Daniel Henney stars on Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders as Matt Simmons, one of the team members responsible for saving the lives of Americans when they find themselves in trouble off of US soil.
Henney took some time to talk with TV Fanatic by phone this week about Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders Season 2.
The premiere airs tonight after Criminal Minds, and Henney says it's very intense, "We're feeling like Season 2 starts out with a bang, and we're stepping up our game for the rest of the season, so we're super excited about it."
The very first scenes of the premiere shine a light on the core characters of Beyond Borders, allowing us to see them outside of work. Henney assures us Season 2 will continue in that vein.
"It's no secret that the first season was more of us sticking to the template and making sure the audience understands the premise, and hopefully, if we're lucky enough to get a Season 2 or 3, expand the characters more and explain who these people are, "Henney shared.
"So in season 2, we really got a chance to explore all the core characters more."
In fact, Henney noted an installment in which his character will be featured. "I'm super excited about a Matt Simmons story, actually. We have an episode where he gets to go to Korea and meets his grandmother. It's super special to me, having worked in Korea quite a bit in my life, so that was super cool."
The traveling they do on the show, however, is all smoke and mirrors, usually done within 50 miles of Los Angeles, "I travel in my dreams," Henney laughed.
"Our crew is so incredible at finding these locations and building these locations. It's been jaw dropping." Henney continued, "In Korea, when you travel, if you want to stay in a traditional Korean home in Seoul, they have these little homes called hanoks."
"They're traditional wooden Korean homes that have super low seating, really authentic decor, little courtyards with cheap little gates -- a very authentic Korean feeling. And when I was reading the script, I was thinking, 'how the heck are they going to pull this off?'"
"I went to the set three days later, and they took me down to the basement at CBS, and they'd built a huge hunok, an actual hunok, to scale. The built it. It was crazy. It's amazing what they can pull off."
From the sound of it, the crew is pretty good at repurposing, as well. We all like being green, right?
"Even for the Tanzania episode [airing tonight], I remember they got really lucky finding some existing sets," Henney shared.
"They shoot a lot of movies in the area, obviously, and we'll find pieces of sets we can use, or caves we can use from other sets, so we're definitely reaching out and using everything available to use to create these countries."
Henney was surprised to learn Simmons is much more Korean than he would have suspected from what we saw in the first season. While Henney himself didn't learn Korean until he was 25, Matt, he said, "he's kind of suppressed his Korean side. Joining the military, he's following in his family's footsteps, but he's very American, and I believe his mother spoke fluent Korean."
"It's really beautiful for me as an American to speak Korean and work with other Korean actors, and there were some really beautiful moments with the Grandmother character, but I don't want to reveal too much."
"Just being able to go there emotionally was very satisfying as an actor, and I'm very excited for everyone to see it."
Henney attributes the rewarding experience to the show's incredible producers. "Growing up, I didn't get to see that on television, you know, someone I could relate to who was Asian American. So for me, being able to be on television, and to do that, I've got to pinch myself sometimes to imagine there are some Korean or Asian kids out there who might be inspired."
With the production of the second season behind them, there is still more that could be come their way if the series is granted another season. While exploring more countries sounds like fun, for Henney, he's far more interested in exploring the core characters more in depth.
"This season, we have a couple episodes where things go wrong within the team, and there are some huge questions that arise regarding trust amongst the team, and those were really fun episodes to shoot."
It opens up exploring, "not what's between the characters, but between the characters and their pasts, the FBI and the BAU, you know, the Criminal Minds family. It's been really fun to play that."
They have a little more freedom in the second season that they didn't have in the first, and Henney shared something he enjoyed that was outside the freshman season template.
"There is an episode we take Monty into the field and it's just so fun and Tyler [James Williams] is so funny because it's that classic fish out of water thing. And it's just nice to play the comedy, to play in the moment, and it's really free-flowing this season, and we're just super happy people being able to do it."
While Matt was just on Criminal Minds Season 12 Episode 13 helping Spencer Reid get out of Mexican Prison, Heney always imagines a crossover opportunity closer to home on US soil.
"Matt has such amazing kids and a beautiful wife, and I imagine something would happen and BAU would have to get involved and that would somehow lead us to an international unsub."
"That could be really interesting to play. All of those worlds together and add the family element, that just takes the stakes even higher. That's something that could happen next season because we're introducing all these characters."
It sure sounds like they're enjoying the production of the series, but what about the actors and the behind-the-scenes action? Henney says, "There's not a serious one amongst us."
"Gary [Sinise] is probably, surprisingly, the silliest one of the bunch. He's just the greatest guy in the world; warm. Annie [Funke] and Alana [De La Garza] have him hooked on Snapchat now, so he's always making faces in videos."
"Gary will wake up and send me videos of himself as an animated piece of toast. He'll be like, 'Wake up Danny, it's time for toast!'"
"I don't think we could get along any better than we already do. We're all comedians in our own way. I'm sure they'd say I'm the most serious, but I have a really dry sense of humor, so it's different. I don't know, I love them all to death and going to work is such a pleasure. I hope we can keep doing it."
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Broadcast Television Journalists Association (BTJA), enjoys mentoring writers, wine, and passionately discussing the nuances of television. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.