Daniel Henney Joins Main Cast of “Criminal Minds” in Season 13 Premiere

“Wheels Up” — Coverage of the CBS series CRIMINAL MINDS, scheduled to air on the CBS Television Network. Pictured: Daniel Henney (Special Agent Matt Simmons), Kirsten Vangsness (Penelope Garcia). (Photo credit: Sonja Flemming/CBS
©2017 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved)

Although Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders was canceled earlier this year after two seasons, fans of the Criminal Minds franchise need not despair about losing their fix of Special Agent Matthew Simmons any time soon.

In breaking entertainment news reported earlier this month, CBS revealed that hunky and all-round-awesome-guy Daniel Henney (Big Hero 6) will join the cast of the long-running main Criminal Minds series in the show’s season 13 opener, reprising his role as Simmons.

You can read my exclusive interview with actor Daniel Henney from when Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders debuted in 2016.

“Wheels Up” — Coverage of the CBS series CRIMINAL MINDS, scheduled to air on the CBS Television Network. Pictured: Daniel Henney (Special Agent Matt Simmons). (Photo credit: Sonja Flemming/CBS ©2017 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved)

Henney’s Special Agent Matthew Simmons was a breakout fan favorite of Criminal Minds: Beyond Border. Introduced as an old colleague of Criminal Minds’ Derek Morgan (Shemar Moore), Simmons was a radical departure from the stereotypical portrayal of Asian American men in media. Indeed, in his 2016 interview with me, Henney discusses how media stereotypes of Asian American men influenced his decision to take the role of Simmons on Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders.

My character on Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders is very different from what we’ve seen in the past. I feel a lot of responsibility with this role. My character, Matthew Simmons, is kind of the field guy, the “muscle” guy. He’s a family man: he’s married, and not a womanizer or single. He’s a really incredible, all-American guy, which is not something we’re used to seeing by an Asian American actor. I’m really excited to hopefully show with this character that Asian men can be cool, and you can follow us into battle and trust us, and also be a little bit attracted to us, too.

Over Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders‘ two seasons, Simmons served as the FBI International Response Team’s resident military veteran, and often played a key role in the show’s more action-oriented scenes. In that way, Simmons fulfilled many of the same functions as Criminal Minds‘ Derek Morgan. Also like Criminal Minds’ Morgan, athleticism didn’t solely define Simmons’ function: Simmons was also a talented and insightful profiler. Most notably, Simmons was intentionally introduced as a dedicated family man whose primary concern was how to balance the demands of his time-consuming and dangerous job with his marriage to wife Kristy (Kelly Frye, The Flash) and raising of their three young children.

During Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders, Henney’s Simmons grappled with his identity as a biracial Asian American, and in Season One’s Episode 17 (“Pretty Like Me”), it is suggested that his paternal grandparents (who were white) rejected his parents’ marriage. In conjunction with a case in South Korea, Simmons describes how his Korean-born mother was left at an orphanage before the Korean War and was later adopted before moving to America with Simmons’ father. As a consequence of Simmons’ mother’s childhood traumas, her desire to forge a new life in America, and the chaos of the Korean War, Simmons was raised with few connections to Korea other than having been taught to speak Korean. However, in the episode, Simmons travels to South Korea in hopes of fulfilling his dying mother’s wish to find her biological birth mother.

In joining the Criminal Minds cast, Henney will replace Damon Gupton’s Supervisory Special Agent Stephen Walker, whose storyline exit from the show remains unclear. Walker was introduced in Criminal Minds Season 12 as one of two new characters to join the cast after series regulars Shemar Moore and Thomas Gibson both left the series. Gupton’s Walker was presented as an experienced profiler brought on to help catch Season 12’s recurring villain, Peter Lewis (aka Mr. Scratch).

According to Entertainment Weekly, in the Season 12 finale, the entire Behavioral Analysis Unit is involved in a terrible car accident, prompting Kirsten Vangsness’ Penelope Garcia to call Special Agent Simmons. Simmons and Garcia travel to rescue the team, only to learn that one character is missing. The remainder of the episode features Simmons working with the surviving BAU team members to recover their lost agent. Based on this work, Henney’s Simmons apparently decides to join the Criminal Minds series to help in the ongoing search to stop Mr. Scratch.

Henney’s Simmons is one of the rare examples in mainstream media of an Asian American male character written as athletic, sexy, and socially well-adjusted. It is more than a little exciting to have Simmons’ character join one of primetime television’s longer-running and highest-profile television crime-scene procedurals, where Henney’s stereotype-defying character can —  for millions of television viewers — push back against the usual media tropes of Asian American men as geeky, awkward, and asexual. For sure, Daniel Henney is anything but; as he said in 2016, Henney’s Matthew Simmons proves that Asian American men are “cool, and you can follow us into battle and trust us, and also be a little bit attracted to us, too.”

I, for one, will definitely be following Simmons to the Criminal Minds Season 13 premiere, which airs on Wednesday, September 27th on CBS.

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