Why Did Clay Spenser Leave Seal Team?

Summary

  • Max Thieriot’s Clay Spenser was one of the most popular characters in the first several seasons of SEAL Team.
  • Thieriot eventually left the series when his character was killed off in Season 6, but SEAL Team‘s showrunner believes it will continue successfully in its seventh and reportedly final season.
  • Max Thieriot has continued his television career since leaving SEAL Team, appearing in the CBS Original Series Fire Country.


Max Thieriot’s Clay Spenser was one of SEAL Team‘s most popular characters. When a sixth season came to Paramount+, it seemed like Clay’s future on Team Bravo was pretty secure. However, the news that Thieriot was starring in a new TV project threw that future into doubt. Thieriot has played the main character on CBS’s Fire Country, from Jerry Bruckheimer Television, since 2022.

Fire Country tells the story of a young convict who earns a second chance when he joins a program that puts prisoners and firefighters together. Thieriot co-wrote the Pilot episode and is among the show’s executive producers. When it was revealed the actor was also going to take on the lead role, it had SEAL Team fans worried that Clay was about to be killed off between seasons, like Linda Reagan on Blue Bloods or Leslie Shay on Chicago Fire. Given his two conflicting roles, fans wondered if Max Thieriot was leaving SEAL Team and if Clay would meet a horrible fate.

Updated by Jordan Iacobucci on January 5, 2024: SEAL Team will officially come to an end with its seventh and final season later this year. The long-running army drama has thrived over the years thanks to its personable cast of characters. However, one beloved character made an early departure from the series, leaving fans to mourn the unfortunate fate of Clay Spenser. Why did actor Max Thieriot leave SEAL Team in the first place, and what has he done with his career in years since doing so?


Max Thieriot’s SEAL Team Exit Was Up in the Air for Season 6

Clay holding a gun in his uniform on SEAL Team

  • Clay Spenser makes his first appearance in the series premiere of SEAL Team, “Tip of the Spear,” which aired in 2017.
  • Clay Spenser makes his final appearance in Season 6, Episode 8 of SEAL Team, “Aces and Eights,” which aired in 2022.
  • Max Thieriot appears as Clay Spenser in a total of 102 episodes of SEAL Team.

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In the Season 5 finale of SEAL Team, Clay informed his fellow Bravo Team members that their mission to Mali would be his last. He was planning on transferring back to Green Team in order to spend more time with his wife, Stella, and their newborn son, Brian. However, during that mission, Bravo was ambushed by a hail of RPGs, with the screen fading to black. Clay’s fate — and that of his entire team — was up in the air.

The SEAL Team finale provided an easy opening for Max Thieriot to walk away, having his character killed in the attack. It’s common for actors to leave a show to pursue other projects (like Julian McMahon with FBI: Most Wanted or Justin Chambers with Grey’s Anatomy). But the possibility also existed for the actor to pull double duty — starring in Fire Country and SEAL Team simultaneously. For fans, Clay bowing out of Bravo Team was the ideal opportunity for reduced screen time, allowing Thieriot to occasionally appear while filming Fire Country.

Clay’s Death on SEAL Team Closed His Chapter

Clay with a gun in the backseat of a car on SEAL Team.

  • Fire Country premiered with its first episode on October 7th, 2022
  • In Fire Country, Max Thieriot portrays Bode Donovan, a convict who volunteers to become a firefighter in an effort to reduce his prison sentence.
  • Fire Country‘s second season is set to premiere on February 16th, 2024.

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However, with SEAL Team‘s shorter episode run on Paramount+, Thieriot could have been looking at a manageable workload, even if he remained as a regular on both shows. It’s rare, but actors have sometimes starred in two series simultaneously or around the same time. One example is Maggie Lawson, who led the ABC sitcom Back in the Game while still being credited as a series regular on USA’s crime-based sitcom Psych. For a while on Season 6, SEAL Team‘s shorter schedule seemed to have made it manageable for Thieriot to appear on both series. Clay began Season 6 by losing his leg, a traumatic incident that scarred the character but was a good storytelling decision because Thieriot’s availability was up in the air.

All of this, of course, was contingent upon whether Fire Country was picked up by CBS. The series eventually moved past the pilot stage and was recently renewed for a second season, so it was obviously a hit with fans. But the growing success of the CBS series meant Thieriot had to bow out of his original series at some point, and he met his death in the eighth episode of SEAL Team Season 6 after being shot. Despite Max Thieriot leaving SEAL Team, showrunner Spencer Hudnut revealed to TV Insider that he is confident that the show will continue to portray hope and victory in a show about war and loss in Season 7.

What Has Max Thieriot Done Since Leaving SEAL Team?

  • According to the International Movie Database (IMDb), Max Thieriot has 20 acting credits for his work in film and television.
  • Max Thieriot’s highest-rated film on Rotten Tomatoes is 2008’s Kit Kittredge: An American Girl, with a Freshness Rating of 80%. Thieriot portrays Will Shepherd in the film.
  • Max Thieriot’s lowest-rated film on Rotten Tomatoes is 2010’s The Family Tree, with a Freshness Rating of 10%. Thieriot portrays Eric Brunett in the film.

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After leaving SEAL Team in 2022, Max Thieriot has continued to enjoy a prosperous television career. So far, his only acting credit since leaving the role of Clay Spenser behind is that of Bode Donovan in Fire Country. However, this was more than a simple lateral move for the actor, who now boasts a top-billed spot on a popular television drama. Thieriot portrays the undisputed protagonist of Fire Country, allowing the actor to flex his talent as a leading man in ways that SEAL Team simply couldn’t provide.

With the second season of Fire Country set to premiere in February, Thieriot is certainly keeping himself busy with his new series. However, there still exists the possibility that the actor will return as a guest in SEAL Team‘s upcoming seventh and final season. Despite Clay Spenser’s brutal death in Season 6, the character can always return in a flashback or dream sequence, providing the audience with a bit of closure prior to the series finale. It would feel wrong for SEAL Team to come to an end without at least one more appearance from one of its original characters, even if he died in an earlier season.

While Max Thieriot’s departure from SEAL Team may have been disappointing for many fans of the series, things have ultimately turned out for the best. Thieriot is ultimately taking a step up in his career as he leads Fire Country, which will hopefully remain popular for many more years to come.

SEAL Team is available to stream on Paramount+. Season 7 does not yet have a release date.

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