As Mac Taylor on “CSI:NY,” Gary Sinise spent nine years tracking down criminals in New York City. As Jack Garrett on his new CBS series, “Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders,” premiering March 16, he will travel the world in search of bad guys.
“The main ingredient that separates us from the other ‘Criminal Minds’ show, is that we’ve created, what we call, the International Response Team, which is based on the FBI’s Rapid Deployment Logistics Unit that responds when Americans are in jeopardy overseas, so we’re going to do a different country every episode,” Sinise tells FOX411.
“Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders” will tell stories of Americans who are missing, murdered or in a hostage situation. It will follow the basic heroes vs. villains formula, with some kind of rescue each week. Initially, though, it is going to be avoiding terrorist storylines.
An interesting statistic, according to Sinise, is that in an average year, there can be 140 to 150 cases around the world of Americans disappearing. With that number, there is no shortage of tales to tell.
At first glance at ‘Beyond Borders,’ it may seem as if Sinise is pretty much playing a similar role to the one he played on “CSI: NY,” because both Mac and Jack are law enforcement. But that is where the comparison ends. Their personal stories make the characters different. Where Mac was grieving the loss of his wife in the September 11 attacks, and he was single until he found love again in the final season, Jack is that rare exception in law enforcement, who has a happy home life.
“Somehow he’s found a way to be a successful dad — he has six kids, hang on to his marriage to his high school sweetheart, and yet he goes into very serious situations, very dark places, and deals with a lot of dangerous criminals,” Sinise says. “He’s dealing with psychology all the time that could mess with a lesser person’s mind, but he’s very well trained and has managed to balance both things.”
When he’s not acting, Sinise dedicates a good portion of his time to the work of his Gary Sinise Foundation, which honors America’s veterans, first responders and their families.
From the outside looking in, it might appear as if Sinise’s connection to veterans began when he played Lieutenant Dan Taylor in “Forrest Gump.” But the reality is it started earlier. Sinise got involved with Vietnam veterans in the Chicago area back in the ’80s because of the Vietnam vets in his family.
Playing Lieutenant Dan was an added bonus because it led him to becoming associated with America’s wounded through the Disabled American Veterans organization.
“Because I played a wounded soldier, in the ’90s I started working with Disabled American Veterans, and then after September 11, when we deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, and people started getting hurt, and we started to lose people, I was terribly interested in trying to do what I could to support them.”
That support takes a variety of forms as the Gary Sinise Foundation stays flexible to meet the current needs of members of the military, as well as veterans, and first responders.
“One of our big programs is taking care of our wounded by building them specially designed, smart technology homes that address their needs,” he says. “If you are missing your arms and your legs, you’re going to have some special challenges, so we try to provide opportunities within the home for that wounded service member to be more independent, using technology that is easy to work with and operate, that can help them and their caregiver, whoever it is — their spouse, their mom, their dad, to help them to be more independent.”
Another program, is Gary Sinise & the Lt. Dan Band, which goes out several times a year and performs concerts.
“My foundation produces the Invincible Spirit Festival,” Sinise says. “This is when we bring food, fun, and music into the hospital environment. We get the patients outside, setup a big stage, and give them a day-long festival to boost their morale, raise their spirits, and show them they are appreciated.”
The first Invincible Spirit Festival in 2016 was in February at the Naval Medical Center San Diego. Coming up, Gary Sinise & the Lt. Dan Band will be performing at Fort Irwin, Calif. on March 19, in Washington, D.C. on May 21 to celebrate Armed Forces Day, and at the Hotel Del Coronado on June 19 for Father’s Day.
“Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders” premieres March 16 on CBS.