Criminal Minds was already a pretty big hit for CBS when Paget Brewster joined the criminal profiling team. At the time, the actress was already a fan of the hit series, largely in part because she has (or at least had at the time) a wild obsession with the real-life criminal cases that often informed the Criminal Minds team’s work. In a recent interview, the actress says she was stoked about getting the chance to audition for the series. Here’s how she nailed the audition and got the role.
So I went, and they said, ‘This is the second season of our show, the character of Elle Greenaway has moved on, and we’re looking for a female to come into the team. It’s sort of a new person who can now ask questions, so the audience gets the chance to see this cast through new eyes. That’s what we want you to play. And we do work with consultants from the FBI. Like, right now we’re working on a script about a guy who’s got a trailer and it’s outfitted with torture devices, and he’s in the desert, and his girlfriend…’ And I said, ‘Oh, you’re talking about the Toybox Killer.’ [Laughs.] And they all were silent.
Obviously, the average actor or actress who pops in to play a new crime-related role probably isn’t as nuanced as Paget Brewster was when she popped in to try for the gig, and her knowledge paid off. The actress tells the AV Club that the executive producers were all pretty floored with the information she already knew, but also a little weirded out that Brewster was so into weird serial killer stuff.
I said, ‘I’m one of those people. I just know this stuff. I know what you’re doing, I think you do it really well, and I watch your show. I’m obsessed with serial killers, too.’ And they were sort of floored and a little perturbed, but I think they were, like, ‘Well, at least she knows what we’re doing!’
Obviously, she made enough of an impression to land the coveted role of Emily Prentiss. Prentiss was a mainstay on Criminal Minds during Seasons 2 through 7 and a fan-favorite to boot. People weren’t happy when Brewster and A.J. Cook were unceremoniously removed from the production partially through its run. The two actresses were eventually brought back, but obviously, Brewster was unhappy about what happened. Cook eventually got over it and remains on Criminal Minds to this day (although she is taking a pregnancy leave this season), but Brewster got herself off the show as soon as her contract was officially finished.
Of course, none of this was the fault of the producers or the show itself, as it was a network decision to switch out the ladies. Still, it’s interesting to think about what Criminal Minds might look like if Brewster had managed to have as perfect of a relationship with the network as she had with her audition. The show has cycled through a new player nearly every season for the last few years, and I think we all long a little bit for the days when we could count on Emily Prentiss.
You can catch new episodes of Criminal Minds, soon to feature newbie Aisha Tyler, starting on Wednesday, September 30 at 9 p.m. ET. In addition, you can check out when the rest of your fall favorites are returning with our fall TV premiere schedule.