After Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Bones, David Boreanaz is returning to TV with the CBS show SEAL Team. On the new military drama, premiering Wednesday, Sept. 27, Boreanaz plays Jason Hayes, the headstrong leader of the Tier One team who's trying to balance work and family. Knowing that the show follows the professional and personal lives of the Navy SEALS, it's worth asking, is SEAL Team's Jason Hayes based on a real person?
Boreanaz is portraying the "best of the best," Kelly Kahl, CBS' senior executive vice president of primetime, told reporters when the networked debuted their 2017-2018 lineup back in May. "These are the guys who got [Osama] bin Laden," Kahl said when they announced the series. "These are the guys who found Saddam Hussein.” So while Jason Hayes isn't a real person, he's inspired by the very real Navy SEALs who put their lives on the line every day.
"The origin of this show comes from the lives that do the work," executive producer Ed Redlich told CBS during the network's Television Critics Association 2017 Summer Tour. "Character stories are a huge part of this show [and] to me, that sets us apart from other shows. We want the whole thing to vibrate with that sense of reality."
The creators of SEAL Team want Boreanaz's character and every other one on the show to "tell the stories about the toll it takes on the people who do this work," executive producer Sarah Timberman said. "That more of their marriages end in divorce than not; we're sensitive to all these things. We hope we tell these stories properly."
To better tell these stories, the show has former SEAL members working as technical advisors, like consulting producer Mark Semos, a Navy SEAL turned actor. Semos was one of the main reasons Boreanaz signed on to do the show, offering advice to help him get into character. Boreanaz told TV Insider,
"He told me: SEAL guys go all in. If they’re going to do shots of tequila, it’s a whole bottle. There are a number of lost team members Mark still has in his phone. He can’t acknowledge [that loss] yet. I don’t even know when that can happen for him."
Knowing this about Semos helped Boreanaz connect with his character on a personal level. He wanted to not only show Jason's high points, such as those moments on the battlefield, but those quieter moments at home that don't usually make it to TV. "Jason is struggling with a lot of flaws he's dealing with," Boreanaz told CBS. "These guys do these heroic things and then they come home and they are a bit lost sometimes. That was very impactful for me."
It also felt like an honest portrayal of what it's like being a soldier. You may be a hero, but you're still human and Boreanaz wanted Jason to be a complex character. He told TV Insider that Jason "has PTSD, so you’re going to see a lot of vulnerability from him there." On the show, Jason is seen in therapy where he opens up about what it's like being a soldier, specifically what it feels like to lose one of his colleagues.
Jason is "very comfortable on missions," Boreanaz said, "he thrives on them—being in the military is his love, his passion. When he gets home he finds he has difficulty dealing with certain things, like relationships. He has two kids, he’s gone through a separation and is a hypersensitive guy."
To give SEAL Team a more realistic feel, executive producer Benjamin Cavell also told CBS that the writers needed to portray what it's really like being a part of the SEAL team. And surprise, it's not always as serious as it looks on TV. "One thing that every other military show gets wrong is that it's not funny enough," Cavell said. "Their interactions and lives in the military can have funny moments, [so] we have tried to incorporate humor."
Basically, SEAL Team will be a little bit of everything because real Navy SEALs aren't just one thing. Boreanaz's Jason Hayes isn't based on any one person, but it's a reminder that these SEALs are real people. That's something worth remembering.