Shemar Moore: From Soap Opera Star To Action Star

Shemar Moore has been in the entertainment industry for decades. From his early days on "The Young and the Restless" to his more current long-running gig as the star of "SWAT," the actor has always been willing to take whatever opportunities were given to him, while looking to better himself and the lives of the people around him. But it hasn't always been easy. "I could describe my career in two words: who knew," he told BET in 2015. "When I decided to move out to L.A. to try acting, nobody was betting on me, not even my family. But it's always been that way for me, nothing has come easy."

Moore's long and winding path to television superstardom has taken him down many detours. He's been a model, a soap star, a TV host, an FBI profiler, and a SWAT team leader ... though those last two are just acting jobs he played on CBS. Read on for a look back at the highs and lows of Shemar Moore's career and personal life, from soap opera star to action star.

Shemar Moore spent part of his childhood abroad

Shemar Moore was born to a Black father named Sherrod and an Irish-Canadian mother named Marilyn; they got his name by combining the first part of each of theirs. "My father was a Black Panther," Moore later told "Sway's Universe." "My father was good friends with Tupac's mama. People don't know that, because they don't ask me questions." He was primarily raised by his mother, primarily out of the country; he lived in places like Bahrain and Denmark before finally returning to the United States when he was six.

As a kid, Moore was bullied a lot. "I remember how different everyone made me feel when I was in school," he told BET, remembering that other kids had a lot of questions for him. "'Why does your hair look like that, why is your skin that color, how come your mom is white, how can you be cousins with so-and-so?'" the actor recalled being asked. Moore would often be chased by bullies, and when he started to throw rocks to defend himself, he realized that he might have a natural talent for baseball. 

For a time, the future star lived in Boston, and he dreamed about joining the Red Sox. While he was even drafted by the Sox and the Baltimore Orioles, Moore opted to first go to college at his mother's insistence. Unfortunately, an arm injury prevented him from continuing in the sport, and he began to look for other career paths.

The actor's modeling past

As a teenager, Shemar Moore was approached to be a model. He wasn't interested. "At 16, I thought it was for sissies," he told Ebony in 1998. "But at 19, when tuition was a reality, I was like, okay, well maybe it's not for sissies." The star gave it a shot, and modeling became his career for years. However, Moore struggled to find his place in the industry, sometimes living paycheck to paycheck. In particular, his looks confused some casting agents. "They didn't know what I was. I was uni-race," he recalled. "I didn't fit the clothes or I wasn't pretty enough, wasn't tough enough or Black enough." Moore also noticed that many of the clothes he was expected to wear seemed to have been designed for other types of bodies: "I used to say, 'I'm Black. Don't they make clothes for big butts or big thighs?'"

Moore eventually wanted to move into acting, but he found that people still focused on his good looks rather than his other talents. "With the physical, I can't speak to that," he told Ebony a few years after his initial interview. Still, the attention wasn't all bad. "I'm flattered that people find me attractive. I'd rather have that than to have them throwing darts at my pictures." His time in the industry paid off, because Moore's modeling in GQ came across the desk of someone who worked in daytime television. Soon, those good looks would be opening more doors for Moore.

Shemar Moore's soap opera years

In 1994, Shemar Moore joined the cast of iconic daytime soap "The Young and the Restless." He played a new character called Malcolm Winters, a photographer and brother to Kristoff St. John's Neil Winters. "I didn't know what to expect coming in," Moore told St. John during a 1995 episode of "CBS Soap Break." "I didn't know anything about soaps. ... I knew I wanted to act; it was a dream of mine." The newcomer expected that the long-running stars of the show might be difficult to work with, but that wasn't the case. "It was a very good feeling to be accepted and to feel the warmth that I was able to feel," Moore said.

That being said, Moore seemed to resent being on a soap opera. He spoke often in interviews about wishing people would take him seriously as an actor rather than just a sex symbol. "I was born and raised on 'Young and Restless,'" he told Ebony, "but I can't be Malcolm forever. I'm trying to branch out." He left the show in 2000 in an attempt to do just that, although he would return several times over the years. Explaining himself, Moore told that he was worried sticking with the show "would jeopardize my future."

That said, his time on daytime made Moore a part of an iconic moment in pop culture: he is the one who handed Susan Lucci her Daytime Emmy, when she finally won after 19 nominations.

