The second time might be the charm for Criminal Minds.
The long-running procedural will launch its second spin-off, Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders, in March, five years after the blink-and-you-missed-it run of Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior. The latter starred Forest Whitaker and focused on a domestic team of rogue, rule-bending, leather-clad FBI agents, which executive producer Mark Gordon admits was a misstep.
"I think that it's always tricky when you have a show that is franchise-able," Gordon said Tuesday at the Television Critics Association winter previews. "We were obviously very excited about that idea when we created Suspect Behavior to take advantage of it. ... Quite honestly, one of the things that did not help us with the audience with Suspect Behavior [was] we were trying too hard to be different. When you are creating a spin-off, you want something fresh and different, but at the same time, you want to honor the show that you're spinning off from. I think that sometimes the desire to, frankly, create more is not always the best way to create a great show. It took many years between Suspect Behavior and Beyond Borders, and I think the reason it took that time was that we wanted to find something that was really organic, that felt like it was not just taking an opportunity."
Beyond Borders, which debuted as a backdoor pilot in April, takes the franchise global, following Jack Garrett's (Gary Sinise) International Response Team as they help Americans traveling abroad with the same kind of stand-up, professional spirit as the mothership. "When we did the research and found that 68 million Americans leave the United States every year, our brains just starting ticking," executive producer and creator Erica Messer said. "There is crime that happens to those Americans, and wouldn't it be amazing if there are FBI heroes who could come save them? I also think when we watch the news and we see international cases involving any Americans, we tend to lean forward and say, 'How did that happen to them?' 'That could've been me. Or my neighbor who travels. Or my brother or sister or loved ones.' We wanted to keep the relatability that Criminal Minds does so well and bring that to this series as well."
And there's no better person to capture that relatability than Sinise. The CSI: NY alum said he was drawn to the part of Jack Garrett, a 20-year FBI veteran and father of six, because of the show's subversive portrayal of law enforcement officials. "What I liked about this when I talked to Erica and Mark [is], quite often on television, you always see these characters that are constantly broken and because they deal with such a dark world, there are multiple divorces and they're going through a lot of pain in their own personal lives," he said. "On the other hand, there are several law enforcement individuals in this country that have found a way to have a successful family life, to raise kids, to keep their marriages together and all that. I know several of those people personally myself, so we decided to do that with this character, to show somebody who is able to balance home and work, even though he's dealing with a pretty dark world that these individuals go into constantly."
Jack is not the only family man on the series. Army brat Matthew Simmons (Daniel Henney) is married with four young children, while medical examiner Mae (Annie Funke), cultural anthropologist Clara (Alana De La Garza) and tech analyst Monty (Tyler James Williams) are all single. De La Garza replaced Anna Gunn, who appeared in the backdoor pilot as international law expert Lily Lambert. Messer said the Breaking Bad star's departure from the project was purely story-based.
"When we started coming up with what the series will be ... we felt like the role of an international law expert might be something that we could go to every once in a while, but it might not be that critical piece that we would need every week," she said. "What did feel like a critical piece that was actually missing for us was a cultural anthropologist because we are going to be going to different cultures every week. That became more of a necessary role and we didn't know that until we were well on our way to figuring out what our series would be."
"I cannot tell you how thrilled we are to have Gary and this cast," Gordon added. "I think what we've found is something that will delight our viewers and ... fans of Criminal Minds and at the same time bring something a little different and a little fresh to the table."
Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders premieres Wednesday, March 16 at 10/9c on CBS.
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