Showrunner Andrew Dettman on the 'S.W.A.T.' Season 7 Finale Having the Most Deadly Adversary Yet—See Exclusive Video

When S.W.A.T. airs its season finale tonight, it had originally been planned to be the series finale, but even so, showrunner Andrew Dettman shares with Parade that he left the door open just in case.

“We were hedging our bets a little bit,” he admits. “We decided to make Season 7 put all the stresses that we could on Hondo [Shemar Moore] -- his team falling apart, his community turning against him, but from the beginning, we still wanted to end on an up note because we thought even if we’re going away after 13, we want the audience to know 20-Squad’s always going to be there. 20-Squad and SWAT will be out fighting crime forever.”

And it’s a major crime that they deal with on tonight’s finale episode. The team faces its deadliest adversary yet when a violent cell of extremists looks to extract vengeance by blowing up half of Los Angeles, potentially killing thousands.

“The eco-terrorists that we thought we put away at the end of episode 7-12, we find out that the one that got away is the one we should have feared the most,” Dettman says. “And now he’s back. He represents the largest threat to Los Angeles, the largest number of lives in jeopardy, that SWAT has ever faced.”

In addition to everything going on, Hondo questions if he still has what it takes to lead 20-Squad since he can’t make the team work as cohesively as it did in the past. In last week’s episode, Hondo, who is contemplating leaving the LAPD, talked to Deacon (Jay Harrington) about how he knew when it was time to retire. So, Hondo is in a bit of dark place, adding to the fear that he won’t be able to pull the team together in time to save the city.

Related: Shemar Moore on the 'Miracle' Renewal of S.W.A.T. for Season 8 and Why The Season 7 Finale Didn't Change

“The only thing that’ll really get Hondo and the whole team to come together is when they realize whatever personal things they’re going through, whatever petty differences teammates are having, the fact is they’re the front line of saving the city,” Dettman says. “We tried to present a threat that was greater than anything we’ve done before to the city of Los Angeles to motivate all of them to come together.”

Shemar Moore<p>Photo: Bill Inoshita/Sony Pictures Television/CBS</p>
Shemar Moore

Photo: Bill Inoshita/Sony Pictures Television/CBS

And, happily, for tonight’s episode, Deacon comes out of retirement for this major case – his papers haven’t been filed yet -- and Vasquez (Jessica Camacho) returns from the FBI office in Washington, D.C., where she’s received a promotion.

During our Zoom chat, Dettman also talked about the roller coaster ride of being canceled and uncanceled, what he’s looking for in Season 8, why Shemar Moore is the perfect Hondo, and more.

You’ve had quite the ride, cancelled, uncancelled, cancelled, uncancelled. How do you as the person who has to make it all work deal with that?

Obviously, we were heartbroken at the notion that we were initially cancelled. And then getting the 13 episodes for Season 7, because we were cancelled for a little while, the 13 felt like a real gift. Everybody went into it with a very good attitude of: Instead of just disappearing off the air, we get 13 episodes to come in and say farewell, say our goodbyes, tell the stories we want to tell. That was uplifting to begin with. So, we went all through Season 7 thinking this is our goodbye. And then we were aware, Shemar and I – he was texting me a lot, very late at night, knowing that our ratings were doing well, the stories were working and that we had found a new audience.

Related: Shemar Moore Says in His Heart, Despite Being Canceled, He's Ready for More Seasons of S.W.A.T.

We had in the back of our heads all along, we said, "Either we’re going to go out really on top, or we’re going to convince the world, CBS, etcetera, that they needed to order Season 8." Other than that initial cancellation, everything has felt like a gift on top of that because we went from cancelled to getting 13 to say goodbye, which is an honor and a privilege right there that people don’t get. And then to get 22 more, who knows how long we’ll continue now?

Patrick St. Esprit, David Lim, Shemar Moore, Anna Enger Ritch, Jay Harrington, and Brigitte Kali Canales<p>Photo: Bill Inoshita/Sony Pictures Television/CBS</p>
Patrick St. Esprit, David Lim, Shemar Moore, Anna Enger Ritch, Jay Harrington, and Brigitte Kali Canales

Photo: Bill Inoshita/Sony Pictures Television/CBS

For Season 8, you have a full 22 episodes. What are you looking forward to doing?

The writers are going to start back, hopefully, next week and it’s a little bit of a blank slate because we weren’t thinking ahead as we maybe did in previous seasons. It’s always a challenge to come up with what other villains, what other threats we have to Los Angeles. There’s a certain amount also of this freeing feeling of: It’s Season 8 where we can do anything we want. Certainly, still try to do what we do on S.W.A.T.

