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Rochelle Aytes on Reuniting With Shemar Moore on 'S.W.A.T.' and Potential Trouble in Their Paradise

The acting duo played a couple on 'Criminal Minds' first but are now having an onscreen baby together on 'S.W.A.T.'

Amber Dowling
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Rochelle Aytes in 'S.W.A.T.'

CBS

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


After a small holiday hiatus, S.W.A.T. returned with an intense episode revolving around a rising gang's random shootings and the shocking connection Officer Cabrera (Brigitte Kali Canales) had to the crew responsible for them. Throughout the episode, titled "Pariah," the team scrambled to decipher where the gang would target next before they claimed another victim, adding to the overall intensity. 

Meanwhile, things got personal for Hondo (Shemar Moore) when Nichelle (Rochelle Aytes) revealed her parents Loretta and Wesley (played by Monnae Michaell and Damien Leake) were coming to dinner. 

Unfortunately, as viewers saw toward the end of the episode, things didn't quite go the way Nichelle was hoping between her boyfriend and her parents. Add in a baby on the way, and Aytes tells Metacritic that even though she doesn't know how it all shakes out, she's nervous. 

"Is this going to be trouble in paradise?" she asks. "Because I think personally, if my parents didn't get along with my husband, it would hurt. It would be very conflicting. I like families working together and loving and respecting each other. But on the other side, her dad is challenging too, and difficult. Nichelle realizes that so hopefully they will work it out."

Here, Aytes talks to Metacritic about reuniting with Moore following Criminal Minds as S.W.A.T.'s newest full-time cast member, the upcoming baby, and how Nichelle offers an outside perspective from the rest of the law-enforcing crew. 

You've played a detective on TV before and gone through all the training that comes with that. But what is it like playing a civilian now, specifically in the midseason finale when Nichelle thinks she wants a gun only to realize it's not for her? 

Exactly. I have played a detective before and shot a gun. I've gone to the gun range to learn how, but I don't play cops often. So I feel like I'm a little bit more uncomfortable. And I fake it really well. So, when I had to hold a gun and pretend like it was my very first time, I just had to remember, "I don't know how to shoot." But guns in general are very heavy, right? So just holding it and trying to film that for hours made it even more intense.

Nichelle is a window into the community because of her job. Is that something you enjoy about the character, and do you think it adds another layer in terms of how the show handles tough issues?

When I first got this audition and I read that she worked at a community center, I was all about it. I'm all about giving back. And I love children, personally. So I thought that it would be a great character to play. And it does give an outside perspective that is super important to have. It gives a window of what it feels like to be violated and vulnerable, and to want to protect myself. To contemplate having a gun but not wanting to shoot one. It's so interesting that I'm on a show where there are S.W.A.T. cops who are literally doing this every day, serving and protecting. And if they have to shoot and kill someone, unfortunately, they do. But she's not comfortable with that at all, as many people in the world are.

You've spoken before about how Shamar was in your corner and wanted you to get the role. What is it about your dynamic that you guys enjoy and has allowed you to create not one, but two couples that fans resonate with?

I honestly don't really know. When I got the job on Criminal Minds we both connected and it seemed easy and comfortable. And when this came up, he rooted for me to get this role. And I got it. We just have this natural chemistry and people like to see us together. We also have a great deal of respect for each other on and off screen.

Nichelle and Hondo are expecting this baby together, but things really went sideways with her parents in the midseason premiere. What is Nichelle feeling in that moment when her father walked out?

I was feeling every feeling a lot. I was feeling uncomfortable trying to keep the peace. I was feeling a little shocked when he said something to my father that was surprising, and I took a sip of water. I was upset with so many things. There was a lot going through Nichelle's mind. 

As a mother-to-be, how do you think Nichelle feels about Hondo's job, where danger is such a huge part of the daily grind?

At the end of so many episodes, I'm just like, "Oh, my God, I'm so glad that you're OK." I mean, I can't be in a constant state of worry because if I was I'd have a full head of gray hair. It's very stressful. But even that episode in Thailand where I was worried about whether he was alive or not, and she got that bracelet. I wore that bracelet quite often throughout the season; I don't know if anyone noticed it. But it signifies having faith and believing that you'll be okay no matter what. Nichelle has to be in a space of trusting that he's going to be okay. I worry, but we're going to be okay, no matter what. That's the only way to get through life in general.

What are you most excited for fans to see or for you to play in the back half of the season? 

I am so excited to see what it's like when they have this baby and what stories will come from that. I'm also excited to see other stories with her and the other characters in the show. I get excited in general when I have a scene with another actor. "Oh, I'm working with Deacon today." Or when I had a scene with Luca at HQ. Every time they write me in with other characters, I just get excited because it's something new and fresh. It would be nice for people to see me interacting with other characters even more.


S.W.A.T. airs new episodes at 8 p.m. Fridays on CBS and also

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Get to know Rochelle Aytes:
This isn't the first time Aytes played Moore's onscreen love interest: the pair also teamed as husband and wife on Criminal Minds (Metascore: 42). In 2019, Aytes flexed her horror bone with the TV iteration of The Purge (44) and she also appeared as April Malloy in Mistresses (45). In 2010 Aytes appeared on the brief police drama Detroit 1-8-7 (63), and had a small arc on Season 9 of Hawaii Five-0 (66).