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Crininal Minds cast seson three: Matthew Gray Gubler, Paget Brewster, Kirstin Vangsness, Thomas Gibson , Joe Mantegna, Shermar Moore, AJ Cook

Criminal Minds then and now - a look back at the stars of the hit show

Criminal Minds: Evolution is on Paramount+

Rebecca Lewis
Rebecca Lewis - Los Angeles
Los Angeles correspondentLos Angeles
July 3, 2024
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Criminal Minds has been a mainstay on television screens since 2005 – so popular that when CBS canceled the show in 2020 the outrage saw it return two years later, now known as Criminal Minds: Evolution.

The series follows a group of criminal profilers who work for the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) to investigate crimes and find the unsub (unknown subject) of various cases across the United States.

There have been some major cast and character changes over the years, so let's take a look back at the OG cast members, still beloved by fans now, and those who remain on screen solving the toughest cases imaginable….  


Mandy Patinkin as Jason Gideon in Criminal Minds© CBS

Mandy Patinkin as Jason Gideon, season one - two

Homeland star Mandy was the lead in Criminal Minds for two seasons as FBI Senior Supervisory Special Agent Jason Gideon, known as one of the FBI's most profilers ever.

However Jason begins to feel burnt out, and when his girlfriend Sarah is murdered by serial killer Frank Breitkopf, the guilt begins to take over and Jason makes the decision to leave the unit. His final episode as a member of the unit saw him retreat to his cabin, where he writes a letter to colleague Dr Spencer Reid, leaving the envelope alongside his gun and FBI badge.

Jason was later killed off-screen in season by a suspect he had tracked down from one of his first cases.

Mandy's decision to leave the show after two years in 2007 came as an abrupt surprise to fans and the show's creators.

It took several years for Mandy to share his story, telling New York Magazine that the show "was very destructive" for his soul and personality. "The biggest public mistake I ever made was that I chose to do Criminal Minds in the first place," the 71-year-old said.

 "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."


Thomas Gibson as Aaron Hotchner in Criminal Minds© CBS

Thomas Gibson as Aaron Hotchner, season one - 12

A former prosecutor, Hotch is the FBI Supervisory Special Agent and Unit Chief of the BAU, in charge of the agents and the cases they handle. A stoic and often unemotional man, he is unable to balance work demands and his home life, and his wife divorced him in season three.

He gains custody of his son in season five, but left the BAU in season 2 with it later revealed he entered witness protection after his son is stalked by a serial killer.

However, the real reason Hotch was written out was due to on-set behavior by Thomas.

In 2010 the now-62-year-old was accused of pushing the assistant director on set and allowed to continue working on the show once he completed anger management classes. Yet, in 2016 during season 12, he was fired when he kicked a co-executive producer in the shin during a heated argument.

"There were creative differences on the set and a disagreement. I regret that it occurred,” Thomas said in a statement. "We all want to work together as a team to make the best show possible. We always have and we always will."

"Thomas Gibson has been dismissed from Criminal Minds,” the two studios said in a joint statement. “Creative details for how the character’s exit will be addressed in the show will be announced at a later date."


Lola Glaudini as Elle Greenaway in Criminal Minds© CBS

Lola Glaudini as Elle Greenaway, season one - two

Elle was the BAU's expert in sexual offense crimes but was shot at the end of season one and in season two it is revealed that although she is suffering from emotional trauma, she made the decision to return to work early.

However, in the middle of season two during a stake out, Elle murders a suspect in cold blood, and fixes the scene to look like a suicide.

Jason and Aaron both doubt the story, and she turns in her badge and gun to the pair, leaving the unit for good.


Shemar Moore as Derek Morgan in Criminal Minds© CBS

Shemar Moore as Derek Morgan, season one - 11

Shemar's Derek Morgan is one of the show's most popular characters, a confident and assured man who was a police officer in Chicago before applying for the FBI and BAU.

FBI Supervisory Special Agent Derek has a close friendship with Spencer, whom he often considers his little brother, and even asking Spencer to be his son's godfather.

Derek also has an intimate, but platonic, relationship with technical analyst Penelope Garcia. Their banter has often had fans calling on showrunners to turn their friendship into romance, but it never did .

Shemar, 54, left the series on good terms, having decided that after 11 years it was time for him to move on. The writers decided to have Derek leave BAU after his pregnant wife Savannah was shot, and he makes the call to say goodbye to the team, not wanting to ever put his family through the trauma again.

Shemar went on to star in S.W.A.T, also on CBS.


Matthew Gray Gubler as Dr Spencer Reid in Criminal Minds© CBS

Matthew Gray Gubler as Dr. Spencer Reid, season one - 15

The baby of the BAU, FBI Supervisory Special Agent Dr Spencer Reid is a genius who graduated high school at the age of 12 and holds two bachelor's degrees and three PHDs.

Canonically autistic, Spencer has an eidetic memory, and although his colleagues quip about his abilities, he is a respected member of their team.

Matthew, 44, has played Spencer since the beginning, and when the show ended in 2020 he was seen recovering in hospital after a fall. He made the decision not to return for the rebooted new seasons, a decision which devastated fans and his co-stars.

"It was actually really, really difficult for me, when I found out he wasn't gonna be able to come back. I considered not [returning[," AJ Cook, 45, told Buzzfeed.

