'Criminal' showrunner is no stranger to mean city streets


Before the bright lights of Hollywood beckoned and after a four-year stint in the Air Force, "Criminal Minds" showrunner Ed Bernero was a Chicago police officer, and thus a witness to the types of crime scenes he'd ultimately end up writing about on "Criminal Minds." He handled many homicides, including once guarding a trash bin where a serial killer had left body parts, but it was the little details that got to him.

"There was usually some random thing at a crime scene that bugged me," he recalls. "Like, a shoe in the street at a car accident, or a little pile of things ready for the next day at a homicide victim's house."

Bernero worked the night shift, which provided him with time off during the day. While his wife was at her surgical nursing job and his kids were at school, Bernero started writing to fill the time.

"I tried to write the Great American Novel but it was horrendous," he admits. It was then he got inspiration from an unlikely source: his partner, Tommy Martinez, who also was a Chicago actor. "We were driving around, him singing, which he did constantly, and me bitching about my novel writing," Bernero says. "How's that for an unusual cop scene? Can you imagine the notes I'd get on that?" Martinez apparently got tired of the complaining, and suggested Bernero switch to writing screenplays instead. "He explained there are certain (touchpoints) you have to hit to keep from rambling," Bernero says.

Over three nights in his squad car, Bernero read one of Syd Field's screenwriting books and then took a crack at some feature scripts. And in a move that seems the perfect setting for a David Mamet play, Bernero turned to those around him for guidance. "My partners would read my stuff at night and give me notes," he says.

Bernero insists when he began writing he didn't have great aspirations to become a big-time Hollywood writer. "It never even seemed like an option at the time," he says. "Being from Chicago, writing is not something anyone thinks about a lot. It became more important as I kept at it and got encouragement."