That’s Moore Like It

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Moore chats in the green room with James Corden during The Late Late Show with James Corden (photo: Terence Patrick ©2017 CBS Broadcast- ing, Inc. All rights reserved).

Actor Shemar Moore turns up the heat in anticipation of the
season five premiere of S.W.A.T.

Under Shemars Moore’s extra-fine features, rock-hard body and baritone-smooth voice, the star of the hit CBS action drama series S.W.A.T. is a grinder.

“There’s more to me than just the physical and the outside,” he says. “Sometimes people think it’s easy for you because you’ve got the looks. I’m not saying that that hasn’t helped me in life and given me opportunity. But looks and swag only get you in the room; they don’t keep you in the room.”

To prove he has substance beyond the panache and that his acting chops are
as sculpted as his shredded six-pack, he keeps hustling. Or, as he so eloquently puts it, “I work my ass off!” Even at age 51, the actor believes he has so much more to offer his fan base after nearly three decades in the business.

“I don’t take fame for granted,” states Moore. “I’m confident, and I’m always trying to raise the bar and find the next thing that challenges me.

“Am I Denzel Washington? No, I would never, ever compare myself to one of the greats,” he continues. “But Denzel started somewhere. I’m not competing with Denzel, but I am competing with myself and seeing just how high I can fly.”

Based on his acting credits, the answer is quite high. Most know Moore for his 11 seasons as Derek Morgan on the TV crime series Criminal Minds and, prior to that, his 11 seasons as Malcolm Winters on the daytime soap opera The Young and the Restless. Some even remember him as the host of the music-dance series Soul Train for five seasons.

These days, however, his most devoted fans are only concerned about his role as Daniel “Hondo” Harrelson on S.W.A.T., and are anxiously awaiting the coming season when Hondo faces some soul-searching issues, including coming to grips with his demotion within the S.W.A.T. force.

Moore promises that season five will be as action-packed as ever.

“Some of our high-intensity action has been reduced to some degree (due to COVID-19 restrictions),” he notes. “But, we’re still doing the car chases, the motorcycle chases, and there are still some (hand-to-hand) fights and all the fun signature stuff of our show.”

Bringing realism to TV’s law enforcement world is one of the principal reasons why Moore accepted the lead role in the series.

“I didn’t want this show to be just like a fun video game, even though S.W.A.T. is a fun show that the whole family can watch,” he explains. “But it was also important to myself and the other actors, even though we’re actors with fake bullets or no bullets in the guns, that we were trained by real law enforcement. We all trained for about four months so that everything looks authentic. We kind of want to pay homage and bring authenticity of the men and women of real law enforcement so that when they see us on the screen, we’re showing them a sign of respect.”

Moore is also proud of the show’s willingness to deal with current hot-topic issues in a responsible and balanced way.

“I’m very proud that last year we took on issues involving the Black Lives Matter movement and George Floyd, and all the tension of the streets,” says Moore, whose character is often trying to bridge the gap between the black community and the men and women in blue. “I like that we can be super-tough guys and kind of real-life action heroes without wearing a cape, and still tell provocative, heartfelt stories that people recognize and can relate to. We don’t get too heavy. We’re not going to preach. We don’t talk religion. We don’t talk politics. But we show you the highs and lows, the light and darks of humanity, whether it’s the men and women of blue or whether it’s good and bad people.”

Maui Wowie
Moore has had a connection to the Valley Isle for years now. As he explains, the island has always been the perfect backdrop for romantic interludes, plain adventure or both.

“I love Maui. I used to vacation out there with girlfriends, or I’d go by my- self because I love to hike and be at the beach. Sometimes I’d just take the road to Hana and jump off at the sacred pools,” he explains. “Any chance I had, I’d go back because I’m a nature guy — I’m an outdoorsy guy.”

But there was also another connection that kept bringing him back to Hawai‘i time and time again. His father, Sherrod Moore, had lived in Hawai‘i Kai for years prior to his passing in December 2019, and had raised another family with wife Nobuko and their three children — Shenon, Sheburra and Kosheno.

“I flew out to Honolulu to meet my siblings for the first time when I was 26 years old, then I made a couple of trips thereafter,” explains the actor, who spent this past summer in the islands filming the movie Sonic the Hedgehog 2, which is slated for release next spring. “I even went to my brother Shenon’s graduation at Kapolei High School. They moved from the eastside out west because he was a football player. The way he tells it, Kaiser High School didn’t have a good football program, but Kapolei did. So they moved so he could play football.”

Moore knows a thing or two about moving. In fact, he spent his earliest years leading a somewhat nomadic life with mother Marilyn Wilson-Moore, a math teacher in the public school system.

“I was born in Oakland, California, but because being biracial was not a very accepted thing at the time, my mother and father got a lot of grief,” explains Moore, who was born in 1970. “My mother was able to get a job transfer to Denmark, so we went there and I got to be raised in a not-so-volatile racial environment.”

By the time Moore turned 2, however, his father was out of the family picture.

“He was in and out of getting himself into trouble, and he wasn’t the most loyal person to my mother,” explains Moore. “She was patient with that until her patience ran out. After that, it was me and my mom against the world.”

And what a big world it was for the globetrotting youngster. Three years
in Denmark were followed by another three years in Bahrain. In between, there were even numerous trips to places such as Ghana, Germany, London, Pakistan, Greece and the Virgin Islands.

“My mom and I would go hiking and camping, ride camels and visit the pyramids,” recalls Moore, who ultimately moved back to California, where he graduated from Gunn High School in Palo Alto and earned a baseball scholarship to Santa Clara University. “Whether I knew it or not as a child, I was a part of many different cultures, customs, col- ors, skins, foods and religions — and all of those things were instilled in me at a young age.”

