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(L-R): Kenny Johnson as Dominique Luca, David Lim as Victor Tan, Lina Esco as Christina Alonso, Jay Harrington as David “Deacon” Kay, and Shemar Moore as Daniel “Hondo” Harrelson in CBS’s “S.W.A.T.” ((Bill Inoshita / CBS))

YOMYOMF Founder Justin Lin is one of the executive producers of CBS’ S.W.A.T. reboot which premieres this week (he also directed the pilot). The Los Angeles Times spoke to another of the show’s executive producers, Aaron Rahsaan Thomas, about the show and its approach to “diversity”:

As a kid in Kansas City, Kansas, Thomas consumed everything from Norman Lear comedies to “Hill Street Blues” and as he grew up, he began to notice something.

Or, more precisely, the absence of something.

“There weren’t enough dramas that were taking people of color seriously,” he says.

Yes, there were iconic characters like Huggy Bear on “Starsky and Hutch,” or B.A. Baracus on “The A-Team,” but their main function was to provide comic relief, just as black guest stars were brought in to function as either short-lived saviors or sinners. As a budding writer, Thomas pondered the meaning of representation and wondered why a black character couldn’t be “intelligent, serious, and focused.”

So, after working on shows as varied as “Soul Food,” “Friday Night Lights” and “The Get Down,” the USC film school grad decided to write the character he so rarely saw.

His script came to the attention of Sony, which was looking to reboot “S.W.A.T.” along the lines of the 2003 film adaptation of the ’70s TV show.

The new series retains the original’s funky theme song — with fresh “stank,” according to Moore — but it features many modern updates including a female SWAT officer, played by Lina Esco, and a racially diverse cast.

Teamed with Shawn Ryan, creator of “The Shield,” Thomas and fellow executive producers Neal Moritz — who produced the 2003 film — and Justin Lin of “The Fast and the Furious” franchise wanted to go further than window dressing. They were pleasantly surprised that CBS — a network that has repeatedly been criticized for its lack of diversity — wanted to do the same.

“Definitely there was a healthy level of skepticism when it came to whether or not they wanted to do anything different creatively,” says Thomas, who previously worked on the CBS shows “Numbers” and “CSI: NY.” “To our fortunate surprise, from the very beginning they were really, really adamant about trying to stay within their brand but do the next wave, the modern version. To lean into some areas that they hadn’t touched on before.”

The pilot revolves around the accidental shooting of an unarmed black teen by a SWAT team leader and the political appointment of Hondo in the aftermath. (Hondo, the story makes clear, is capable: He’s just not the next in line.) Though packaged with high-speed car chases and predictable shoot-outs (directed in the pilot by Lin), the ensuing discussion of both black and blue lives is sharper than one might expect.

Executive producer Aaron Rahsaan Thomas, left, star Shemar Moore and executive producer Shawn Ryan of the new TV series “S.W.A.T.” (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

To read the full article, go to the LA Times: For Aaron Thomas the ‘S.W.A.T.’ reboot offers opportunity for diverse representation

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