The esteemed actors of the Criminal Minds cast not only had the honor of starring on one of the longest-running and most beloved crime procedurals on TV, but also had the pleasure of sharing the screen with many guest stars who would go on to become some of the biggest stars of today. Considering how it ran for a whopping total of 15 seasons on CBS, you can only imagine how many future Hollywood heavies appeared on the series. The following are some of the most recognizable names we dug up after their roles on Criminal Minds completely slipped our minds, starting with one actor who just a few years away from becoming TV royalty.
Aaron Paul (Michael Zizzo)
In the premiere season of Criminal Minds (when Mandy Patinkin was still on the show), a 27-year-old Aaron Paul played a young man suspected of murder due to his involvement with a local group of Satanists who were framed by the high school student who turned out to be the real killer. In 2008, the actor played crystal meth dealer and manufacturer Jesse Pinkman on AMC’s Breaking Bad, for which he earned three Emmy Awards and a newfound reputation as a leading man on both the small screen and the big screen.
Dean Norris (Det. John Barton)
Speaking of Breaking Bad cast members, Dean Norris is still known best to this day for his role as Hank Schrader - devoted DEA agent and unsuspecting brother-in-law of notorious drug lord Walter White (Bryan Cranston) - on the acclaimed drama. He had actually already been cast on the show when he was temporarily demoted to police detective for a 2010 episode of Criminal Minds, on which his character helps the crew locate the last victim of a serial killer with clues he strangely left after taking his own life.
Walton Goggins (John Cooley)
Speaking of strange criminals, Walton Goggins received his sole Emmy nomination (so far) for playing Boyd Crowder on FX’s Justified, which would lead to an increasingly esteemed film career that includes a villainous role in the Marvel movies (namely 2018 Ant-Man and the Wasp) and becoming a frequent player in Quentin Tarantino’s recent filmography. In between his stint on The Shield and joining the Justified cast, the actor played a longtime friend of Emily Prentiss (Paget Brewster) who almost falls prey to a murderous priest (Carmen Argenziano) in a creepy Criminal Minds episode from Season 4.
Sterling K. Brown (Fitz)
Sterling K. Brown also became a Marvel movie star in 2018 after appearing in Black Panther, following his Emmy-winning turns on both FX’s American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson as Christopher Darden and NBC’s This Is Us cast as Randall Pearson. Before all of that, in 2015, the St. Louis native appeared as a security guard for the United States embassy in Barbados in a Season 10 episode of Criminal Minds that served as back door pilot for the series’ short-lived spin-off Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders.
Mike Colter (Colin Bramwell)
Mike Colter would become a Marvel TV show star in 2015 after appearing on Netflix’s Jessica Jones as the indestructible Luke Cage before getting his own self-title spin-off and, then, reprising the role on the streaming platform’s crossover series, The Defenders. Before that short-lived, but much-loved, phenomenon blew up his career, the Evil cast member played a former Special Forces sniper turned serial killer hired by his former colleague to kill his ex-wife on Season 9 of Criminal Minds.
Evan Peters (Charlie Hillridge)
Someone who is also known for both Marvel movies (he was Quicksilver in the X-Men movies) and Marvel TV shows (he sort of reprised the Quicksilver role when he joined the WandaVision cast) is Evan Peters, who would initially acquire household name status as a series regular on American Horror Story since 2011. About a year before that creepy anthology premiered, the actor guest starred on Criminal Minds’ sixth season as a young man who was abducted as an 8-year-old by married murderers who would later make him their reluctant accomplice.
Finn Wittrock (Harvey Morell)
On the other side of that coin, Harvey Morell was the willful accomplice to a killer named Caleb Rossmore (Jeff Newburg), with whom he shared an obsession with the Zodiac Killer, on a Season 7 episode of Criminal Minds. Playing that young killer was fellow recurring American Horror Story cast member Finn Wittrock, who will also add superhero TV shows to his resume when he plays Guy Gardner - a member of the Green Lantern Corps - on HBO Max’s upcoming original series based on the cosmic DC comic book.
David Mazouz (Ryan Hall)
Speaking of DC TV shows, in 2014, David Mazouz had the honor of joining the Gotham cast as a young Bruce Wayne dealing with the recent murder of his parents for five seasons. Years before the Batman prequel series premiered, the actor also appeared on a Season 7 of Criminal Minds as a boy whose battle with leukemia sends his boxing champ father (Shawn Hatosy) into a murderous rage.
