The star and executive producer talks to ET about doing 'most' of his own stunts and his six-day-a-week workout regimen.
Max Thieriot is still wrapping his head around the warm reception his CBS freshman drama, Fire Country, largely inspired by his life in Northern California, has received since its October launch. The one-hour drama, which co-stars Billy Burke, Diane Farr and Kevin Alejandro, follows Thieriot's Bode, a young convict with skeletons in the closet who is assigned to help the firefighters in his hometown.
"It's kind of crazy, honestly. Everybody's like, 'Oh my gosh, you must be so excited.' And I was like, 'Yeah I'm really excited,' but the first thing was relief in a weird way. It was like, whew, OK, it's out. People watch it, people like it," Thieriot, who is co-creator and executive producer on Fire Country, tells ET's Cassie DiLaura of being billed the most-watched new series on broadcast. "We have just a really incredible cast and crew up there and I feel really lucky to be surrounded by all these people that are so talented but also really great, genuine people. We have a little too much fun sometimes."
"I'm one of those people that never stops striving for more. I'm like, 'This is great, but what could we achieve that's higher?'" he says. "I want to be the No. 1 show on television, not the [No. 1] new show. It's my competitive personality, always pushing for more. How can we do better?"
The former SEAL Team star said the response from friends and family back home has mainly been "excitement." "I'm raised in a small town, a thousand people, everybody knows everybody. To see this show come to life," Thieriot says. "And the big thing that I get hit up all the time about is, these little mentions to stuff from my community -- whether it's Hog Island Oyster Company or Bodega Highway. People are always texting me like, 'I saw the reference to Bodega Highway.' I went home for Thanksgiving and saw a lot of the folks, and everybody was really excited."
"I've always been the same kid that everybody saw throwing apples at cars from the elementary school playground and getting in trouble for it," he adds. "I think everybody's just really happy for my success and just seeing somebody from this little town do their thing."
On Friday's fall finale, which is directed by Alejandro, Vince's (Burke) judgment is compromised when a harrowing rescue of two siblings triggers emotional memories of the night his daughter died in a car accident. ET exclusively premieres a sneak peek from the dramatic hour, where Vince is confronted by Bode and Manny (Alejandro) over a dangerous decision in regard to the rescue mission.
"This winter finale is insane," Thieriot previews. "It obviously has some really, really intense, dramatic character moments where we dive in and we finish up telling some of the backstory that has led us to this point. And the action and the suspense in it is crazy. Then, obviously, we're left with not only the cliffhanger of the vehicle that you see in the trailer, but also a really scary, crazy, gut-wrenching character, [in] danger, cliffhanger."
"It's one of those moments that the audience, I know, will be like, 'Oh my gosh. What just happened? What is going to happen after this?' And for me as a viewer, that's what I love. I'm a sucker for that stuff. I always crave those moments and being left wanting more," he teases. "You might be standing. I don't even know if you're going to be on the edge of your seat at the end of this one."
On a deeper level, the episode explores the trauma of a parent losing their children. "We see a situation where parents are dealing with their children being in this scary, impossible situation and feeling really helpless," he says of the car accident parallels from Vince's past and the present-day case. "That's something, as a parent, I know that always scares me. You want to be able to control your world and protect your kids. And this episode very much unpacks that and really dives into the emotions behind family losing children. And it's heartbreaking."
The 33-year-old actor hinted that viewers will need a box of tissues nearby when they tune in Friday.
"They're going to need them this week," Thieriot confirms, promising that the winter premiere on Jan. 6 will "unpack everything that happened." "The goal is to take people on that journey with these characters. And when we get back [in the new year], that episode is incredible also. It's beautiful. But there are some things that the fans are going to love and then there are some things that they're going to be very concerned about."
As the lead of an action-filled series like Fire Country, Thieriot revealed he does "most of" the stunts asked of him though he prefaced by saying it hasn't required him to do "anything too crazy yet."
"For me, that's the fun stuff. That's where I get to be a boy climbing on a jungle gym, and having done SEAL Team where I did most of my stunts, the acting stuff is great obviously and that's the core of the show, but I get excited when I get to do stunts because I'm a little bit of a wild child," he admits. "I just got to be careful not to get hurt. Because honestly, it's usually not on the stunts, it's on me doing something really ridiculous. I had a piece of wood go into my leg from moving an apple bin and that's how I get hurt!"
Thieriot shared his workout regimen for how he stays in shape to do those Fire Country action sequences, which includes working out "five, six days a week."
"Everybody thinks that working out is the key to getting into shape, eating is a huge part of it. I learned early on from a bodybuilder, he told me, 'Abs are made in the kitchen,'" the actor recalls. "I do zero cardio. As long as I'm working out hard and I'm sweating and I'm eating right, that's what does it."
The fall finale of Fire Country airs Friday, Dec. 9 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.