His relationships with Halle Berry and Toni Braxton

At the height of his '90s fame, Shemar Moore was linked to some of Hollywood's most beautiful women. He dated both Toni Braxton and Halle Berry, among others, generating interest from tabloids about what those relationships were like. He dodged specifics while talking with Ebony in 1998, allowing, "[Reporters] are going to take it to where they're going to take it. Dirt is what sells." A few years later, in the same magazine, he recalled the intense scrutiny. "I had the Enquirer standing outside my apartment when I was only two years into being on a soap opera. What dirt do you possibly think you're going to get from me?"

Though he tried to keep his private life private while those romances were going on, Moore later opened up about his experiences, looking back on his relationships with Berry and Braxton. He told BET that Braxton was his first Hollywood girlfriend, reminiscing, "I was like the little kid who found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It was a wild ride with Toni." The actor had one complaint, however: "She would never sing for me, though. That always bothered me." Berry, Moore said, was true love. "She was the first woman to really knock my socks off," he admitted. "I fell hard for Halle."

Braxton reportedly wasn't happy that he kissed and told. A source told the National Enquirer (via BET) of the interview, "That was just classless and disrespectful."

Shemar Moore hosted Soul Train

While starring on "The Young and the Restless," Shemar Moore picked up another high-profile gig. Between 1999 and 2003, he hosted "Soul Train" on BET, inviting viewers in to "the hippest trip in America." The network took a look back at his best moments as host ahead of the 2022 edition of the Soul Train Awards, noting, "Shemar not only hosted the party; he was the party." After interviewing guests, Moore would often join the show's dancers, getting his groove on while rocking some pretty great turn-of-the-century styles. At the end of each episode, Moore would join his crew in wishing viewers, "Love, peace, and soul!"

Old clips of Moore dancing on "Soul Train" regularly go viral online. One five-second snippet shows Moore doing a bit of a hip-shimmy to Nelly's "E.I." while staring directly into the camera. "Me two shots off the Henny," one fan captioned the video, while another was surprised to recognize the man in the clip. "Is this the dude from criminal minds??? Lmaooooo," they wrote.

When original "Soul Train" host Don Cornelius passed away in 2012, Moore spoke with ET about the show's legacy. "It was truly my honor to continue the tradition and be a part of history," he said. "... I didn't dare try to fill his shoes because it just couldn't be done. Don was the man! And as always in parting, me and your 'Soul Train' family wish you, Don — love, peace and soul!"

The star's big screen ambitions

Early in his career, Shemar Moore made no secret of the fact that he wanted to use his modeling and television fame to make the jump to the big screen. Speaking with Ebony in 1998, the aspiring movie star told the magazine that he hoped to follow in the footsteps of Samuel L. Jackson and Denzel Washington. "They bring magic to the screen!" he marveled. A few years later, after dabbling in film with a role in "The Brothers," Moore told the same outlet, "I've made no bones about it. I've wanted to get into movies and see if I can find a career in film."

Moore's highest-profile big screen role came in 2005, when he starred in Tyler Perry's hit "Diary of a Mad Black Woman." He played Orlando, a heartthrob, but his appearance in the movie still makes the rounds online for all the wrong reasons. "Good movie," he acknowledged on Instagram in 2012, adding, "Sometimes crooked wig."

The actor previously told MovieWeb that he hoped the film would introduce him to a whole new world of acting opportunities, speculating, "Now that those doors are opening for me, the answer is I don't know [what's next], but I do know it's in the world of feature film. Television is in a different time because of reality television, so it's not as exciting." Ultimately, though, the movie roles weren't forthcoming. Mere months after that interview, Moore would make his debut on one of the most enduring TV shows of the 2000s.

He returned to TV on Criminal Minds

"Criminal Minds" launched in 2005, and despite his hesitation about returning to television, Shemar Moore was an integral part of the cast as Derek Morgan. Derek is an FBI agent — more specifically a Supervisory Special Agent in the Behavioral Analysis Unit — who uses his knowledge of criminal psychology to track killers. He quickly became a fan favorite character, especially thanks to his swoon-worthy tendency to call people "baby girl."

Moore would stick with the show for more than a decade. Even though he seems to have enjoyed being on "Criminal Minds," Moore was honest with Ebony in 2013 about why he stayed: "A paycheck." He elaborated, "Let's just keep it 100! I like to make money, I like to have nice things." Still, though, he was grateful for the opportunity that being on a long-running show gave him to do what he loves best. "I love to act," Moore clarified. "I love to tell stories."

