One of CBS’ juggernaut series gets a pulse-pounding spinoff with an international flavor in Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders. The series follows the FBI’s International Response Unit (IRU), an elite team whose objective is to rescue Americans facing peril abroad. “There’s a great big world out there,” says series creator/executive producer Erica Messer, noting that 68 million Americans travel outside the United States each year. “Wouldn’t it be amazing if there was a team of FBI heroes that could come save you?” The IRU depicted in Beyond Borders is an amalgamation of actual FBI rapid deployment forces stationed around the world.
“This isn’t a job for the local police. This is our job.” — Jack Garrett (Gary Sinise) in Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders
When Messer was looking for a hero to lead her new team, actor Gary Sinise was the only name on her list. “I remember saying to Mark [Gordon, who executive produces both Criminal Minds series] early on, ‘I see this international team, and Gary Sinise is the leader.’ He said, ‘OK, if Gary can’t do it, who can do it?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I just think Gary Sinise is the leader.’ Gary’s a hero onscreen and off, so it made sense.” Fortunately for Messer, Sinise agreed.
Sinise is no stranger to TV crime procedurals; for nine years he starred as Detective Mac Taylor on CBS’ CSI: NY and is looking to put a fresh spin on a situation where “we’re the good guys chasing the bad guys, and this is very much about good versus evil.” In CSI: NY, Taylor was a 9/11 widower who threw himself into his work due to grief. In Beyond Borders, Sinise explains that he wants his character Jack Garrett “to show somebody who was able to balance home and work, even though he’s dealing with a pretty dark world.”
Future episodes of the series will explore the personal lives of the team members, but Sinise offers a few tidbits about Jack. “He’s a father of six. He’s a successful family man. He’s married to his high-school sweetheart. One thing that we haven’t established too much in the first 13 episodes is that he comes from a line of FBI agents. We’re going to learn about his father and his uncle and his son, who’s now in the [FBI] Academy.”
The actor continues, “Like many in law enforcement and military and first responders, Jack comes from a family where Granddad was in it, and Dad was in it, and you follow it, and your son goes into it. He’s very much driven by doing justice.” Sinise shares that he wanted to honor that tradition of service and pay homage to the strength of service-member families, in the same way he proudly represented families affected by 9/11 on CSI: NY.
Sinise explains that his character also “wants the best, and people who are going to devote their lives to doing justice.” Garrett’s best are Mae Jarvis (Annie Funke), a feisty medical examiner; Matthew Simmons (Daniel Henney), a former globe-trotting Army brat who serves as a special operations agent; Clara Seger (Alana De La Garza), the team’s cultural anthropologist; and Russ “Monty” Montgomery (Tyler James Williams), a Quantico-based technical analyst. With the exception of Monty, the rest of the team zooms from location to location in a mobile command center — a custom cargo jet resplendent with conference and research space, massive video screens, a jeep, a motorcycle and a wall covered with foreign currency from the team’s cases.
The series thoughtfully presents cultural tidbits about each country it visits, including phrases in the native language and insight into local customs and traditions. In the first season, “You’re going to see us go from the floating markets of Thailand to the deserts of the Sahara in Morocco,” says Sinise. “We’re in Cuba. We’re in Haiti. We’re in Mexico. We’re in Paris. We’re in Tokyo. We’re all around the world.”
The extraordinary opportunity to open the world to TV viewers isn’t lost on Messer. “It does feel like a geography lesson in a very entertaining way,” she says. “Every week, you’re going to learn something.”
Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders > CBS > Wednesdays beginning March 16
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