Why Paget Brewster Actually Left Criminal Minds

If you’ve been a fan of Criminal Minds for all of its lengthy run, you are probably already aware of the drama that went down on the show several seasons ago. A few years ago, veteran actress Paget Brewster’s role was reduced and A.J. Cook was displaced on a whim by CBS. They then returned to the show on another whim by CBS. It was a rough time for Brewster, especially, who ended up leaving the show after her contract played out. In a recent interview, Brewster had some pretty sharp things to say about CBS, calling the network “scummy.”

So now A.J.’s gone, I’m training Rachel Nichols to replace me and A.J., I died, and then I shot a pilot that didn’t go… and then it was announced that I was returning to Criminal Minds! And I called my agents, and I said, ‘I’m not! What do they mean I’m returning to Criminal Minds?’ And they said, ‘Well, they added another year to your contract for you to get those 17 episodes.’ And I couldn’t understand that. So I was forced to go back or... terrifying things were inferred. And I was kind of pissed, but then I went back and thought, ‘I love everyone there!’ I hated CBS. [What they did] was just scummy.

While A.J. Cook ended up getting over the call by CBS and sticking with the show, I don’t know that I totally blame Brewster for feeling the way she does (a feeling that led to her leaving the show). At the time, reports indicated that CBS just felt they would be saving money by displacing just the girls on the show. This makes it seem as if the network thought the men were far more valuable to the franchise than the ladies on the show. That can’t feel good.

Of course, Brewster is quick to let people know that her problem is with CBS and not the Criminal Minds family, who always treated her well. In an interview with Will Harris from the AV Club, the actress says the creative team was really understanding about her decision to quit and even wrote her character, Emily Prentiss, out in a way that felt real.

But everyone at Criminal Minds I really enjoy and I really like and I really care about. So I did that last year, and then I said, ‘I love everyone here, but I realize now, having left, that my heart isn’t in it.’ And that’s what they wrote for Emily Prentiss: They wrote Emily Prentiss saying, ‘Since I’ve come back, I’ve realized that my heart isn’t in it, and I want to do other things.’ And it was true. That was just true from how I was feeling about the situation, and I wanted to do comedy.

In the time since, Brewster has done pretty well for herself, starring in the most recent season of Community and popping up in numerous other comedy projects from Key and Peele to The Kroll Show and new comedy Grandfathered. Meanwhile, Criminal Minds has had a tough time filling Emily Prentiss’ shoes, with new characters popping up each year. In fact, Season 11 kicked off last night with Aisha Tyler in a brand new role. A lot of fans still miss Prentiss, but the show will go on.

You can catch new episodes of Criminal Minds on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET on CBS.

Jessica Rawden
Managing Editor

Jessica Rawden is Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. She’s been kicking out news stories since 2007 and joined the full-time staff in 2014. She oversees news content, hiring and training for the site, and her areas of expertise include theme parks, rom-coms, Hallmark (particularly Christmas movie season), reality TV, celebrity interviews and primetime. She loves a good animated movie. Jessica has a Masters in Library Science degree from Indiana University, and used to be found behind a reference desk most definitely not shushing people. She now uses those skills in researching and tracking down information in very different ways.