Criminal Minds: Behind The Scenes SecretsPublished on April 12, 2017. Updated February 20, 2020
Since 2005, fans have been absolutely hooked on Criminal Minds. Despite 15 complete seasons, the show never faltered for new material and new exciting cases for the BAU team to work on. After so much time, the show gained millions of loyal and passionate fans who soaked up everything there is to know about the show. What was less talked about with the series, however, is what went on behind the scenes to make Criminal Minds one of the longest-running and most popular series on TV season after season. From set life to drama we don’t see on-screen, here are some behind the scenes secrets from Criminal Minds:
9. First Shocking Exit
Over its many seasons, Criminal Minds has seen many cast change-ups including its unusually fair share of dramatic and shocking exits. The very first one was from Mandy Patinkin, who starred in Criminal Minds for two seasons and two episodes of season three as Jason Gideon before he just stopped reporting to work in 2007. He didn’t inform any member of the cast or crew and never came back. “He gave us no advance notice that anything was wrong, no opportunity to find a way to make the loss of this character work, no indication that we should be looking for someone else,” executive producer Ed Bernero said. Five years later, Patinkin spoke out about why he left the way he did, and the impact the show had on him. “The biggest public mistake I ever made was that I chose to do Criminal Minds in the first place. I thought it was something very different. I never thought they were going to kill and rape all these women every night, every day, week after week, year after year. It was very destructive to my soul and my personality. After that, I didn’t think I would get to work in television again. I’m not making a judgement on the taste [of people who watch crime procedurals]. But I’m concerned about the effect it has. Audiences all over the world use this programming as their bedtime story. This isn’t what you need to be dreaming about.”
With all of the exits of stars and firings, it was especially difficult for writers and filming because of the timing of getting the show filmed. Many fans assume that entire seasons are completed before they air, but that is not the case. Criminal Minds has at most three episodes filmed and ready before each season starts and are about two weeks ahead at any time, but when someone abruptly leaves the show, the filming is thrown into turmoil.
7. Shemar Moore’s Drama
Shemar Moore was one of the most beloved stars of the series before his exit at the end of season 11, but he also had his drama on set. In 2016, Moore revealed that he was robbed of more than $60,000 from a former friend and guest star on Criminal Minds. In 2013, Moore struck up a friendship with Keith Tisdell after he appeared in a season eight episode of the series as Rodney Harris. The two become close friends fast and Moore invited Tisdell to work with him on his company Baby Girl LLC which raises funds for multiple sclerosis research. Unfortunately, Tisdell took money from the company and Moore had to take him to court where Tisdell was ordered to repay a total of $61, 084. “In my mind, he wasn’t man enough to look me in the eye and fess up,” Moore told the judge, revealing that he had bought Tisdell $10,000 rims for his car, paid for overseas vacations and even lent him up to $20,000 for other expenses, only to find out Tisdell was robbing him the whole time. “I’ve done a lot for him because he had me, my friends fooled.” Moore continued. “I’m not here for money. I’m here because he betrayed a friendship. This is not OK. You don’t do this to people.
6. Not Promising
Twelve seasons later, no one can say Criminal Minds isn’t a huge success, but that wasn’t the general feeling when they began filming back in 2005. Former star Thomas Gibson recalled his first day on set, and working with Mandy Patinkin before his dramatic exit, stating, “The script was very good, but Mandy was a little hard to work with. Very good when functional – which was not often. The whole experience was unusual to say the least – the writer was fired and I remember watching an early cut of an episode thinking ‘that was fun to do, but I’m going to have to find another job.'” To Gibson’s shock and surprise, that wasn’t the case at all. “Well, firstly of course, the writers solved some of the problems. But, yes, it is crazy that here we are, 11 years on, with a show that found its legs and an audience.”
