Over the course of its run, SWAT has been lucky not to have to deal with many cast changes. Heading into its seventh and final season, the show has managed to retain nearly all of its original cast members with Shemar Moore, Alex Russell, Kenny Johnson, Jay Harrington, David Lim, and Patrick St. Esprit all sticking with the show from start to finish.
However, that doesn’t mean there haven’t been a few cast changes over the years including one that few fans ever saw coming. We’re referring to the departure of Lina Esco, who originated the role of Officer Chris Alonso in the series premiere and was a key member of the show’s core cast through season 5 before stepping away.
In the season 5 finale, Chris leaves the LAPD in order to help immigrant women fleeing bad situations by picking up where Mama Pina left off in helping to run the safe house for these women.
Why did Lina Esco leave SWAT?
Chris’s decision to leave SWAT in order to help run the safe house for immigrant women in need was a storyline introduced to help write off the character due to Lina Esco’s decision to leave the show — a decision she did not take lightly.
Following the season 5 finale, Esco revealed to TVLine, that she had made the decision to leave the show in order to pursue new creative endeavors that would push her out of her comfort zone. And while it was her decision to leave, she left on good terms and had nothing but positive things to say about the show, her cast members and the fans:
"“Bringing to life a strong, smart, bisexual character like Chris Alonso has been both a pleasure and a powerful opportunity to increase visibility for diverse women everywhere. Five years later, I am leaving SWAT to pursue new creative endeavors. Chris never backs down from the unknown and as an actor and director, I’m excited to step out of my comfort zone and embark on a new chapter, too. That said, this is one of the most difficult decisions I’ve had to make. I’m forever grateful to my SWAT family – my fellow cast, writers, and producers – for an incredible journey. To the amazing SWAT fans, you are the heart of the show. I can’t thank you enough for your support and for walking beside me through all of Chris’ journey!”"
It’s unclear if Lina Esco will return for SWAT season 7, but we hope she does
Since exiting SWAT at the end of season 5, Lina Esco has not returned to the show; however, her character has remained a part of the show through the writers’ decision not to bring an end to the romance between Chris and Street. While we haven’t seen Chris on-screen, she was mentioned at various points across the show’s sixth season thanks to the writers opting to allow the characters’ romance to continue within the show.
Given that the show has laid the groundwork by making sure fans know Chris and Street are still together, and that Esco left the show on good terms, the door has been left wide open for Chris to return in a future season.
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Considering SWAT is coming to an end, it seems safe to assume the writers will do everything in their power to try to bring Esco back in some capacity before the show’s series finale or perhaps for the show’s series finale. After all, final seasons are often full of surprise returns that help to honor the show’s legacy with the help of actors and characters who have since departed.
With the show coming to an end, we can’t imagine a world in which the creative team won’t try to bring Chris back into the fold for at least one episode. And with Esco departing on good terms — and also not being tied to any other projects at the moment which could create a conflict with production — we’re optimistic about the odds of seeing Chris at some point in the show’s final season.
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