If you’re a fan of Korean dramas, you’ll know that Henney’s claim to fame was his role in the series My Lovely Sam Soon and Spring Waltz. These days, the American actor has made a name for himself in the Hollywood circles too, scoring roles on both the small and big screens. His notable roles include Agent Zero in X-men Origins: Wolverine and Matthew Simmons in the upcoming Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders. Speaking to me over the phone from Los Angeles, the 36-year-old actor shared about his experiences working on the new TV series.
What attracted you to the role of Matthew Simmons in Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders?
Initially, it was the show writer Erica Messer that made me want to take the part. I met her for dinner one night and she was just so passionate about what she wanted to do with the show. She sat me down and she explained what she wanted out of the show and what my character was going to entail. Then she mentioned about Gary Sinise being involved and how things were coming together. At that point I thought to myself, “What better opportunity is there to get on-board than something like this right now?” It’s something I can trust.
Matt’s also a really interesting character for an Asian-American actor to play because it’s never been done before. This is the character that’s been built for the American public to fall in love with. He’s the muscle of the show, the ex-soldier, the family man (which has traditionally been played by Caucasian actors). I think it says a lot for CBS and my team to give this role to me. You’ve never seen an Asian-American or Asian man playing this role. That’s why I took the role. I want to prove that an Asian man can be that person in people’s eyes.
Did you have to do any firearms training for this role?
Yeah, we spent a lot of time on the range. I grew up shooting guns with my father in Michigan, so it was nothing new for me. I also spent a lot of time talking to the FBI guys we have on set. We have a lot of guys who are ex-FBI who are still somewhat current. Incredibly intelligent men who have now become writers and have amazing stories to tell. They’re able to give you a lot insight to what it takes to be this person (Matt Simmons). Like his thought process when he’s faced with a certain situation, for example. Talking to my dad, who’s a veteran himself, also helped quite a bit.
You’ve played quite a few gun-wielding tough guys in the past. Is this the kind of roles you’ve always wanted to play or is it due to circumstances?
I think it’s a combination of both. I grew up playing cowboys or cops and robbers, just like every other American kid did. So I guess part of it was destiny, but I try to not take the typical role that you would see an Asian man casted in because I know that has become a tendency. So even if I do take a gun-wielding role, I always try to find something with a spin to it, like Agent Zero who has a slight flair, or Matt Simmons who is more about being ex-military than just guns.
What can people expect from Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders?
A lot, actually. I know there’s a big Criminal Minds following in Asia. You’re going to get the same formula and model as Criminal Minds, including all the spooky and scary stuff, but with Beyond Borders the action is happening in a different country every episode. Just to be clear, we’re not telling you not to travel, but just be smart when you do.
The villains on this show are very, very creative and strange. The episode in Thailand sees girls being hunted and chased through the jungle by some guy. On the other hand the episode in Tokyo deals with an introverted young male who is stalking people in nightclubs. You get all kinds of crazy storylines that you wouldn’t be able to get in the States, especially when it comes to the cultures. I’m just really excited for everyone to see it.
Some time ago you worked on an animated feature Big Hero 6. What was it like and would you consider doing another one?
That was probably the best experience I’ve had in a long time. Voice acting was incredibly freeing. You get to wear sweatpants, drink coffee, and not worry about anything except having a blast in there. That movie was so special. It’s projects like this that encourage progressive thinking and can help open doors for us in the future. I was very pleased when Big Hero 6 won the Oscar. I thought that was a huge step forward even though it was animation. So I’d do a sequel in a heartbeat.
If you weren’t acting what would you be doing?
If I weren’t acting I’d probably be playing professional basketball. That was my dream. That was what I wanted to do my whole life. If I wasn’t doing that, I’d probably be a veterinarian.
Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders airs Thursdays at 9.45pm, on AXN (StarHub TV Channel 511)