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Jay Harrington and Taye Diggs Share S.U., Better Off Ted and Private Practice Memories, Preview S.W.A.T. Team-Up

For this week’s episode of CBSS.W.A.T., Jay Harrington made his directorial debut — and be brought longtime friend Taye Diggs along for the ride.

In the episode “All that Glitters” (airing Friday at 8/7c), Hondo’s longtime friend and former Marine squad leader, Danny Wright (played by Diggs, fresh off his All American run), turns to Hondo for help when his daughter goes missing. Elsewhere, the team, following a string of violent home robberies, rushes to stop a crew that is targeting elderly victims.

Watch an exclusive BTS video above, then read on for this Syracuse University grad’s chat with two fellow Orangemen….

TVLINE | Jay, was it pure serendipity that you were given this script to direct and there was a character that Taye was perfect for?
JAY HARRINGTON | [Joking] Well, we reached out to hundreds of other actors…. No, there had been talk a couple of months leading up to it, that there was this role of an old colleague of Hondo’s, so I threw it out there and I texted Taye and he said yes. So, serendipity is the correct term.

Better Off Ted
‘Better Off Ted’ (Hulu screenshot)Hulu screenshot

TAYE DIGGS | We were quite close in college and right after college. We were similar as human beings, but also in our acting style. Even in the early stages and outside of what they taught at school, we came from a very  grounded and realistic place outside of all the touchy-feely stuff that they were doing in college. We recognized that in each other early on, so after we graduated we were always very aware of the fact that we would love to work together, but then situations didn’t present themselves until later. Jay was on a series called Better Off Ted… Did I visit or was I on that?
JAY | No, you were on it. You liked to dress up like a bear. Remember, you went on a date with Linda (played by Andrea Anders)?

TVLINE | Dressed as a bear?
JAY | No, he didn’t actually, but it was something he said on the date, that he liked to dress up like a bear and scare people. It was a Victor Fresco-humor, funny line. [To Taye] You had just wrapped Private Practice for the season, I think.
TAYE | That’s right. And then we worked together on Private Practice.
JAY | But we didn’t quite work together. I was working with Kate [Walsh], so the only time we worked together on that was at a table read. I remember how one day, I had already shot for a few hours but I had auditioned a couple of weeks prior for a different role. And I had never met [Private Practice creator] Shonda [Rhimes], so here we are on the table read and I got so nervous because I thought I could get fired. I had to leave for a minute because I was about to throw up.

TVLINE | Why did you think you might get fired?
JAY | I think it was a combination of a lot of things. Just the adrenaline, and I hadn’t “earned” the role I was doing because I had auditioned for something different. It was all in my head.
TAYE | And then you joined our family. You have to remember that at the time, Grey’s Anatomy was huge and Private Practice was Shonda’s second big thing and everybody was trying to get on it. I totally get it.

Diggs Harrington
Orange men (Courtesy of Sony Pictures Television)Courtesy of Sony Pictures Television

TVLINE | Did you ever perform together at S.U., even in a dorm talent show or something?
JAY | We did. We did a play together our senior year. You know, I don’t have quite the musical or dance acumen that Mr. Diggs has…

TVLINE | Few people do.
JAY | …but it was a musical and we did it. And then we did an independent Television, Radio & Film project at [the S.I.] Newhouse [School of Public Communications]. We acted in a sitcom, called Doing Time, that was written and directed by students. It was so bad that it was amazing.

TVLINE | I think we all did a TRF project that was “so bad it was amazing.” I have a couple on VHS tape hidden somewhere.
JAY | Yep!
TAYE | [Laughs] Exactly.

SWAT Taye DiggsTVLINE | Jay, what was the biggest challenge that this episode presented to you as its director?
JAY | To be honest? COVID. Taye and Shemar both came down with it, so we had some obstacles there with shuffling our schedules and trying to shoot what we could. On my third day of directing 6×20, I shot a scene from Episode 622, and then I shot a scene from Episode 621 and then I directed a scene from 620 that I was also in. So, that was a day!

