The following contains spoilers from the November 6 episode of Paramount+. The SEAL team.
As Paramount+ SEAL Team served its shocking ending to the eighth episode of this season out of 10, while your thoughts may have turned to Clay’s wife, Stella, and how she would end up taking the tragic news, you may have found yourself just as worried about the reaction of Sonny Quinn, member of Cheer.
After all, Sonny and Clay’s kinship was legendary, built brick by brick after a rocky start to Season 1 (when the latter was the team’s headstrong noob), and ultimately filled with brotherly love and many, many nicknames. .
TVLine spoke with series vet AJ Buckley about Sonny’s reaction to Clay’s death (which begins this Sunday when the two season-ending games kick off), his own feelings about the departure of his best pal Max Thieriot from the series, and more.
TVLINE | Who tells AJ Buckley that Max is leaving the show and Clay gets killed?
I think, actually, Max told me. Max told me when it was happening. You know, Max and I got really close over the show. He is one of my best friends. Our kids were born a few months apart in that first season and all sorts of things, so we got incredibly close and it was really hard to hear. But I knew it was an opportunity for him to “spread his wings” and go [co-create and star in CBS’ Fire Country]. I think it was difficult for everyone, but for me in particular because it was one of the best parts of the job. Max and I went to work every day together, so I lost my “boo battle”. There is a void, that’s for sure. He’s such a great guy, on and off screen. He’s the salt of the earth and probably one of the best guys I’ve ever met in the industry. So I’m gonna miss him, man. I will miss my boyfriend.
TVLINE | And as an actor, at some point afterwards, your mind goes, “Oh man – how is Sonny possibly going to react to this?”
Yeah. Yeah. And I was really grateful for [showrunner] spencer [Hudnut] and for [directing EP] Chris [Chulack]. Spencer has had a few conversations with me about the approach they’re going to take and how painful it’s going to be for Sonny. I mean, there’s a real mixed emotion in there – especially in the finale too – of losing it, in a way. And then sitting with Chris, too, during those two episodes that he was directing, 9 and 10…. There’s a lot of things that happen, those times when it crumbles and I really lose it, but then you have to get back into the fight. So it was about trying to “choose the moments” to give it a sort of balance where I really let’s go.
It was tough but I really felt great support from Chris and Spencer to help me focus on how to get through this emotionally without all of a sudden messing up and telling the story of that heartbreak and then to tell the story of how these warriors are able to get through something like this and then turn it off and get back to the mission. I’m so blown away by how these special ops guys are able to flip that “switch” and focus on the mission when they lose a brother like this, and with the stakes in their hands. It is a quality that few men are capable of. That’s commendable, and that’s why our special operations are the best in the world.
TVLINE | This Sunday’s episode actually touches on that a bit, and I’m curious: do you know, in real life, could a team choose to retire after suffering such a devastating loss?
You know, I asked this question, and depending on the circumstances and available resources, if certain things happen but you’re the only game in town, then, unfortunately, you have to complete the mission.
That’s the one thing that I really like about our show, and Chris Chulack and Spencer first said that at the beginning, is that it’s about staying true to what’s happening in real life life. I definitely asked this question, like, “Why don’t we just go home?” How are we going to focus? And our advisers said if the command says you have to finish the job, you have to finish the job. There’s nothing you can do, even if it would be just plain crazy.
Also, it was the first episode where Max wasn’t there, he wasn’t on the call sheet anymore, and I remember how that kinda grabbed me. I was like, “Oh man, that’s real, he’s not on the show anymore.” But that’s what I love about the show is that they really stay true to what these guys have to go through.
TVLINE | If I’m the mall cop who accidentally shot Clay, how worried am I about his Bravo brothers eventually coming back to the States?
[Laughs] Oh, the mall cops…. Mall cops, nobody likes mall cops. No, I think they’re above that, you know. It was a “wrong place, wrong time” scenario that unfortunately happened with Clay. So no, I don’t think a mall cop over there has to worry. [about retribution].
TVLINE | I said to Spencer Hudnut at the start of our conversation last week, “My feelings for you as showrunner are very complicated,” Given the way that Clay was killed. It was a hell of a punch. Just devastating.
Oh yeah. I feel for Spencer, man. It’s not an easy position to be in because Max is a great guy to have on set, he has that depth of knowledge and he’s a very positive person loved by the fans. But I think Spencer did a good job and the best he could with the circumstances given to him.
TVLINE | What do you want to say about how this season ends next week, where it leaves us?
Oh, man…. I mean, it’s heartbreaking. There is a scene in [Episode] 10 was one of the hardest scenes I’ve ever done in my career so far. I will leave it there.
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