5. Lighting A Scene
It may seem like a simple thing, but one of the biggest roles behind the cameras is the lighting of scenes for Criminal Minds. It takes on average 12 people or more on the lighting crew alone for filming and it is the key factor in making the series as realistic as it seems. The crew’s chief lighting technician, Ffilip Bolton, is required to go on all location scouting when the show shoots off of it soundstage which is located in the Glendale area of Los Angeles. Shooting on location becomes a huge problem because the mass amounts of power Bolton needs for his lighting crew because each light runs on 1200-1400 amps. He also revealed that it was significantly harder to film night scenes or at least making scenes look like nighttime when it really isn’t.
4. Penelope and Derek
Many Criminal Minds fans are well aware that the character of Penelope Garcia played by Kirsten Vangsness was only supposed to be in one episode, and has now become one of the show’s longest running stars. Fans always loved her character’s on-screen flirtations with Shemar Moore’s Derek Morgan, but it is because of their real chemistry off-screen she was brought in as a regular, and they incorporated the way they really were with each other into the show. “I was only supposed to be in one episode and then they brought me in for the second one. They said, ‘Okay, Now everybody except the regular cast can leave. I had never seen Shemar, Shemar and I had talked on the phone, but I had never seen him. Then, at the end of the table read, they said, ‘Everyone but the main cast needs to leave. We have to watch this sexual harassment thing.’ I didn’t know if I was supposed to stay or leave, so I stayed and I was sitting right next to Shemar. He was joking around during the sexual harassment thing, and I both wanted to be liked by the popular kid and I wanted to follow directions, so I’m very quietly joking around with him back. Then that night, I get a call. They’re like, “You have new script pages.” I was like, “That’s weird.” Then they sent me this re-write and it included some of the things that I was doing with Shemar. We shot together the next day and we were like, “Oh, my gosh. We have chemistry.” Neither one of us knew it until we were doing it and it just built from there,” Vangsness explained. For awhile many believed that the pair were actually in a real relationship, but Vangsness was actually dating a woman and they became engaged.
3. Anger Management
In the summer of 2016, Criminal Minds was thrown into upheaval when longtime star and leader of the BAU Thomas Gibson as Aaron Hotchner was abruptly fired after allegedly kicking one of the writers on set. After the shocking news, it was soon discovered that this wasn’t Gibson’s only issue behind the scenes. In December of 2010, the actor reportedly shoved assistant director Ian Woolf after the two men got into a heated argument on set. At that time, CBS had already identified growing issues with the star and they ordered him to attend anger management counseling. Only a few years after the anger management, Gibson was arrested in downtown L.A. for drunk driving, which resulted in three years probation, a fine, and he was ordered to attend an alcohol education program. Three years after that, he was fired for his onset altercation with Virgil Williams.
Before the show can become what it is to fans, it all starts with the writers and Criminal Minds has an interesting process. When a writer takes the lead on an episode, they are encouraged to also produce it. “This means you are the expert of your episode and are there through every step of the way,” said Erica Messer, a writer and producer of the series. “After the shoot, the episode goes into post-production. The editor turns in a cut to the director and then the director turns in his/her cut to the producers. Once all of the producers watch the cut and give feedback, the writer of that episode joins the editor in the cutting room to get the episode ready for the studio and network. Their notes are incorporated, post-production does the rest of their magic with the score and then you get to watch!” She also revealed that once a script is received it usually takes up to seven days of pre-production prep before they can get started on the episode.
1. Keeping It Lighthearted
Although Mandy Patinkin explained after his exit the toll filming such a dark show took on him, the year before he also stated the show had “worn me down. It is physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting.” Additionally Kirsten Vangsness has said she can’t watch many of the episodes because it is too creepy. Due to the mental and emotional impact of the material of the show, Lola Glaudini, who portrayed Elle Greenaway until 2006, revealed real-life profilers gave them tips on how to handle it. “They said go home, shut the door, take a shower and play with your kids. If you don’t, you don’t survive.” The cast and crew always came up with ways to make it lighthearted and remember it is just acting. “I take my cure from the crew, who treat it like a comedy half the time,” Patinkin said. They also joked around on set which included using the name of the show’s real-life staff on the list of victims during their conferences. “We say, you haven’t lived until you’ve died on Criminal Minds.”