TVLINE | You didn’t know if you were coming or going.
JAY | I had no idea. I think Taye will remember this story: We sat with Allison Janney once at an Emmy viewing party — Taye was doing West Wing — and she was talking about block-shooting. She said she got so confused at times that she would just show up on set and say, “What color of lipstick am I wearing? And I am happy or sad?” That’s how I felt that day.

TVLINE | Beyond the COVID, any expolde-y sequences or the like?
JAY | We did have a stunt planned in the script — a car chase, no spoilers here! — but we had just done one a few episodes before and I kind of realized leading up to it, “You know what? Let’s figure out a different angle on how to bring this episode to a head.” I’ve been working on this show for so long and the crew is such a well-oiled machine that as long as I was prepared, I was ready. But I was still so nervous.

SWAT Taye DiggsTVLINE | Taye, talk about your character’s dynamic with Hondo (played by Shemar Moore).
TAYE | What was great about it was it was easy to kind of pull from my and Jay’s relationship; I guess the only difference is I was Hondo’s higher-up. But I know Shemar, so it was fairly easy to click into that. And it’s always really great to get with other actors that you respect and enjoy. Also, I have a son, so when it came to dipping into the emotions of the possible danger that is there when it comes to your offspring, that was familiar to me as well. I don’t want to say it was easy, but Jay did a good job in realizing how set-up I would be. Nothing was a far reach.
JAY | Shemar and Taye do know each other from back in the day, so it was fun to see them clicking right away. And there were some moments where I had a lot of fun. It’s tough for a guest director to come in and give an actor a note on anything, especially in Shemar’s case when he’s been playing this same role for so long. But there were a couple of times where I could remind him, “You’re Hondo, you’re always in charge, you’re the boss. But you have to remember that with Taye’s character there is a dynamic that he was your superior officer, so….”

TVLINE | Hondo might be a bit differential.
JAY | Yeah. And that brought up some interesting little moments with Shemar that we had discussed, and then they both got to go play with that.

SWAT Taye DiggsTVLINE | Taye, did you get to play any notes in this role that you hadn’t in a while on other shows?
TAYE | Oh, 100 percent, 100 percent. Like, I’ve been doing this a while, right, but I’m almost embarrassed to say that when it comes to doing new stuff, I like to be comfortable, I don’t like to go too far outside of my comfort zone. Emotional scenes? I never really liked them, ever. When you’re younger, you want to prove something. You get really, really excited when you figure out how you can cry on cue. I’m past that.

But this role was challenging. And what was great about having Jay at the helm was he knew exactly what to say to get me there and to know that it wasn’t going to be annoying for me. A lot of times, actors and directors, especially you know on TV, they tell you too much and then they make a scene a little too holy. But with Jay, I felt very secure, very well taken care of.

TVLINE | What would you guys like to do next together?
JAY | [To Taye] I want to shoot guns with you. Like, I want a buddy cop thing.

SWAT Timothy Hutton
Timothy Hutton as DEA agent Mark BoyleCBS

TVLINE | What kind of finale does S.W.A.T. have coming up, Jay? [The two-parter airs May 12 and 19.]
JAY | The last two episodes are kind of similar to our first episode that was a two-parter. It’s all about tying up an entire situation, so we’ve got some really good guest actors.

TVLINE | One of them is Timothy Hutton, right?
JAY | Timothy Hutton, who is so great. He’s also a Boston guy, so we got to talk sports in between stuff. He took to the role right away, so that’ll be fun.

TVLINE | Does any kind of a cliffhanger end the season?
JAY | Well, not in a traditional sense, I’d say, since we didn’t really know what’s in store [for the series].

TVLINE | So, no cliffhanger outside of, “Will S.W.A.T. be renewed?
JAY | Exactly.

Want scoop on S.W.A.T., or for any other show? Email and your question may be answered via Matt’s Inside Line.

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