Jay Harrington Reveals Storyline He Fought For on 'S.W.A.T.,' Promises More Family Drama to Come

'If I have anything to say about it, Deacon's storyline will be an ongoing thing,' the actor tells Metacritic.
by Amber Dowling — 

Jay Harrington (center) in 'S.W.A.T.'


Warning: This story contains spoilers for the Season 6 midseason finale of S.W.A.T., titled "Guacaine." Read at your own risk! 

There was plenty of high-stakes drama to go around when S.W.A.T. aired its sixth midseason finale on Dec. 9.

In "Guacaine," a deadly cartel began targeting food trucks and local grocery stores in a bid to find drug-filled avocados, resulting in several casualties by the deadly gang. Hondo (Shemar Moore) grappled with the safety of Nichelle (Rochelle Aytes) after her community center was robbed, and Luca (Kenny Johnson) had to figure out his commitment to his food truck. Deacon (Jay Harrington), meanwhile, realized the former attack on his family's home is still affecting his children, especially his son Matthew (Colin O'Brien), who beat up another kid. 

"It came out of a request I had," Harrington tells Metacritic about the storyline. "It's one thing for a grown man to take stock of something and process it, especially because that's what he does for a living. But these are kids and this is at their home. At some point, in some way, we have to see whether it affected them."

Here, Harrington talks to Metacritic about how that shooting will continue affecting Deacon's character going forward and what to expect when the series returns for the back half of Season 6 in January. 

Where does "Guacaine" fall on your list of favorite S.W.A.T. episodes?

I don't think I have one I've ever walked away from and thought, "Boy, that was terrible." But it was fun. One of the things we get a kick out of is the driving on the stunt stuff we get to do. We don't get to do it often but this was one where we did. It's an interesting setup with the guys driving on top of our cars with the cameras. In the old days they used to pull a car, but now it's actually being driven. So when you're driving, you have no steering wheel. It goes round and round and there's no pedals, so you have to pretend. We all have our own style of how we do it, but we're really zipping around. It's just that we're not controlling it. I have a lot of fun.

It's clear in the episode that the house shooting is still really sitting with Deacon's family; how important was it to pick up on that trauma?

We got some real stuff there. I wanted to know what would that be like for the kids. You're going to bed and your house gets shot at? That's not the type of everyday things that happen to people. So, I'm really glad the way they chose to address it.

There was a nice heart-to-heart moment with Matthew where you started to address everything. But is that it, or is this an ongoing conversation?

If I have anything to say about it, Deacon's storyline will be an ongoing thing. Because it's not something that just gets resolved in that moment. When we had the episode a couple years ago with mental health and talking to the doctor, it was, "The stigma of talking about your mental health has become such a thing in our society, but how can we use this?" Deacon has four kids. So if this is how we started the conversation, it will by no means be the end.

You obviously don't need to be a dad to play one, but is there anybody you lean on in real life for advice when it comes to shooting those scenes?

I really just tap into how I remember being a kid, myself, and how my dad used to talk to us. I don't have kids, but I can remember what it was like to be a kid. I didn't have that exact moment happen, but there were things that happened in my life that got me in some good trouble. And ultimately they were learning moments. The benefit I had too was that Colin was just so good. And a couple episodes later, you'll see Amanda Lowe-Oadell play my daughter Lila again. And we have a little fun with her. The subject isn't as heavy, but it's another fatherly thing where Annie (Bre Blair) and I are dealing with it. It's just harks back to my old days of being a kid who made mistakes.

The moment in the kitchen was heavy, but it also didn't feel like an after-school special. How did you approach that scene?

When I was in my early 20s, I used to teach little kids acting — like 5- and 6-year-olds in creative drama and a little older kids. To me, the important thing is talking to kids like they're my peers — unless they're too little. But once they're old enough because they recognize when you talk to them like they're a person. They respond better. So I wanted that moment to be more like that. I joke that it's like an interrogation scene because I'm standing there and he's sitting down. And I wanted to handle it like that, in one sense. But then it's like, "What the hell are you doing? You're lying to me. This is not cool."

Speaking of Annie, Deacon and Hondo had a moment where they spoke about Annie owning a gun and going to the range. Was that a hint at potential disaster to come or should viewers take that at face value? 

I would take it at face value. But it's important to me, for the safety of the family, that she knows what she's doing. Just this past weekend, I was at a party [with] a friend of mine who is LAPD and his wife; she is very adept with a weapon because that's what her husband does for a living, and he wanted that to be something important. The reason you want to be good at that is so you never have to use it. So, I like that that was a story. I was trying to give Hondo some advice to say, "Look, you don't like the idea of her having a weapon, but hopefully she never has to use it."

Tell us more about the relationship with Hondo. It's evolved over the years but now that Hondo is going to be a father does this drive them even closer?

I joked with him the other day about how it seems so often now that he comes up for advice. Every day he seems to be coming up to me asking me questions about something! I do like it. At times I can have the elder point of view with him, not in age, but I'm certainly wiser because of the fact that I have four kids. So he's coming to me, like, "I don't know what I'm doing." It's great. We're always going to be a different relationship than any other teammates though because of what we went through at the beginning.

Looking toward the back half of the season, is there anything you're excited for viewers to see? 

Yeah, there's a moment coming up that we go back. We don't physically go back in time but we speak about a time in the past where an incident in my life affected me and it drove me to be as faith-driven as I am. So we get to learn about something that happened that affected me in such a way, and how it's applied to the present day. It's a great episode.

S.W.A.T. returns with new episodes beginning Friday, Jan. 6 at 8 p.m. on CBS and Paramount+.

Get to know Jay Harrington:
Before he was leading high-stakes missions on S.W.A.T., Harrington earned critical acclaim as the lead on the short-lived comedy Better Off Ted (Metascore: 73). Prior to that he starred as Dr. Simon O'Keefe in Summerland and Steve Taylor in the U.S. version of Coupling. Before landing S.W.A.T. the actor also starred in Benched (63) and had an 11-episode stint on Hot in Cleveland (66).