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The Transformation Of Shemar Moore From Childhood To Criminal Minds

Long before Shemar Moore graced television screens as the stalwart, easy-on-the-eyes "Criminal Minds" profiler Derek Morgan, he lived an adventurous life. According to a Shemar Moore Unplugged interview, the actor spent his early years moving with his mother, Marilyn, to various overseas destinations -– he lived in several countries before returning to the U.S. at the age of six. Later in life, Moore would prove his athletic prowess as a collegiate baseball player scouted by the pros, as he explained to the National MS Society's Momentum Magazine.

During an interview on "Larry King Now" about his childhood, Moore remembered his overseas move not as a glamorous time but as a way for his mother to protect them both from his father's violence. The actor shared with King, "My father is in my life, but on my terms ... We [my mother and I] lived overseas and we did that to protect ourselves ... [My father] ended up spending four years in San Quentin." 

In college, the actor began his dive into the entertainment industry as a model before turning to acting. Moore has managed to embrace both the difficult situations and successful moments that have gotten him to where he stands today. In the decades Moore has spent working steadily in television and film he has won an impressive eight NAACP Image Awards along with a Daytime Emmy for his work in soap operas (per IMDb). Let's take a closer look at Shemar Moore's path to "Criminal Minds" and beyond.

Moore spent toddler years in Denmark

In an Instagram post, Shemar Moore reflected on moving to Denmark when he was only four months old. Although he was born to U.S. natives, Moore first learned to speak Danish (per ET Canada). His mother ensured her son learned the language to fit in and respect their new home. During his earliest childhood days, the actor spoke Danish more fluently than English. Alas, his ability to speak Danish crumbled as the family moved back to English-speaking countries. In his "Shemar Moore Unplugged" interview, Moore claims the only word he remembers from Danish is "flytte" — a word for move.

Moore still holds a deep love for the first country he remembers living in and gave Denmark (and his mom) a 2019 shout-out on Instagram after he returned for a visit. In part, his post read, "This is our most special moment and memory of our trip back here to where it all began in Denmark ... we found our home from 48 years ago where we lived for 3 years ... I remembered the stone in the driveway and the back yard where I used to run around naked kicking a soccer ball ... the current owner, a very nice Danish woman, was kind enough to let me and my mom walk to the back yard and just breathe it in and take a pic together ... My mother is my hero!"

Attended British private school in Bahrain

When Shemar Moore was three, he moved from Denmark to Bahrain. In an interview with Ability Magazine, the actor discussed his overseas life and his lack of bilingual ability. He didn't pick up many languages, speaking mostly English by the time he entered his school years. Moore joked, "Danish was my first language, but I only really knew enough to say, 'My diaper's dirty and I'm hungry.' And then I went to Bahrain and lived there for three years. So Denmark and Bahrain were our two mainstays as I was growing up ... My mother put me in a British private school so I could learn English because she knew she was going to bring me back to the States eventually."

Bahrain turned out to be a fairly short-lived residence for Moore, as he and his mother left the Asian nation when he was six. The Moores then lived in Ghana before moving back to the U.S., eventually settling in Palo Alto, California where Moore attended Henry M. Gunn High School. Moore talked about the difficult adjustment of living in America with BET, stating that he first encountered racism when he moved back to the U.S. he said, "It was after we moved back. I was six, and I remember how different everyone made me feel when I was in school. Why does your hair look like that, why is your skin that color?"

Moore played Division 1 baseball

After Shemar Moore settled into California life, he found he excelled in baseball and became a talented pitcher. Per the Boston Globe, the actor could pitch a 93-mile-per-hour fastball when he played for the Santa Clara University baseball team. Moore began his baseball career as a little league player in Brighton -– a Boston, Massachusetts neighborhood, and he returned to Boston to throw the first pitch at Fenway in 2007. He told the Boston Globe that while he was still in high school, he was recruited by both the Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox to play professional baseball.

However, Moore's mother urged him to get a college education before committing to either team. The actor still believed he would enjoy a future career in the big leagues, but alas, his baseball dreams wouldn't see fruition. During his college tenure, Moore began experiencing tendinitis in his arm and knee, which ended his sports career. He's still a passionate fan, though -– and has loved the Boston Red Sox since childhood.

A baseball injury paved his road to acting

If not for the abrupt end to Shemar Moore's future in baseball, the world may never have had the pleasure of seeing him onscreen. The actor told The Baltimore Sun, "If you had told me I was going to be acting for a living, I would have said you need a stiff drink or you need to go see a shrink." Before college, his extracurricular activities were laser-focused on sports. However, after he lost his baseball scholarship, Moore began to model to help pay his college tuition (via Santa Clara Magazine). The actor still wasn't thinking of branching out into acting — although, according to his biography on CBS, he did minor in theater arts. His steady modeling work led him to continue his career as he discerned his post-collegiate path.

