Since making her debut in season two of Criminal Minds on CBS, Paget Brewster's enduring and endearing fan-favorite Emily Prentiss has been at the core of the show's 15 seasons, appearing in 194 of the show's 323 episodes. Following the original series' end in 2020, Paramount+ came calling to revive the series for the streaming era gathering the bulk of the original cast along with some new faces for Criminal Minds: Evolution. Brewster spoke to Bleeding Cool to provide an update on the characters since the original series finale & what's new in Prentiss' life at the beginning of Evolution, to leave the door open for the cast members who haven't (officially) returned, and tease the series' future. The following does contain minor spoilers.
Criminal Minds: How the Pandemic Changes the BAU
Bleeding Cool: When does Criminal Minds: Evolution take place in regards to what's happened since the original series finale?
Brewster: Paramount Plus' 'Criminal Minds: Evolution' is ten episodes and starts in real time around when people went back to work as the pandemic was beginning to wind down. Everyone in the Behavioral Analysis Unit has been separated because of budget cuts and the politics of the Department of Terrorism, Department of Justice, and the FBI. All the agents have been separated, so Prentiss has moved up to become the section chief who oversees all of the field agents. David Rossi [Joe Mantegna], at the beginning of this year, is the Unit Chief of the BAU. All of the agents have been separated and working cases separately all over the country.
The new series begins with all of the agents we know. We don't know where Spencer Reed [Matthew Gray Gubler] and Agent Simmons [Daniel Henney] are. We reference them as we don't know where they are because, as actors, they were not able to or did not come back to 'Criminal Minds: Evolution,' but they're not gone. Their desks are in the BAU with all of their stuff on them. The way it happened to a lot of people when the pandemic began, and everyone stayed home. People's desks were just sitting there for years. The show is a reflection of coming out of a pandemic and starting to get the team back together again because we discover a serial killer has created a network by communicating through chat rooms and the dark web with other serial killers and planting kill kits all over the country. We all come back together as a team to try to stop this guy.
Is Prentiss still with Mendoza [Stephen Bishop]?
We don't reference it. It was two and a half years. He lived in a different city, and they drifted apart. So no, Prentice's very single and points out at a certain point she thinks someone in the office is having a romantic time.
How has the pandemic changed Prentiss?
When we start, she was exhausted and lost it. There's sort of a loneliness being out of her team and trying to facilitate dozens of agents all over the country and exhausted they don't have the resources that they had pre-pandemic. She has to negotiate out with other departments and with her boss, who's a younger Deputy Director. Bailey [Nicholas D'Agosto], who is a political animal, and Prentiss are suffering, and it's a tough place.
Someone who's in a great place is Penelope Garcia [Kirsten Vangsness], who, at the end of the last series on CBS in our last episode, had quit the BAU to focus on nonprofit and charitable work and using her computer skills to build networks to protect kids and make the Internet safer. She is thriving during the pandemic, started doing yoga, meditation, learning how to bake, and teaching people over Zoom. She represents some of the people who did well during the pandemic. The agents still at the BAU were suffering without her because she had to be replaced by four different computer technology agents no one could fill her shoes.
When we start on 'Criminal Minds: Evolution,' is everyone coming back at once, or is it kind of going to be a slow build-back to a reunion?
The first episode is about all of us. We're just not all together. Some of us get together as friends or also work. We're communicating with each other all the time, like, "This is what I found out here. What did you find out there?" They're not the team that's together all the time, the way we and the audience are accustomed to. We get there, so don't worry. It's an interesting way to tell the story of what happened to workplaces during and after the pandemic and how people were separated. As the show moves on, we all come together, which is nice.
Has Paramount Plus committed beyond this season?
We're all signed on for four years, so we all came back together. We're hoping we get a second season. We would be devastated if it was just ten [episodes]; that would be crushing. We're proud of what we're doing, and everyone who's seen the show in the cast… some cast members want to wait, they're like, "I don't want to be done with it. I want to see it when it airs" and we're like, "I can't get enough. I need to see if another one can edit in place, and I don't care if it's not done yet. I just want to see what I can see."
It's so exciting. It's the same show, but it's different. It's film-like now, and we have a little bit more room to tell more stories and take a breath. With a network show, you only have 42 minutes. The rest of that time is for commercials. You constantly have to cut and tighten. Because we get a full 50-60 minutes per episode, we can take as long as it takes to tell that story without having to remove anything. It feels different, but it's still the same show. All of the characters have kind of grown, and changed, have interesting stories, and their positions. When we come out of this pandemic, people want to know what have these guys been doing for three years.
Should we expect anyone from the show's past who didn't stay until the end of the original run to return?
Yes, you should. That's what I can say [laughs].