As for why the show itself lasted as long as it did, Moore has some thoughts on that, too. Speaking with "Young Hollywood" in 2015, he made sure to shout out the show's biggest reason for being on the air. "It's really because of the fans," he said. "I always say that we're the little train that could."

Shemar Moore got animated

In 2014, Shemar Moore's career underwent another transformation: he got animated. Moore has voiced the superhero known as Cyborg in a series of animated films for DC, beginning with "Justice League: War" and including films like "Justice League vs. Teen Titans" and "Reign of the Supermen." Moore told the "Krypton Chronicles" that he related to the character for a number of reasons, noting, "He's half Black, half white; I'm half Black, half white. He's a big-time athlete before he became Cyborg ... but he wanted the love of his father, the validation of his father, which was hard to come by. I know a little something about that."

When he first began playing the character, Ray Fisher had yet to be cast in Zack Snyder's live-action "Justice League" film. Understandably, Moore had his eye on the role. He noted that he wasn't quite as big a star as people like Ben Affleck and Robert Downey Jr., joking, "I get it, you're the man ... I just wanna be the man next to the man." Perhaps it's for the best that Moore was able to avoid working on the live-action "Justice League" film; after all, Fisher famously had a miserable time playing Cyborg, alleging on-set racism in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.

He shocked fans by leaving Criminal Minds

Even though Shemar Moore was open about how grateful he was for a consistent paycheck on "Criminal Minds," and even though he enjoyed being able to settle into a character and tell stories over many years, he shocked fans by stepping away from the show during its 11th season. His departure hadn't been announced beforehand; instead, fans watched as Derek Morgan experienced a particularly traumatic kidnapping in the Season 11 episode "Derek" and decided to leave the Behavioral Analysis Unit.

Moore spoke with E! News about his decision to leave the procedural, explaining that he was touched by the response he got from fans to the episode. "Even though they were yelling and screaming, it made me emotional because I knew it was all out of love and it was out of 11 years being together," he said. Primarily, the actor decided to step away because he wanted more out of life. "I am wanting to see what else is out there for me and what else I'm capable of in my career and also in my personal life," Moore said. "I'm looking for balance. I want to fall in love, get married, have kids, travel."

"Criminal Minds" itself ended a few years later, but the series has since been revived on Paramount+ as "Criminal Minds: Evolution." In 2022, Moore teased a possible return to ET, allowing, "Would I go back to 'Criminal Minds' and flirt with my baby girl and chase down unsubs? Sure, alright."

Shemar Moore lost his mother to MS

If fans know one thing about Shemar Moore, it's probably how much he loved his mother, Marilyn. He spoke about her to Ebony all the way back in 2001, telling the magazine, "When females find out you love your mother, they get excited because the way a man treats his mama is a good barometer of how he's going to treat his woman." 

A couple years earlier, Marilyn had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. "I went through the whole denial thing for a couple of years," Moore told People in 2015. But with her son's help, Marilyn moved from San Francisco to LA. "My quality of life is totally determined by Shemar's generosity," Marilyn told the outlet. The actor became an advocate, raising money for a cure through charity bike rides and by donating the proceeds of his Baby Girl clothing line. Unfortunately, Moore's attempts to raise funds for MS were undercut by a fellow actor. According to the Los Angeles Times, Keith Tisdell met Moore on set of "Criminal Minds," and they became friends. Tisdell ultimately pleaded no contest to grand theft of more than $61,000 from Moore's charity, but he agreed to repay Moore thanks to a deal that helped him avoid jail time.

Tragically, Moore announced that his mother had passed away in February 2020. "I miss her more than I ever thought possible," he wrote on Twitter. "And I don't know how to do this life without her."

He's repeatedly addressed rumors about his sexuality

Back in 2007, the National Enquirer published photos of Shemar Moore naked on what the tabloid claimed was a gay nude beach in Hawaii. Moore denied the speculation (via The Hollywood Gossip), insisting that he had been accompanied by two women. "I had two hot chicks with me who wanted to go skinny dipping," he said. Joking about the positive reaction to the revealing snaps, he added, "Thank God the water was fairly warm!"

