Tuesday night I attended the PaleyFest Fall TV Preview Party for CBS's new shows and though I was shut out of the main theater, I had the pleasure of watching the festivities in hi-def, under the star,s on the roof of Beverly Hills' Paley Center. The evening kicked off with a terrific panel featuring the entire cast of the net's hit procedural drama Criminal Minds, which returns for season 7 Wednesday, Sept. 21.
It was especially cool for me, a kind of unofficial reunion - I co-starred on a Season Four episode. :)
It was great to see previously let-go stars A.J. Cook (Jennifer "J.J." Jareau) and Paget Brewster (Emily Prentiss) back with their on screen family, as was expressed by all repeatedly. Star Joe Mantegna (David Rossi) tweeted recently about how "the band's finally back together again," adding that in this new season, the "bad-assery is at a new level." Executive producer Erica Messer was also on hand, sharing that the new season will explore the intricate layers of our heroes more than ever before.
Commenting on what makes their show such a success, Shemar Moore (Derek Morgan) said "You've got seven people that are very different, but we all come together so well .. The chemistry you see here (gesturing to his castmates) is what is put up on the screen." Added Kirsten Vangsness (Penelope Garcia) added, "So many lemons happened ... the testament to everything is how much lemonade is getting made from all of those lemons." "So this messing with a good thing that happened actually kind of worked," capped Thomas Gibson (Aaron "Hotch" Hotchner).
After being let go, Brewster let it be known that she was going to do a pilot, from which she was advised by the CM powers-that-be that maybe she shouldn't. Her answer? "Well, you kinda broke up with me, so I'm gonna go out there and see what's going on." Fortunately for the show, the pilot was not picked up, allowing for Brewster's return, making her realize that she'd missed it far more than she was prepared for. Brewster also commented on how fans' reaction to Prentiss' "death" was overwhelming.
When the show returns, time will have passed - about seven months - and we'll be privy to what the various characters have been up to: J.J. is now a full profiler, Hotch has been in Pakistan, Rossi's been on a book tour, Reid has been dealing with his mother and Morgan has been working to "get redemption for his friend," going after big bad Ian Doyle (Timothy Murphy), having taken Prentiss' death very hard. Then, of course, there's the return of Prentiss. Messer, when faced on how to stage/write each character's reaction, rather than dictate what they would do, ultimately she decided to just "sit back and let them react." The result is apparently quite powerful. "There so much about our show that's done in the silences," commented Moore.
The upcoming season will introduce viewers Rossi's first wife, played by Isabella Hoffman (Dear John, Homicide: Life on the Street). We may also deal more with (Spencer) Reid's headaches, introduced last season, and maybe a girlfriend? "I don't know," confessed portrayer Matthew Gray Gubler. "I'm always like the last to know." "They want to know about real life," teased Moore. Gubler: "I got nothing." Moore: "You're a good actor and a shitty liar."
More teasing occurred when Gibson's recent beard was addressed (and written into the show). Sporting a healthy 5 o'clock shadow, Gibson stated "I shaved this morning," to which a fully-bearded Mantegna topped "I shaved five minutes ago!"
Garcia will retain her promotion from last season, being the point person for presenting the cases to the team. Happy to have those scenes because it allows her to work with her castmates, she admits that "it's like a festival of inside jokes that I don't know. And they're all laughing, so I'm like, 'What happened?' and then I catch up and then I'm gone again and it's like the first day of school over again."
The panel ended with a round-robin question posed to all: What character are they jealous of or who would they most like to play?
Vangsness: It's a six-way tie, but Prentiss is first cause "she's such a bad-ass."
Cook: Dr. Reid, cause "he's such a nerd. A nerd and a bad-ass."
Gubler: Believes he was born to play an unsub (unknown subject, the big bad of each episode). Because the skin under his eyes is dark, he's often mistaken as the unsub by guest stars to the show.
Moore: "We play the characters we're supposed to play." Though he believes the coolest parts are the victims and the unsubs.
Brewster: Often when tweeting, she pretends to be Moore. Example? "Yo yo yo, you know what freaks me out? Owls!"
Gibson: "Anybody without a tie."
Montegna: SSA "Buffalino" (not sure of spelling, sorry), the agent whose picture hangs in the BAU above the coffee maker. Apparently he's been on leave for five years...
One more cool fact: the "Wall of Fallen Agents" hanging in the BAU consists of photos of the writers and crew of the show, past and present.
Check out the season premiere of Criminal Minds Wednesday, Sept. 21 at 9 p.m. on CBS.
And check out the Cast's awesome new music video: