Tonight on CBS, the juggernaut known as CRIMINAL MINDS spawns another spinoff. CRIMINAL MINDS: BEYOND BORDERS tracks down unsubs who dare to commit crimes against Americans on international soil. This is the concept that separates the mother ship from its newborn.
“We didn’t want to tell more stories domestically because we feel that CRIMINAL MINDS handles that very well and has done so for 11 years,” said executive producer Erica Messer earlier this year at the Television Critics Association’s Winter Press Tour. “When we did the research and found that 68 million Americans leave the United States every year, our brains just started ticking that there’s crime that happens to those Americans, and wouldn’t it be amazing if there was a team of FBI heroes that could come save you?”
Five years ago, CRIMINAL MINDS: SUSPECT BEHAVIOR became the first spinoff attempt. According to EP Mark Gordon, rushing another one to air wasn’t an option. They needed to come up with something fresh and different but still honored the original series. “We wanted to find something that was really organic, that felt that it was not just taking an opportunity, but it was, frankly, taking the right opportunity to create the right show that was organic and would be correctly in the CRIMINAL MINDS family, but had its own identity.”
On CRIMINAL MINDS, it’s the BAU or the Behavioral Analysis Unit that handles the investigations. On CRIMINAL MINDS: BEYOND BORDERS, it’s a specialized International Division of the FBI who rescue U.S. citizens in dangerous situations on a global level.
“This team, the international response is something that we came up with specifically for this show,” Messer revealed. “And it puts together great minds who have profiling as their foundation for solving crimes.”
Leading the International Response Unit is Gary Sinise, who returns to CBS after his super successful stint on CSI: NEW YORK, which ended in 2013. Messer and Gordon had Sinise in mind from the very beginning. “I remember saying to Mark early on, So I see this international team, and Gary Sinise is the leader. He said, ‘Okay. If Gary can’t do it, who can do it?’ I said, Yeah, I just think Gary Sinise is the leader.”
While Sinise’s Unit Chief Jack Garrett does share similarities with his former CSI: NY character, Mac Taylor, there’s a significant difference. “On CSI: NY, you had an individual that lost a family member. He lost his wife on September 11. He was grieving for nine seasons and then found love again at the end of the series,” said Sinise.
On CRIMINAL MINDS: BEYOND BORDERS, Garrett’s not so damaged or broken. “There are several law enforcement individuals in this country that have found a way to have a successful family, to raise kids, to keep their marriages together, all of that,” he explained. “We decided to do that with this character, to show somebody who was able to balance home and work, even though he’s dealing with a pretty dark world that these individuals go into constantly.”
The team also includes Alana Garza, who plays Ciara Seger. “Alana’s character is a cultural anthropologist who was also in the FBI,” teased Messer. “When you meet her in episode one,”, you sort of learn that she had taken off for a couple years due to a family tragedy.”
Tyler James Williams is Russ Montgomery, the resident tech analyst. “Tyler’s character is our brains behind the operation,” said Messer. “He stays home most of the time, and we’re hoping in seasons to come, if we’re so lucky, that we get to take Tyler out of his little room at Quantico and put him on the jet.”
Messer said Daniel Henney’s Matthew Simmons “grew up an Army brat, so he lived all over the world, but in a different position than being law enforcement all over the world.”
Annie Funke’s Mae Jarvis rounds out the team. She’s the medical examiner. Some may even consider her the CRIMINAL MINDS: BEYOND BORDERS version of Penelope Garcia. “She’s been working as a medical examiner for the FBI and now she’s being taken out with the tactical team,” revealed Funke. “There are definitely moments that she is sarcastic, and she’s young, and she’s feisty. She definitely has those qualities, but she’s also just one of these guys, too.”
Messer feels her show isn’t looking to rip cases straight from the headlines. “I would argue we never want to rip from the headlines, but there might be a story that somebody wants to tell, and then as they start doing the research, they find, Oh, my gosh. Did you know that happened? It didn’t happen in Turkey. It happened in Australia, but this thing actually did exist in the world.”
Just because these crimes happen abroad, doesn’t mean the production gets to travel internationally. Filming is relegated to L.A. But Gordon says the production design team behind the scenes has some serious skills. “The technology allows us to create the world that you see in the show,” said Gordon. “It’s kind of amazing what can be done. I would defy anyone to watch this show and not believe that we are traveling the globe.”
CRIMINAL MINDS: BEYOND BORDERS premieres tonight at 10/9c on CBS.