"I kind of struggled with that at first. But when we started seeing the scripts, it's just such a strong storyline that it made me feel a lot better when I saw where it was all going. But yeah, he's so great and I definitely miss him. Hopefully, we will see him again soon. We're definitely setting some things up."


AJ Cook as Jennifer "JJ" Jareau in Criminal Minds© CBS

AJ Cook as Jennifer "JJ" Jareau, seasons one - five, and seven - present

JJ was the team's communications liaison, working with local police agencies and often determining which cases the BAU picked up. In early seasons she dates, off-screen, New Orleans police detective William LaMontagne, whom she met on a case, and they welcome two sons, Henry, whose godparents are Spencer and Penelope, and Michael..

In season six, JJ leaves the team after taking a role at the Pentagon, but in real life she was let go by CBS in a cost-cutting move, given two episodes to wrap up her storyline.

AJ returned in season seven, however, after pushback from fans, with JJ now a FBI Supervisory Special Agent.

AJ also returned for the new series in 2022 and her real life sons play her boys in the show.


Kirsten Vangsness as Penelope Garcia in Criminal Minds: Evolution© Paramount

Kirsten Vangsness as Penelope Garcia, season one - present

Penelope Garcia was a teenage hacker who was offered a job with the BAU and the FBI over jail time. She works mostly out of their Quantico offices as a BAU technical analyst, but occasionally is asked to join the team in the field.

Godmother to both Derek's son Hank and JJ's son Henry, Penelope later becomes the communications liaison when JJ leaves.

Kirsten, 51, helped write four episodes, including the season 15 series finale.


Paget Brewster as Emily Prentiss in Criminal Minds: Evolution© Paramount

Paget Brewster as Emily Prentiss, season two – seven and 12 – present

Paget joined the series in season three following Greenaway's departure, but although she was asked to report problems within the team to the Section Chief, she remained loyal and refused to turn on the unit.

In season six she was killed after being held hostage by an UnSub, which coincided with CBS' decision to let go of Paget and co-star AJ over what they claimed were cost-cutting measures.

Paget went on to allege that the network was "not particularly kind to women" but she was also rehired in season seven amid outrage. Paget however made the decision to leave at the end of season seven, tweeting: "That's a wrap. To everybody at Criminal Minds, thank you for the best 6 years of my life. I love you. I always have, I always will."

Her character moved to London to work for Interpol but returned in season 12 permanently, after the dismissal of Thomas Gibson. Emily is hired as Unit Chief, and remains in that position now.


Joe Mantegna as David Rossi in Criminal Minds: Evolution© Michael Yarish

Joe Mantegna as David Rossi, season three - present

Joe joined the series in season three as Senior supervisory special agent David Rossi who was brought into the FBI to replace Jason Gideon.

The Tony award-winning actor stars as David, an experienced profiler who helped launch BAU in its early days but retired to write books. David is discovered to be having a secret romance with Unit Chief Erin Strauss, but she is murdered in season eight. In the final episode of season 15, he has reunited with his second ex-wife, and has a connection with his daughter, son-in-law and grandson.

Joe returned for the rebooted series, and continues to take a starring role.


Aisha Tyler as Tara Lewis in Criminal Minds: Evolution© Paramount

Aisha Tyler as Tara Lewis , season 12–present

Daytime Emmy award winner Aisha Tyler joined Criminal Minds as forensic psychologist and supervisory special agent Tara Lewis in season 12. 

Hired to join the BAU when JJ goes on maternity leave, Tara later helps to save her younger brother from a UnSub.

In season 17 it was revealed she was in a relationship with Rebecca Wilson from the DOJ, but their romance leads to issues between Tara's personal and professional life.


Adam Rodriguez as Luke Alvez in Criminal Minds: Evolution© Paramount

Adam Rodriguez as Luke Alvez, season 12–present

An Army Ranger, Alvez was a member of the FBI fugitive task force that partnered with the BAU in season 11 before joining the BAU in season 12 full-time. 

Alvez and Penelope have had a romantic connection but realized they were better as friends. However, showrunner Erica Messer revealed in 2023 that she doesn't think it's over between them yet.

"In episode nine, when [Alvez] finds out she’s been sleeping with Tyler Green… it’s not a big brother saying like, 'What are you doing? You’re messing up.' It’s different. It’s like, 'Why him? Why him?' and so that kind of tells you it isn’t over. Alvez having any feelings for her isn’t over, because he wouldn’t have reacted that way. So now we get to play a little bit more of the triangle because Alvez knows now. He didn’t love Tyler to begin with."

Adam, 49, also appeared in Roswell and CSI: Miami.


Ryan-James Hatanaka as Tyler Green in Criminal Minds: Evolution© Michael Yarish

Ryan-James Hatanaka as Tyler Green, season 17 - present

A former Army drone spotter, Tyler joins the BAU as a consultant after infiltrating a network run by the serial killer Sicarius, whom he believes killed his sister.

In season 17 Penelope and Tyler begin a brief romance.

Ryan-James is a Canadian actor who has also appeared in Nancy Drew and When Hope Calls.

Criminal Minds is available on catch-up on Hulu, and Criminal Minds: Evolution is available on Paramount+.

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