Why Did Max Thieriot Leave ‘SEAL Team’?


The Big Picture

  • Clay Spenser’s shocking death in Season 6 of
    SEAL Team
    was a result of actor Max Thieriot’s involvement in another CBS series,
    Fire Country
  • Thieriot struggled to manage both shows due to the demanding workload of
    Fire Country
    , which has 22 episodes compared to
    SEAL Team
    ‘s 12.
  • Thieriot not only stars in
    Fire Country
    but also serves as an executive producer and co-creator, inspired by his own experiences growing up in a firefighting community.

It came as a massive shock to audiences when Clay Spenser was unceremoniously killed off in the back half of SEAL Team‘s sixth season. Max Thieriot‘s character had been with the CBS-turned-Paramount+ series from the very beginning and is as much a part of Bravo Team as anyone else. But all of that changed when Thieriot started balancing his work on SEAL Team with that of his new CBS/Paramount+ series Fire Country. Still, it turns out that trying to manage two first responder/military drama shows at once, especially those with many episodes, can’t last forever. Eventually, one of these shows had to go.


SEAL Team is a military drama that follows the professional and personal lives of the most elite unit of Navy SEALs as they train, plan, and execute the most dangerous, high-stakes missions our country can ask of them. Deployed on clandestine missions worldwide at a moment’s notice, and knowing the toll it takes on them and their families, this tight-knit SEAL team displays unwavering patriotism and fearless dedication even in the face of overwhelming odds.

Release Date

David Boreanaz , Max Thieriot , Neil Brown Jr. , A.J. Buckley , Toni Trucks


Clay Spenser Has a Tough Arc in ‘SEAL Team’ Season 6

Image via Paramount+

At the end of SEAL Team‘s fifth season, Clay was nearly killed on a mission after being hailed on by RPGs. This all came after Clay made the tough decision to retire from Bravo Team following this “last mission” to be closer to his family. The season ended with fans wondering if Thieriot would be leaving the show in between seasons, with no closure for Clay’s five-season arc. This is a common trope among network procedurals, something that could’ve easily recurred here on SEAL Team. Thankfully, that isn’t how things went down, but Clay’s Season 6 arc was just as tragic to watch unfold.

The new season begins with Clay losing his leg and having to retire from active duty. Throughout Season 6, Clay struggles to get his life back together after the last mission and works on his relationship with his wife Stella (Alona Tal) and his son Ben. In fact, by the end of his time on SEAL Team, he and Stella even plan to leave their old life behind and start anew. Along with that, Clay spends his final moments helping a vet named Ben (Joey Pollari) in the episode “Aces and Eights,” where he stops the distressed vet from killing himself and vandalizing a recruitment center.

Though Clay saves Ben from killing himself, he is found holding Ben’s gun by a security guard who promptly shoots him in the chest. These are the final moments with Clay we see on the show, as he, like Chris Kyle (the real-life inspiration behind American Sniper) before him, used his final moments to save the life of another. Ironically, Clay was once called “American Sniper” by one of Stella’s friends all the way back in Season 1’s “Collapse,” which foreshadows this horrible tragedy. How that will affect SEAL Team‘s Bravo Team moving forward is unclear, but there’s no doubt that the news is tough to hear.

Max Thieriot Was Doing Double Duty Between ‘SEAL Team’ and ‘Fire Country’

Image via CBS

During SEAL Team‘s Season 6, Thieriot was also working on another CBS/Paramount+ drama Fire Country, where he played the convict firefighter Bode Donovon (aka Bode Leone) who is forced to return to his hometown (and his family) to fight fires for his freedom. “At the time, I was fully involved with SEAL Team, so it was hard to imagine being able to go do something else, especially because this ramped up pretty quick,” Thieriot told Collider in an exclusive interview. “It became clear that it wasn’t like SEAL Team was gonna be over and done with, and here’s the next thing I could do, so I really wasn’t sure.”

Unfortunately, that changed somewhere down the line when both Fire Country and SEAL Team were renewed for their second and seventh seasons, respectively. Given that Thieriot’s character on SEAL Team was nearly written off after Season 5, his ultimate demise in the following season wasn’t a surprise. With Fire Country‘s intense workload–22 episodes a season compared to SEAL Team‘s 12—it’s no wonder that Thieriot opted to stick with the new series he helped co-create in the first place. Fire Country is Max Thieriot’s show in more ways than one, and it’s all thanks to his SEAL Team castmates.

“It really started toward the end of Season 5,” SEAL Team showrunner Spencer Hudnut told TV Insider. “There were some questions about whether Max would be back for Season 6, so the Season 5 cliffhanger [in Mali] was a bit dictated by that. And as Fire Country kept passing each development checkmark, it got clearer and clearer that there was a real possibility that we’d be losing Max at some point… Everyone had talked about how he could do both shows, but it was very clear that that wasn’t the case.” With Fire Country shooting in Vancouver, Canada and SEAL Team in Los Angeles and other locations across Southern California, it just wasn’t possible for Thieriot to do both.

Max Thieriot’s ‘SEAL Team’ Co-Star Helped Inspire Him To Create ‘Fire Country’

Image via Paramount+

Thieriot doesn’t just star in Fire Country, he’s also an executive producer, co-creator, and the initial inspiration for the series in the first place. “I was driving to work one day with my buddy A.J. Buckley from SEAL Team and we were sitting there going back and forth,” Thieriot told James Corden on The Late Late Show. “…And I started telling him about [my experience growing up in a fire fighting community], and he was like, ‘dude, this is a show.’ I’m like, ‘you think?’ And he’s like, ‘yeah.'” The more Thieriot explained this idea of a Northern Californian firefighting town and his experience with it, the more people thought he should pursue the project as a series.

“When I started writing it, in the beginning, I wasn’t sure what the route was gonna be,” Thieriot explained to Collider. “In the beginning, my intentions were to try to create this world and pitch it, and then have them make a show, best case scenario.” Thieriot co-wrote the pilot alongside Tony Phelan and Joan Rater, and would later direct the 21st episode “Backfire.” He had previously directed two episodes of SEAL Team during the show’s third and fourth seasons. But in many ways, Fire Country was the project that Thieriot had been waiting to undertake his entire career, and it only took someone like his SEAL Team co-star (Buckley is also a co-producer on Thieriot’s new series) to push him to make it a reality.

‘SEAL Team’ and ‘Fire Country’ Are Both Coming Back for More

Image via Paramount+

Despite Thieriot’s not making it back to SEAL Team, the show continues on Paramount+. With a seventh and final season underway, and CBS airing the back half of the series regularly on Thursdays, the show is as popular as ever. Meanwhile, Fire Country has been renewed for a second season by CBS, with Thieriot still leading the charge, and is set to premiere February 16. One thing’s for sure, there will be no shortage of excellent action dramas to check out on Paramount+, which boasts both those shows and plenty of others.

Both SEAL Team and Fire Country are available for streaming exclusively on Paramount+ and air regularly on CBS.

Watch on Paramount+


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