On CBS’ Wednesday drama “Criminal Minds,” Shemar Moore plays FBI Agent Derek Morgan, one of the FBI profiling team that heads out each week from the Behavioral Analysis Unit at Quantico, Va., to hunt down killers — usually serial killers.
With the current debate raging about the effect of on-screen violence on incidents of real-world violence, “Criminal Minds” would seem to be a natural target of the anti-violence, anti-gun movement.
Not so fast, says Moore.
“If you watch our show,” he tells Zap2it, “we don’t show any violence. It’s a very dark world that we’re in, and there are blood spatters and dead people and cut throats and things like that. It’s a nasty world that we’re depicting, but it’s real. This stuff does happen somewhere in the world.
“But if you watch our show, we’ll show you the hand going up in the air, but we’ll never show you it making impact. We’ll always cut away from it, and we’ll go to commercial or what have you. On our show, we do not show violence. We show the aftermath and the victims, and we give you the heart-wrenching realities of what’s going on.
“[The debate is] going on because of what happened in Newtown, Conn., what happened at the Batman premiere [in Aurora, Colo.], all that stuff. So, you have to raise these questions, but really, if you’re going to knock us down, you’ve got to knock down video games.”
Moore explains that as a kid, he preferred to spend his quarters on car-driving video games instead of shoot-em-ups, and that he added to his eventual driving skills by taking turns and braking while playing. So, something he practiced in a video game was later incorporated into his real life.
That leads Moore to wonder about people today spending as much time killing people in a sophisticated first-person-shooter game as he spent behind the virtual wheel at the local pizza place — or watching shows like “Criminal Minds.”
“I can only imagine,” he says, “if you’re standing in front of your TV, and your remote control is shaking and vibrating, and you’ve got Surround Sound, and it’s real-life war. It looks like a movie. The animation is incredible; it looks so real.
“It’s a whole different kind of thing — you’re killing people and seeing the blood spurt, and they fall to the ground. As opposed to our show, which is letting you know, ‘Yes, this nasty sh** happens, but it’s not good.’ We educate you at the same time, and we bring these people to justice.
“So, yeah, if you talk about violence — Hollywood is about sex and violence. If there was no sex and violence, there would be no Hollywood, and that’s not going to happen.”
But that doesn’t mean shows like “Criminal Minds” didn’t feel the heat.
“They canceled countless interviews,” says Moore, “for the cast of our show, for fear of just those conversations, because our show was getting bombarded.”
One target of questions about violent content in the wake of the elementary-school massacre in Newtown in early December was director Quentin Tarantino. His latest film, “Django Unchained,” was released in North America on Christmas Day.
Set in the Deep South just before the Civil War, it follows a freed slave (Jamie Foxx) who travels across the United States, chased by a bounty Hunter (Christopher Waltz). His goal is to rescue his wife (Kerry Washington, “Scandal”) from a plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio).
It earned good reviews and award nominations (including an Academy Award for Waltz as best supporting actor), but it also garnered criticism for its harsh language and ample amounts of graphic violence.
When questioned about violence by a British news reporter, Tarantino let loose with a rant, in which he told the reporter that he wasn’t, among other things, his “slave.” He defended his choices in the movie and denied there was a causal link between fictional and factual violence.
“Then there’s ‘Django,'” says Moore, “I loved the movie. I thought it was funny. I’m half-black, half-white, so I thought his approach to a such a sensitive topic was great. It was a stylized movie; it was a little over the top, but he made sure it was funny.
“But there were moments — and not just the whipping of slaves. That was hard for people to take, but that was real, so that, I didn’t mind. And they were shooting people up. Heads were flying off, and blood was squirting everywhere.
“I mean, so what are you going to do? You’re going to stop Quentin Tarantino from making movies? No.”
While he supports Tarantino’s artistic freedom and the style of “Criminal Minds,” that doesn’t mean that Moore is interested in actually inhabiting the dark world he visits every working day.
“Would I want to do what Derek Morgan does every day for a living?” he says. “Hell, no, I wouldn’t want to do that.”