Max Thieriot as Bode Donovan in Fire Country
Stephanie Arcila as Gabriela Perez and Max Thieriot as Bode Donovan
Max Thieriot as Bode Donovan and W. Tré Davis as Freddy Mills
Max Thieriot may have created and cowritten Fire Country — a series chronicling the brave men and women of Cal Fire (California's Department of Forestry and Fire Protection) — but it wasn't a guarantee he would be its star.
After all, he is still busy costarring in SEAL Team, now streaming its sixth season on Paramount+. But as Thieriot watched his project become a reality he couldn't resist walking it across the finish line himself.
"I was always nervous that if I took this idea and handed it off to somebody, it wasn't going to meet the expectations I had for it and myself," he says. "It was a story that lived in me, and I knew it so well that I just had to be a part of telling it."
In the end, it was his wife Lexi, his SEAL Team costar A.J. Buckley and his gut instinct that convinced him to star in the CBS drama premiering October 7. "A.J. had been saying throughout the process, 'Max, you've got to star in this. It's your show.' And then my wife said to me one day, 'You're gonna regret it if you don't.'"
Fortunately, CBS agreed with them and was supportive of Thieriot pulling double duty as both Navy SEAL and firefighter this fall.
Born and raised in Northern California, Thieriot grew up watching his friends join the ranks of Cal Fire, an "all-risk" department that fights the fires threatening the state's more than 31 million acres of privately owned woodlands, while also responding to all other manner of emergencies.
Thieriot, who has been acting since he was a teenager, more recently tried his hand at directing on SEAL Team and his previous series, Bates Motel. But when he started kicking around the idea of creating a show from the ground up — which he also executive produces, alongside Jerry Bruckheimer — he found inspiration in the memories of his friends suiting up with Cal Fire. "The men and women in this job really are heroes," he says. "Every day, they are risking their lives running into fire for you, your home and your family."
But Fire Country isn't solely about those who seek out a life lived in the grip of danger — it's also about those who find the opportunity placed in front of them.
In the series, Thieriot plays Bode Donovan, a convict given the chance to join Cal Fire's inmate program in exchange for a shortened prison sentence — a real recruitment tool meant to give fire crews as much support as they need. "A lot of these folks feel like they have taken something from a community, and this is an opportunity for them to give back," he says. "There's a lot of hope and redemption in it."
Thieriot created Bode as one of those redemption seekers, even though the writer doesn't make it easy for his character. In the pilot, Bode learns he has been assigned to work in his hometown, reopening the wounds left behind in a close-knit community that hasn't forgotten why he's behind bars.
While he is the face of Fire Country, Thieriot makes a point to note this story was never about him. What feeds his creative soul, as he puts it, is the chance to educate audiences about who is answering the call for help in the Golden State.
"I know I'm not a real firefighter, but if I can do my job as an actor and writer, and get people to watch and have a newfound appreciation for what these folks do," Thieriot says, "and bring awareness to their community and families — the wins and losses they go through — for me, that's hitting a home run."
Fire Country is executive produced by Tony Phelan, Joan Rater, Tia Napolitano, Max Thieriot, James Strong, David Grae (pilot only), Jerry Bruckheimer, Jonathan Littman and KristieAnne Reed, and produced by CBS Studios.