The TV world has gone spin-off mad. Sometimes the concept really works: think Angel from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Private Practice from Gray’s Anatomy or Frasier from Cheers. Others, of course, aren’t so successful – Friends spin-off Joey, and Holby Blue, based on Holby City (itself a spin-off from Casualty) are among the ones we’d rather forget.
So naturally we were a little sceptical of new show Criminal Minds: Suspect Behaviour. It doesn’t offer much deviation from the original police procedural show, the main difference being a new cast who play another elite group of profilers working for the FBI. Even the location is the same: they’re also based at Quantico in Virginia. The new show carries over just one character – Penelope Garcia, a computer analyst from the previous unit.
However, when we heard that Oscar winner Forest Whitaker, lauded for his turn in The Last King of Scotland, was stepping into the lead role of Sam Cooper, we changed our tune. We caught up with the leading man to get the inside track on the new series.
What attracted you to starring in a TV show?
They approached me at the right time. I’ve been away a lot, and I have a family and children. It was a big consideration for me to be here in Los Angeles. Two of my children are off to college, and with the two younger ones, I realised I’ve been travelling and working for a lot of their lives. I decided that I wanted to be by their side more.
Have your children shown any interest in following in your footsteps?
They are artists. One of my daughters wants to be a composer; one is a singer.
And what did you like about this particular show?
I like what the show is about, exploring the mind and trying to understand what people are capable of, the duality that exists in everyone. I’d asked if we would be exploring what the core of someone is, because once you do that, you can sometimes find a way of healing it.
Can you tell us about your character?
Our group is made up of behavioural analysts, but I don’t follow rules. My character, Sam Cooper, came back to this unit only if he could operate without rules. This man I play is deeply spiritual and he believes everyone has a light inside them, a flame that’s been covered up by different experiences. That’s what he’s looking for.
The original show was used as a starting point for the series. Do you feel the spin-off will live up to Criminal Minds?
I recently watched as it went along and I thought it was really fascinating. When they talked to me about what I might bring to the show, I was excited, because my character really believes that each person has a certain light inside of them and he has to discover it. So he’s searching and searching to figure out this behaviour, so it’s exciting.
You’ve directed several movies. Would you be interested in directing an episode of the show?
They talked to me about it; I think if we get to the next season, I’ll do it.
It’s been four years since your Oscar win for your role in The Last King of Scotland. Where do you keep the trophy?
It’s displayed at home: when the family goes down the stairs, they can see it. It’s not the kind of thing that sits in the middle of the room.
With the commitment of doing a series, does this mean taking a break from your movie career?
I’ll do whatever. I’ll do a video. I’ll direct. I just like to create and I’m having a great time on the show. I won’t do as many movies. I’ll do one a year – I’ll try not to do two. So one movie a year – that’s what most of
my peers do anyway.
You look like you’ve been working out to play the role.
I trained and I changed my eating pattern and my lifestyle quite a bit. I’d done Last King and people’s image of actors is always bigger, but in that case I got really big. I just wanted to look after my health and my
family, so I just started working on it for that. It just happened that this show came along.
Criminal Minds: Suspect Behaviour airs every Sunday from June 5 at 9pm on OSN First and OSN First HD.
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