Moore's success in modeling led him to move to the East Coast and led to his first acting audition. On his segue into acting, Moore told the Mercury News, "I was never a supermodel on the runways of New York City. It was a job-to-job struggle, getting things like the back-to-school specials for Mervyns." However, his modeling career brought some larger gigs his way and eventually led to the open doors of television.

Moore modeled for Mervyns and GQ

Per the actor's official Facebook page, Shemar Moore modeled for Macy's and Mervyn's catalogs, eventually signing with the New York City-based DNA Model Management in the 1990s. According to the "Criminal Minds" Fandom page, Moore moved on to prestigious shoots with GQ and Mademoiselle. The actor often pays homage to his modeling days on Facebook, as that job allowed him to get through college and set him on the road to an acting career. From time to time, he'll still model for the right campaigns. Much to the delight of fans everywhere, the "S.W.A.T." star participated in an exclusive photo shoot for the CBS magazine Watch in Maui.

Moore explained on "Larry King Now" that modeling also allowed him to avoid wearing a suit and tie for a living. He moved to New York City after college, where he worked at The Coffee Shop, a famous spot in Union Square that closed in 2018 (via Eater). Moore continued to search for modeling gigs as he tried to land with the right agency. When Moore landed on the pages of GQ, his future agent saw his photos and reached out to the actor–he landed an audition for the CBS soap opera "The Young and the Restless" soon after.

Television debut was on a soap opera

Shemar Moore first broke into television on "The Young and The Restless" with his role as Malcolm Winters, the younger half-brother of Neil Winters, a character played by legendary soap opera actor Kristoff St. John (who tragically passed away in 2020). Moore paid tribute to his former co-star and close friend in People Magazine, where he remembered, "Kristoff is truly the closest thing to a brother and a brother's love and a brother's mentorship that I've ever known." The actor also opened up about St. John's support and encouragement throughout his seasons on the show and said, "He didn't have to embrace me the way he did. When I came in and was trying to find my way, he saw how scared I was, he saw how nervous I was."

"The Young and The Restless" cemented Moore as a television leading man, and he beat out dozens of actors for his role. Even after he moved on from working as a cast regular, the actor returned to reprise his role with guest appearances in 2014 and 2019. Moore joined the soap's cast in 1994 and played Genoa City's most celebrated photographer until 2002, and again from 2004 to 2005. He was a Daytime Emmy nominee in 1996 and 1997 before winning an award for outstanding supporting actor in a drama series in 2000.

Made his theater debut in gospel play

After testing out his acting chops on television, Shemar Moore plunged into theater. In the musical "The Fabric of a Man" –- which the San Francisco Gate called a "mix of God and beefcake" — Moore starred as Joshua King, a tailor and aspiring fashion designer competing for the love of Dominique (Cheryl "Pepsii" Riley). Although the newspaper gave the play a mixed review, it praised Moore as someone who "cuts an attractive figure in his stage debut. He's a generous performer with an easy grace and good comic timing."

"The Fabric of a Man" also starred veteran television and film character actor Clifton Powell and debuted at San Francisco's Paramount Theater. Written by former disc jockey-turned-playwright David E. Talbert (whose work often focuses on the intersection of authentic human struggles and faith), "The Fabric of a Man" was developed as a television film in 2004. However, Moore did not return to the role of King for the filmed production. During the play's initial run, Talbert told the Post-Gazette, "The gospel stage play provides storylines and characters that are not watered down by any boardroom of white executives. That's why they're so popular with the black community."

Diary of a Mad Black Woman

In 2005, Shemar Moore appeared in his seventh silver screen role as Orlando in Tyler Perry's "Diary of a Mad Black Woman." The film, which served as Perry's directorial film debut, stars Moore as a handsome moving truck driver who begins a relationship with Helen Simmons-McCarter (Kimberly Elise) –- a soon-to-be divorcee and the granddaughter of Perry's most famous character, Madea (who's played by Tyler Perry). Moore's vulnerable yet masculine Orlando paved the way for future protagonists played by the actor, including Derek Morgan.

The actor sat down with MovieWeb to talk about playing Orlando. "Orlando, for me, is going to hopefully show men that it's okay to be vulnerable. It's okay to put your heart on your sleeve ... And through that vulnerability comes strength," he said. Since the film's release, Moore's subsequent roles have embodied his vision for Orlando, as in many ways both Derek Morgan of "Criminal Minds" and Daniel "Hondo" Harrelson from "S.W.A.T." are richer, more developed versions of Orlando. "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" began as a Tyler Perry play and served as the film foundation of his Madea-centered production empire (via AMC Theaters). The film fared well with audiences but received harsh reviews from critics like the Austin Chronicle.