A few years before Moore’s mother died, she gave him a card that he still has framed in his office. The card simply states, “Leap, and the net will appear.”

As he recalls, “It was a beautiful card she gave me when I left Criminal Minds. I was uncertain at the time; I felt like I wasn’t challenging myself, I wanted to grow and I wanted to take the next step in my career. But I also wanted some time for me, because I had been working so much and so hard for years due to years of trying to establish myself and all that, and I was nervous. An actor without a job can be nerve-wracking.”

In leaving the show without a job in place, Moore was certainly taking a leap of faith. But he found strength in the card’s message.

“I took the card to mean to be brave, to take risks, to believe in yourself, to trust even if you can’t see the finish line,” he explains. “So it’s one of the many lessons that my mother gave me through life about having confidence to think outside the box; having the confidence to know it’s possible.”

Additionally, the card’s message also provided him with a new perspective and appreciation for his parents, who, even though they had gone their separate ways back in 1972, had still found a way to instill within him the desire to embrace the unconventional.

“My whole life — my mother’s life, my father’s life — that’s where I got it from,” Moore says. “Even my father thought very much outside the box. He was very unique; good or bad, he was an extraordinary individual. He stood out; everybody knew who he was. He wasn’t a star, but he might as well been because there was nobody like him.

“My mother was the same. She’s really unique. Very smart. People loved her, loved to hear her stories, loved her intellect, loved her beauty,” Moore continues. “I just come from people who dance to their own drum. I think I do the same in my life because I was inspired by them. A lot of the successes and triumphs I’ve had, and growth and direction that I’ve taken, have been blind leaps of faith. It’s scary walking into it, to keep walking into your fears until they become your strength and confidence.”

Moore’s Rides
For a man whose first set of wheels was a Nissan Stanza with 300,000-plus miles on the odometer, it’s understandable why Moore would spend his adult years look- ing for something more in a car and, as a result, accumulating his share of rides. Still, the actor — who fell in love with the Pontiac Firebird Trans Am after it roared into his life, courtesy of the 1977 movie Smokey and the Bandit — takes exception whenever he’s been portrayed as the owner of a fleet of automobiles.

“I wouldn’t call what I have a car collection,” Moore clarifies. “I’m not Chris Brown; I’m not Jay Leno. My pockets aren’t so deep that I can keep every car that I buy.”

And yet in “making some nickels” over the last two decades, he’s been able to take his love for the fast and exotic and cash it in on a group of automobiles that he affectionately refers to as his “babies.” They include a pair of mean machines — a Ferrari F8 Tributo (which sports the vanity license plate “Hondo 2”) and a Mercedes-AMG GTR Coupe — as well as the very rare Rezvani Tank SUV, a super- charged and bulletproof tactical vehicle that seems built for another world.

“I wouldn’t have bought the Rezvani if I wasn’t Hondo on S.W.A.T.,” he says, laughing. “It looks like it should be on the moon!”

Despite his passion for racecars, nothing makes Moore’s heart beat faster than his old-school 1974 Ford Bronco, which has been undergoing a four-year-long modification. Like a kid in a candy store, he can hardly contain his excitement these days knowing that his pride and joy will finally be coming home soon.

“As great as the Ferrari and Mercedes are, if you put a gun to my head and told me I could only keep one, I’d have to get rid of all the racecars and keep the Bronco,” Moore says.

“The Bronco,” he adds, “is still my baby of all babies.”

That last statement is sure to cause consternation among his fans, many of whom long fantasized of being Moore’s ultimate baby. In fact, the phrase “baby girl” has been associated with the actor since the first season of Criminal Minds when he chose to ad lib a line with co-star Kirsten Vangsness, who played the character Penelope Garcia, and wound up creating another reason for his fans to adore him.

“Originally, I was supposed to say some- thing like, ‘Hey, Garcia, I need you to get some information for me on a white guy age 25 to 35. Let me know what you find,’” explains Moore. “But I came to work that day in a goofy mood and decided to do a silly take. I said something to the effect of, ‘Hey, baby girl. It’s your boy, Derek Morgan. I’m trying to get some information on
a white guy 25 to 35, and I need you to work your magic and do what you do, and get back to me.’ And then the director yelled, ‘Cut!’”

Moore wound up doing a take with what the script originally called for, but to his surprise, the show’s producers had decided to run with his improvised line. Almost immediately after the episode aired, fans began blogging or commenting in chat rooms about the phrase, saying things like, “I love it when Derek calls Penelope baby girl!”

Soon, the masses were clamoring for the line to be used on them. Or as Moore recalls, “Fans would have a way of communicating with me on social media and would say, ‘Call me, baby girl,’” he says. “I didn’t think they’d all want to be called by the same name, but they loved it!”

For Moore, the phrase is just one of many he’s used over the years. “Throughout my life, I’ve always talked a lot of mess and would give people made-up nicknames. I would say things like, ‘What’s up, sugar foot?’ or, ‘What’s up, sweet thing?’ They were just silly names. Obviously, ‘baby girl’ is not mine, as everybody says that.”

But this nickname obviously had major staying power, and led Moore to capitalize on it — all for a noble cause, of course. After establishing a women’s clothing retail line called Baby Girl LLC, he began donating the company’s profits to help fight multiple sclerosis, a disease that afflicted his mother until her death in February 2020.

Naturally, his most ardent female fans pounced on the opportunity and immediately anointed themselves “Baby Girl Nation.”

As Moore notes in describing the fawning adoration that seems to follow him wherever he goes, “It just kind of took on a mind of its own and exploded.”
Such is the life of the easy-on-the-eyes actor who loves the grind.

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