In 2016, a video went viral online showing Moore with some queer fans outside of a nightclub. After the video received attention on The Shade Room, Moore once again quashed speculation in a since-deleted Instagram post. Later that year, in an interview with BET, he went into more detail. "If you're gay, you're gay. I'm not, and I know that and I'm very comfortable with who I am and I love women," he said, before going a step further. "... If you think I'm gay, send your girlfriend over to my house for the weekend and see what happens."

Two years later, Moore turned heads when he showed up to the Grammy Awards with "Quantico" star Annabelle Acosta on his arm. TMZ caught up with him at an airport, and Moore admitted to only bringing Acosta so that people wouldn't speculate about his sexuality anymore. "'We're gonna call him gay 'til he bring a pretty girl,'" Moore imagined critics saying, so he invited Acosta "just to prove I can do it."

Shemar Moore leads the cast of SWAT

On "SWAT," Shemar Moore plays Sgt. Dan "Hondo" Harrelson, the show's lead. "SWAT" is about the lives and careers of people on the Los Angeles SWAT team; as opposed to some earlier roles, "SWAT" requires Moore to be in full-on action hero mode. While appearing on "Sway's Universe" on Sirius XM, Moore noted that his role on the show might be due to more than just his acting skill. "Do you think I'm the lead of the show 'cause they like me and I'm just that talented?" he asked rhetorically, before clarifying: "They need me, 'cause they ain't got no color on the network. But I scratch their back, they scratch mine. I give them something they need, they give me something I've always wanted, which is a shot on my terms."

Having premiered in 2017, "SWAT" has been on the air for more than 100 episodes, and Moore is grateful that he's been able to use his position on the show to address important issues. In 2020, as the country saw widespread protests due to police brutality and the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Moore realized "SWAT" had an opportunity. He told Digital Spy that he called the show's producers and told them the series needed to address the topic. "It's really like watching an action movie on TV," he said. "And that's our signature we're always going to do that. But all the while we're also going to mix in current topics and prevalent messages."

The actor stays active by playing sports

In part because he plays the leader of a SWAT team on "SWAT," as he enters his fifties, Shemar Moore remains focused on his fitness. In 2017, he told Men's Health that he had to bulk up in order to play the physically imposing Hondo. "It's a mandated organizational policy that each SWAT officer start their day with a workout, which must be at least one-hour minimum," Moore said of the real-life team. "They look like linebackers. So while I am an actor playing a role, I still wanted to look as authentic as possible, to physically have a presence."

He's not shy about showing off his progress online, either. "I REFUSE to have a 'Dad Bod,'" Moore wrote on Instagram in 2022, noting that he was 52 at the time and wanted to have the body of a 32-year-old. In another post baring those moneymaking abs, the star shared just how he gets such impressive results. "Busting my whole entire a** in the gym, lifting weights, running, stairs, hiking, cycling, boxing, swimming, massages, dieting, SLEEPING!!!!" he wrote.

Previously speaking with ABILITY Magazine, Moore expanded on the idea that exercise can happen anywhere. "Working out in a gym gets old after while, so you've got to mix it up," he said. "I go and I do the sand dunes, I do the Santa Monica stairs, I ride my bike, I box. ... I just love the hot weather and I love exercise, so I keep it together."

Shemar Moore's a father now

In January 2023, Shemar Moore delighted fans by announcing that he would soon be adding a new position to his multi-hyphenate resume: father! Appearing on "The Jennifer Hudson Show," he revealed, "Shemar Moore is about to be a daddy!" He noted that it was always a dream of his mother's for him to have a child, and coincidentally, his girlfriend, Jesiree Dizon, was due to give birth on the three-year anniversary of his mother's passing that February.

Dizon wound up having the baby slightly early, and Moore announced the birth of their daughter, Frankie, in late January. "THE LOVE OF MY LIFE!! I'm a Girl Daddy!!!! HOLY S***!!! DREAMS COME TRUE!!" he wrote on Instagram. He imagined how happy his mother must be, writing, "Grandma Marilyn is in heaven puff puff passing, drinking her wine, and doing her happy dance ... I LOVE and MISS YOU everyday Mom." A few weeks later, the actor took his daughter to his mother's grave. Alongside a photo of himself, his daughter, and his girlfriend, Moore wrote, "Mom's dream was for me to become a father and give momma some grand babies ... it took me a minute, but momma's dream is now reality!!"