Moore rode the Soul Train

Even the most hardcore Shemar Moore fans may not know that the actor had a stint as the host of "Soul Train." From 2000 to 2003, Moore acted as the second-to-last host on the iconic dance variety show; the show ended in 2006 after Dorian Gregory took over the role. 

"Soul Train" debuted in 1971 and was a pioneering television program that was produced and hosted by African Americans while showcasing African American musicians, vocalists, and dancers (via NPR). When the creator of the legendary show, Don Cornelius, died in 2012, Moore spoke to ET about his passing, saying, "Don Cornelius was responsible for a show that revolutionized the music industry ... It was truly my honor to continue the tradition and be a part of history by being given the opportunity by Don to host 'Soul Train.'"

"Soul Train" aired for three decades and helped awkward teenagers across the U.S. learn to perfect their dance moves and sharpen their fashion sense. Moore replaced Mystro Clark as the host of "Soul Train" and danced on the program. The actor later joked with Extra TV about his dancing, stating that "women got pregnant after that dance."

Examined the minds of criminals

Although Shemar Moore has worked steadily on television for almost thirty years, he's probably most well-known for portraying FBI agent Derek Morgan on "Criminal Minds." Morgan's authentic, fearless heart made him a pivotal member of his high-risk FBI team, and Moore layered the character with real-life struggles, too. The primetime hit show raised the actor's public profile, and Derek Morgan has proven to be character fans love.

Moore joined the "Criminal Minds" cast for the pilot episode and left the show in 2016 after playing Derek Morgan for 11 seasons. Moore spoke to E! Online about his last episode on the show, stating, "It's one of, if not the, proudest episodes of my career ... for 11 years to culminate the way it did and for me to go out the way I did last night." Unfortunately, when the series wrapped in 2020, any hopes of Moore appearing for one last appearance were dashed. The actor was busy filming "S.W.A.T." and Moore didn't have time to show up for the finale

According to Variety, a revived "Criminal Minds" is in the works at Paramount+ — but there's no word on whether or not Moore will show up in any episodes.

A member of the S.W.A.T. team

After he left "Criminal Minds," Shemar Moore didn't stay idle for long. He landed the role of LAPD S.W.A.T. team leader Daniel "Hondo" Harrelson on the CBS hit police procedural "S.W.A.T." in 2017. The series, which is based on both the 2003 film and the 1975 television show, quickly became a staple of the CBS lineup (via Deadline). Moore talked to CBS News about his character and the show in general, explaining that "Daniel 'Hondo' Harrelson is Derek Morgan on steroids and not just physically ... Hondo is a S.W.A.T. member and the members of this show have a responsibility to make things authentic for the men and women that serve."

Moore's performance as Hondo adds nuance and authenticity to the character, who struggles to balance community relations with effective law enforcement work. "S.W.A.T." isn't as dark as "Criminal Minds," but it is packed with action, focuses on timely real-life issues, and is positioned to remain a long-running hit for CBS. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, the show's co-creator Aaron Thomas spoke about the series' response to civil and racial unrest in the United States. "It was always a no-brainer for us to have a response to it, mainly because we had the advantage of our show being about community relations and ways to improve it," Thomas explained.

Moore is an advocate for National MS Society

Funding for multiple sclerosis research and treatment is a cause that fuels Shemar Moore's passion as the disease has touched him personally. Moore told People that his mother Marilyn was diagnosed with MS in 1999, and she passed away in 2020. Although she struggled with MS, Moore's mother managed to live for over 20 years with the disease. Moore was extremely close to his mom, and he opened up about his grief over her death on Instagram.

Moore has worked closely with the National MS Society, specifically as a part of the Southern California chapter. Moore has used his celebrity and love for cycling as a way to fundraise for the non-profit group –- he's participated in the Bike MS cycling tour for over a decade. Brain & Life reported that Moore had assembled members of the "Criminal Minds" cast and crew for the "MS Start to Finish Bike Tour" in 2006 to raise MS awareness, and he's been cycling for the cause ever since.

Played Randall Handel in Sonic the Hedgehog 2

Shemar Moore joined the cast of "Sonic the Hedgehog 2," the sequel to the hit action feature "Sonic the Hedgehog," as Randall Handel, one of the live-action characters in the film. Randall Handel is introduced as the fiancé of Rachel (Natasha Rothwell), and in keeping with Moore's law enforcement type-casting, Handel is also an undercover G.U.N. (Guardian Units of Nations) agent. However, Handel and the rest of his G.U.N. friends reveal their nefarious purposes and abduct Sonic and his friends, which, in a very against-type move for the actor, means that Moore ends up being a villain.

The film, which also stars Idris Elba, Jim Carrey, and James Marsden, debuted at the top box office spot and has broken the records of the first "Sonic the Hedgehog" film. It beat its predecessor's box office earnings of $319 million and now stands as the highest-grossing video game movie ever in the U.S., raking in $401 million worldwide. We can't wait to see what role Moore takes next!