The FBI’s International Response Team returned to action last Wednesday when Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders made its season debut on CBS. Tonight the second episode of season two, “Il Mostro,” will air on CBS at 10/9c. In preparation for tonight’s episode, CBS Local’s Matt Weiss spoke with Gary Sinise who plays the unit’s veteran leader, Jack Garrett.
MW- Thank you for taking the time to talk to me today Gary, now you’re no stranger to crime scene dramas having played Detective Mac Taylor on CSI: NY for nine seasons and now you’re in your second season of Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders as Jack Garrett, did your experience with CSI: NY motivate you to take on this role?
GS- Here’s the thing about CSI: NY, that was an already successful franchise with two very successful shows. The idea of playing that character sounded great to me and I was blessed to have that for nine seasons. It was sort of the perfect thing at the time of my life. When I was approached by [Criminal Minds producers] Erica Messer and Mark Gordon about a spin-off of Criminal Minds, having had some great success already on CBS I thought this might be a good thing to try, and it was!
I love working with this cast and the thing that was really interesting to me is that every episode is going to be in a different country so you have a different set of rules. Even though we operate similarly from country to country, the local law enforcement in each place is always going to be different so that presents the writers and certainly our team with a set of specific challenges that are unique each episode. I really enjoy it.
MW- Speaking of all the different countries that the show takes place in, as part of the FBI’s International Response Team your character is in a different location every week, what is that like from a creative standpoint?
GS- It makes things very interesting, especially for the writers because they have to research each one of these country’s different sets of rules and apply it to what we’re doing. Sometimes these local police forces and law enforcement folks want us there and sometimes they’re offended that we show up. So we have to navigate different things in different episodes.
Tonight’s episode takes place in Italy, it’s a fairly cooperative environment for us and we’re dealing with a case that was never solved. Evidence is pointing to a previous case that involves a serial killer they’ve labeled “Il Mostro.” A lot of the evidence and investigating that we do points to this old case. So one of our guys, Joe Mantegna from Criminal Minds, his character worked on that case years ago helping the Italians try to solve the case. We go back to Joe and he provides us with a lot of information from his character’s investigation years ago.
It’s kind of cool we get to cross over a little bit with Criminal Minds and we’ve got a great guest star in Paul Sorvino who comes on the show tonight as this great scary Italian dude. I had worked with Paul years ago and it was great to have him on the show.
MW- Your character, Jack Garrett, has this crazy professional life traveling around the world, but he also has a family back home. What’s it like playing this complex character who has to balance two very different lives happening at the same time?
GS- I love that. There are so many police officers and law enforcement folks in television who live in this dark world and they bring it back home with them, and certainly there are law enforcement folks that go through a lot of that.
Also we have law enforcement folks that have a happy, solid home life and I wanted to present that point of view. Our central character, Jack Garrett, is married to his high school sweetheart and they have a big family with six kids.
In this season, we’ll get to meet all the kids in the family. It’s nice that we get to introduce the family life aspect of this law enforcement guy who’s dealing with some very dark stuff and tries not to bring that home with him and has managed to have a long successful marriage and raise his kids.
There are a lot of families out there that just keep passing it on from generation to generation they’re all firefighters or police officers. Well here you’ve got Jack Garrett whose father and uncle were both in the FBI, he’s in the FBI, and his son is going into the FBI. Then you have another son that goes into Special Forces in the army, there is also a daughter at the academy in Annapolis that will be a navy officer, so it’s nice to explore that. Then there is another daughter that goes to USC and two more kids at home, lots to play with there.
MW- Well I’m very excited for the show tonight and the rest of the season as a whole, before we go I wanted to talk to you about the Gary Sinise Foundation and all the work you’ve done for veterans and their families. You played the role of Lieutenant Dan in Forrest Gump and you’ve been involved with helping veterans for a long time, you also received the 1994 Disabled American Veteran National Commander’s Award, what motivated you to get into this work and start your foundation?
GS- That’s a full time mission for me. I created a foundation so that we could do more. I was spending a lot of time with different military charities; I have veterans in my family going back to World War One so it starts there for me. I started working with Vietnam veterans back in the 80s and then in the 90s I played the Vietnam veteran, he was a wounded soldier, so I started working with our wounded veterans through the Disabled American Veterans Association.
Then after September 11th I got very involved with supporting our active duty folks deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan and I started my own foundation in 2011. We’ve grown pretty substantially in the past 5 and a half years and we have great support from the American people which allows us to do so much more.
I’m always on the road doing something, I just got back from taking 45 veterans and 45 high school students down to the National World War Two Museum in New Orleans with our Soaring Valor Program. We have a program with the World War Two Museum where, with the support of American Airlines, we bring World War Two veterans to the museum and we record them on video and all those oral histories are preserved for the museum to archive.
We’ve done this a number of times and I wanted to add an educational component to that, so we paired up high school students with veterans. Each student got to travel with a veteran, learn from that veteran, see the museum through their eyes and those kids lives were changed by that. They will never look at military service or what happened to our country 75 years ago in the same way, they’ll always have a new perspective because they spent time with someone who actually fought that war.
I’m very passionate about this and I put my boots to the ground here and I want the American people to trust that. If anyone out there wants to support the men and women who serve our country, past and present, and the families who serve alongside them, I hope they’ll go to GarySiniseFoundation.Org and check out what we’re doing.
MW- Thank you again for the time and it’s been a pleasure to talk to you today.
GS- My pleasure, take care.
Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders airs Wednesdays on CBS at 10/9c. Check your local listings for more information.