Jazz Tangcay Talks to David Boreanaz on directing this week’s episode of SEAL Team.
As CBS’s SEAL Team draws to a close, actor David Boreanaz steps behind the camera to talk about directing this week’s episode. No stranger to directing, the episode sees Jason and the team searching for Ray after he gets separated from them while they’re in enemy territory.
It’s been an emotional season for Jason and Boreanaz talks about that journey as well as the physical training he goes through to prepare.
Read our chat below as Boreanaz takes us behind the scenes of SEAL Team.
Last season you directed episode 21 and you’re doing it again. How do you come into the episode and how you approach it?
We’re coming off of this week’s episode that have torn apart and conflicting characters. Ray and Jason are at each other, they went at each other. They didn’t leave in a good spot. They did that jump and his parachute didn’t deploy. That there’s this big conflict of interest when they do hit the ground because some hit safely and some don’t.
Jason’s character has to take care of the mission first. He understands that these guys, no matter what happens to them, are trained to take care of themselves. Mission first and that becomes a conflict with some of the members of the Bravo team that are on the ground that do make it. It’s a big journey of self-discovery and it turns relatively quick in the beginning. There’s a group journey of search and rescue. Within that, are tons of obstacles. They head back and it adds for such a chase of will and willpower. The same is for Chase and Bravo 2 and where he ends up and how he manages to find himself being alone. It’s pretty fascinating. You have Clay who is back home and he’s reeling from Swanny’s suicide and he has to come to grips with that. Stella comes to see him and there’s so much contrast in the show and I attacked it really from the character’s perspective and let that drive through the storyline and all that the Bravo team has to go through. There’s a lot of surprises. It was a crazy shoot, but we did it and I’m really proud of it.
You’re out on the mountain tops, up on those ledges. There are horses. It’s a lot of location. What was that like for you being in on the action and shooting it?
I’m well-versed on going back and forth. It’s always challenging. You really have to check yourself and make sure that you are leveled with what you want to get and what you have as a director. You have to make sure your senses and your character is in check with what you’re doing with the acting. You balance that out with talking to the crew and to other cast members. You’re dealing with the climate and the weather. It wasn’t the best of the weather we had in California at the time. We shot on location on five days. We had to do some sequences and an amazing scene with a Black Hawk that I don’t think has ever been seen on Network TV.
For me, it’s about compartmentalizing it and keeping everything in check. I love the drive. When I’m directing, I love that I’m driving it. I like to go at a pretty good pace because I prep myself for it. When I’m prepped I just throw it out and I’ll throw my notes away. It should be so ingrained in me by that point.
The winds were really high. When you see us climbing that mountain at the end, we actually did climb that whole mountain with two camera guys. I got them up there, but it was brutal. It says a lot for the type of crew that we do have. I really love that being able to bring the enthusiasm to encourage them to do that and to push them to do that, but the end of that location shoot, we were a complete mess.
It looked grueling.
That Black Hawk scene was like a movie rescue scene. Talk about shooting that scene.
James Muro is the heart of the show. He’s the DP. Our issue was the equipment for the location we were at. We used a lot of gimbals and small cameras. James was fantastic. We had a wide camera up top. James went down low on one take where you see the shot that has a twig in the foreground, that scene is James’ magic. You give him a camera and he’s a legend. That’s him doing him.
We had small gear because we didn’t want to be burdened down. I think I used one crane shot and I used a lot of drone shots. I used the drones to sell Ray’s opening shot. I didn’t want to use a crane. I wanted to stay away from traditional filmmaking. We used the crane shot when he arrives in the beginning. Everything else was drones and long lenses.
We had a rig and we got some really good shots.
There’s a lot of action in the episode, do you still do that or do you know when to let the stunt guys step in?
My body says I have to check myself. I like to push the envelope and do as much as I can. People say the work is in the detail and the preparation to do a show of this magnitude. Your machine has to be ready and that means you’re running, you’re squatting and you’re climbing. All that training you do adds up. That’s where it pays off. In the mornings, I’m getting up at 5am to work out for an hour and that pays off. If I don’t do that, I get crushed. I can’t do the spy rig because that’s just legal. I would have gotten on that thing in a heartbeat. The horse sequence, I did a lot of the horseback riding. I did the ridgeline stuff, but the others are horseback riders and stunt guys. Those guys are just awesome.
Again, you play the line of being the director and know you can get better scenes with the stunt guys. There are safety issues too. I like to do as much as I can, but you find at times when you’re working and climbing and you’re on the fourth day, you can say, ‘have this one.’
You talk about the physical prep, but Jason has gone through a lot this season too. How do you emotionally prepare for it?
Yeah. Even at the season finale, his mental state is going to be of exhausted exuberance, but yet with a sense of “Am I really ok?” I think that’s the value for his character and his journey. He puts so much on his shoulders. He almost left Bravo team. He went back. He was trying to deal with keeping the team together. It was really about the pack being separated and the conflicts.
For me, it’s about the work that I do with my acting coach, Ivana Chubbuck. She is my girl. I’ve been working with her for almost 20 years. We break down the script and we go over every moment. We re-write them. We find moments. I work relative in my life. I pull from experiences that are relative to what the character is. You prep it all. There are moments when you do these scenes and there are moments that are so ingrained in you, that’s where the fun happens. You push things sometimes and you learn through the material aspect of it.
For Jason’s mental approach for the season, it’s been about finding the inner strength to deal with all the adversities and still submerge them. It blows a top towards the end.
In terms of directing, you’ve done it for a while now, would you consider doing a feature film.
The budget we had and the amount of days we did this in is a testimony to the crew and what we can do. I feel sometimes we’re pouring really expensive wine into a beer bottle and it’s coming out great.
I know from this show and working with James, understanding the cameras and having little on-set rehearsal time, is raw and real. I love that. I like to push that. To do a big action piece, I’d do it in a second. But with everything big you do, comes with a stake of more people. The Stunt co-ordinator takes care of stunts and co-ordinates the second unit. My mind races with joy when I think about that. If I had a pot of gold, I’d take four days to shoot a helicopter scene. What’s going to make it into the cut.
John was a great editor. My cut came in at an hour and fifty minutes. You can imagine that James said to cut it and put everything in. It was like this long marathon. By the end, you take it all in and wonder how to lose all of that. Directing for the time I’ve been directing, I hope I have the opportunity to do it one day with a great script and a great group of people, I’d do it in a second.
There’s so much authenticity from the PTSD, the drinking, the grieving. What’s the feedback been?
We’ve all received such great feedback and thanks for exposing the darkness. Putting light into the corner of these people’s lives that would not necessarily be seen. That’s what makes us feel good about what we’re doing, that we’re scratching that surface. We are not a political show. These characters are based on those Tier 1 operators. I think all of us have done a great job of bringing those Tier 1 characters to life through what we’re surrounded with. The Tier 1 producers, the writers on the set. Tyler who is the Delta Force guy who goes over every aspect of what we do. He takes the time to do that. The way the show stampeded itself was
Christopher Chulack’s stamp perspective from the seals, not going to break that wall, it was going to be large and anamorphic. He really set that bar and we continued to raise it. As I said, don’t settle for it, just push it and because we do that, we get responses from people who say, “It’s fast. It’s a rollercoaster ride.” In the past three episodes, we’re finding the show, this is where the show will start to hit. Word of mouth gets out there and we’re happy we can touch people’s lives who understand it and have been in the situation. We’re on the right path.