” says Thieriot. “Frankly, I didn’t imagine that it would take off so quickly. Or even at all. I love what I’m doing. But is there a part of me that wished that somehow I could have done both? Of course there is.”
Clay’s “SEAL Team” death will reverberate as a major emotional chapter for stars David Boreanaz (Jason Hayes) and Neil Brown Jr. (Ray Perry) for the rest of the season. Cast members have texted Thieriot snippets of upcoming episodes showing the painful fall-out, and the team supporting Clay’s family. It’s touching as well as strange for the actor.
“Watching scenes of characters talking about (Clay) dying, it was like watching them reflect on me dying. It’s surreal,” says Thieriot. “But it was a great experience. I’m going to miss it and all of those folks.”
Story Credit: usatoday.com