When it came to turning a new leaf on CBS’ procedural franchise Criminal Minds, executive producer Erica Messer cracked the scary notion of delving into international cases that center on ordinary Americans in peril.
“We tend to lean forward when something happens overseas to a neighbor or a loved one,” Messer said about how she and EP Mark Gordon plan to thrill the show’s devotees with their spinoff Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders.
On the show, Gary Sinise plays Jack Garrett, who leads an FBI unit focused on solving such foreign dilemmas. Gordon has been a fan of Sinise since seeing the actor in his Steppenwolf theater production of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. For Messer, she couldn’t see any other actor in the lead role.
But unlike other procedurals, headline ripping won’t be the go-to source for Beyond Borders writers room.
“We have the nicest group of writers who have twisted minds. They come with unique stories. What scares you won’t scare someone else, so we need to scare everyone,” said Messer. More specifically, the jumping off points for episodes stem from international scenarios that already exist and the fallout from them. Read, the first episode of Beyond Borders centers around girls who travel to Thailand to volunteer on farms, a trend that’s been going on since the 1970s. So the Beyond Borders posited: What would happen if someone horrible came into their lives?
In regards to future storylines: There’s an episode where a family travels to Mexico, the wife goes missing and is found dead, and it’s presumed the husband did it. “Trying to prove your innocence in (a situation like that) Mexico is a reality. We didn’t steal that from anywhere,” said Messer.
Then there’s a story set in Tokyo centered around the suicide forest. “We didn’t know there was a movie coming out at the same time,” said Messer about the Gramercy/Focus Features’ title The Forest. However, Beyond Borders is quite different. “You learn about the Japanese culture through that episode. Suicide is a real thing there and people do go to that forest to kill themselves. At least three Americans die there every year, but what happens in our episode is that three people die in a week.”
Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders premieres on Wednesday, March 16 at 10PM.