Cameron Monaghan (Jeffrey Charles)
David Mazouz’s Gotham co-star Cameron Monaghan (who plays a particularly clownish criminal named Jerome Valeska) is also famous for playing Ian Gallagher on the Shameless cast for 11 seasons. You could say that he had some decent preparation for the former, more villainous (and Joker-esque) role when he landed a guest spot on Criminal Minds’ sophomore run as a young boy abandoned by his mother who takes his anger out on three people by bludgeoning them to death.
Elle Fanning (Tracy Belle)
Cameron Monaghan’s Jeffrey Charles almost claimed a fourth victim - a little girl named Tracy Belle, whom he lures out into the woods before Mandy Patinkin’s Jason Gideon saves her at, essentially, the last minute. Tracy Belle was played on Criminal Minds by Elle Fanning, who - like her older sister, Dakota - would grow up to become one of the most sought after actresses of her generation, known for movies like Super 8 from 2011 and for leading Hulu’s The Great cast as Catherine the Great.
Jessie T. Usher (Daniel)
If we could switch gears for just a moment back to stars of superhero TV shows, Jessie T. Usher is known today as Samuel L. Jackson’s son in Tim Story’s 2019 Shaft movie and Will Smith’s son in the 2016 sequel Independence Day: Resurgence, but especially from Amazon Prime’s The Boys cast as A-Train. Before he had a starring role in anything, he had a guest spot on Criminal Minds’ two-part Season 4 finale in which the BAU investigates a series of murder that leads to make a shocking discovery at a pig farm in Canada.
Ariel Winter (Katie)
Although best known as Alex Dunphy on the Modern Family cast, Ariel Winter also has experience playing a superhero, having voiced a later incarnation of Robin named Carrie Kelley in one of the best DC animated movies, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, in 2012 and 2013. Years before the ABC sitcom made her a star, Winter was on Criminal Minds Season 3 as a young girl abducted and left for dead by her own aunt (Suzanne Cryer) who blamed her niece for ruining her marriage to her pedophile husband (Emmanuel Xuereb).
Melissa Leo (Georgia Davis)
Academy Award winner Melissa Leo (for the 2011 sports biopic The Fighter) would actually make her superhero movies debut in 2021 with the Netflix original action comedy Thunder Force. In Criminal Minds two-part Season 2 finale, the actress played a small town sheriff whose abduction leads to the BAU’s first encounter with prolific serial killer Frank Breitkopft, played by Keith Carradine.
Julia Butters (Gabby)
Another notable abduction victim from Criminal Minds is the title character of “Gabby,” the 16th episode of the series’ ninth season, which was also the acting debut of then-5-year-old Julia Butters. The starlet would then land a recurring spot on the Transparent cast, a starring role on CBS’s American Housewife, and a memorable, scene-stealing role in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood as Rick Dalton’s precocious Lancer co-star.
Sydney Sweeney (Dani Forester)
Fellow Once Upon a Time in Hollywood cast member Sydney Sweeney also made one of her earliest appearances on Criminal Minds as a young girl murdered along with her brother and mother by a serial killer who specializes in taking out whole families in Season 5. She would later achieve acclaim after joining the Handmaid’s Tale cast as Eden Spencer, the White Lotus cast as Olivia Mossbacher, and on HBO’s Euphoria cast as Cassie Howard, to name just a few notable roles.
Anton Yelchin (Nathan Harris)
In lieu of the many notable roles that prove Anton Yelchin as one of the most exceptional talents of his time (Green Room, Charlie Bartlett, J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek movies, etc.), he gave one criminally underrated performance on Criminal Minds’ second season as a teen with sexually sadistic tendencies. Sadly, Yelchin passed away in 2016 at the age of 27 when his Jeep Cherokee, which appeared to be in park but was really in neutral, rolled backward and pinned him against the security fence outside his Los Angeles home.
People who work in law enforcement likely rarely forget the faces of anyone they investigate, swore to protect, or failed to save. However, if you are guilty of forgetting any of these Criminal Minds characters and the now famous actors who played them, you are forgiven.
Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in just about any article related to Batman.
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