He’s got an Oscar for The Last King of Scotland, an Emmy for the TV movie Door to Door, and a busy behind-the-camera career as a producer and sought-after director. So why would Forest Whitaker take a starring role in the TV series Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior?
“I hadn’t been thinking about doing television. I hadn't chosen to. I'd been offered to a few times, and I think it wasn't the right moment for me. But they approached me at the right time,” says Whitaker, who changed his mind for several reasons. “I really liked the concept of being able to enter into the minds of people and try to understand what makes them tick and ... the duality that exists there,” he says of the show's serial-killer-chasing premise. He plays Sam Cooper, a rule-defying operative who leads a team of criminal profilers, a character first showcased in a Criminal Minds episode last spring.
An equally attractive incentive was the team behind the project. “I liked the people I met with and got to know this great group of writers, showrunner, and the cast, and it all seemed to fall into place,” he says, noting that the producers “allowed me to be deeply involved in the creation with the show. I felt really fortunate to get involved in that process.”
Another reason was the opportunity to stay put in L.A. for a change, adds the father of four, whose youngest two children still live at home. “I want to see them in these years,” he explains. “And I can be in one place to create things and still do a movie a year.”
Whitaker has a film awaiting release called Catch .44, which puts him on the opposite side of the law. “I play a killer who, whenever he kills somebody, takes on their personality. I play like five different people in the movie. One minute I’m Cuban, and the next minute I’m Southern.”
Image: Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Bing