I’m looking forward to whatever the writers are going to bring in when we start next week and the pitches we’re going to hear about what direction. Of course, we’ll want to establish another season arc that we can take Hondo through, some new discovery in his life. He’s always caring about the community and always pulled in those two directions of Black versus blue. That’s been a theme from the beginning. So, how we can further explore that in new ways.

Maybe you’ll make Season 9.

I’m telling you, we sat down and said, “There’s no point in doing Season 8 if you don’t have your eye on a Season 9 and a Season 10." Shemar’s in agreement with me on that one, so that’s what we’re going to do, we’re going to just push forward.

Related: Kenny Johnson on How He’s Being Written Out of S.W.A.T.

With Deacon leaving and Street and Luca being gone, it just doesn’t feel like S.W.A.T. to me.

When we knew we were losing Street and Luca, we thought it was the chance to give them a nice goodbye.

<p> Photo: Bill Inoshita/CBS </p>

Photo: Bill Inoshita/CBS

The reasons for them leaving are permanent reasons. But could they guest star as part of a storyline next season? They’re not dead.

Absolutely. We sent Street down to work with Long Beach SWAT, so he’s still local. In our minds he and Chris (Lina Esco) are still together. They got engaged at the end of his episode. So, to have Street come back if we did an LAPD-Long Beach PD case where we had to work together, as we did in that episode, absolutely we could see Street.

And Luca the same. He left because he couldn’t be a full member of SWAT now because he had this permanent nerve damage in his shoulder, but he could certainly come back in some capacity to HQ to help us out or something like that. We’ll see, but fingers crossed that we could have them come back.

Related: Who Left S.W.A.T. at the End of Tonight's Episode?

Shemar told me that you got the pickup two days before you finished filming, so absolutely nothing was changed for the finale. If you had known ahead of time would you have wanted to do something different?

You know what? As I said, we planned our last episode to work right in sync so if we got the pickup, we could continue on. That’s a tough one, I haven’t really thought if we would have changed it. Because by the time, like you said, we found out with only two days left and we were so engrossed in filming the episode, we wanted to get it done. I don’t know, we might have capped it with a little something at the end, something that was a little bit more lean forward. I think strategically we were fixated on trying to get a Season 8, so that’s what we had the episode planned for anyway.

What makes Shemar the perfect Hondo? When I talked to him, he said, no, he’s not the action guy, but the softer stuff and the romantic stuff that’s him.

He’s both. There’s definitely superhero. We see him that way. The character of Hondo has a little bit of superhero to him. But, yeah, he can be just so genuine that it just works. Everything about him works. There’s nothing he says on screen that I don’t believe when he says it. I feel that way about Jay, too, with the character of Deacon. They both have such obvious humanity.

Shemar Moore, Jay Harrington<p>Photo: Bill Inoshita/©Sony Pictures Television/CBS</p>
Shemar Moore, Jay Harrington

Photo: Bill Inoshita/©Sony Pictures Television/CBS

Deacon is such a great character with his family. I think before Hondo was fleshed out with getting married and having a baby, Deacon was the most fleshed out of all the characters with his family and church.

He was always interesting. We’ve always held onto that. So many writers want to go in the direction of dysfunctional characters and characters with problems. I’ve always held onto it very tightly that there can be a happily married father with kids and that it’s working for him. There’s no reason why he has to have the troubles and all the things that sometimes writers want to imbibe to characters.

There’s so much going on in the real world with the police these days, how do you balance that where you keep it real that they’re not superheroes because we know there are bad cops. At the same time, you also have to make it entertaining so we want to watch.

From the beginning, my predecessor in this, Shawn Ryan, did the same thing we’ve adopted, which is to try to keep it feeling very grounded. When I say there’s a superhero aspect to Hondo, we still try to make all the crimes grounded and everything we do going forward grounded in that way. But it’s a challenge because of the unique nature of what SWAT responds to. We’re not a whodunit show. We’re not investigating a quiet murder somewhere. SWAT responds to barricades and hostage situations, so our stories are usually more of a where are we and how do we stop them in time, which is challenging for a writer’s room because the usual police genre allows you a broad spectrum to choose from and we are a little bit more limited. But we’ll do it. We’ve done it for 141, we’ll find 22 more.

S.W.A.T. airs Friday nights at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.

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