Criminal Minds Boss Talks Evolution of Voit Threat, Prentiss’ Struggle and a Season 17 F-Bomb ‘Worth the Wait’

Emily Prentiss will be found channeling a bit of her “clandestine past” when Paramount+’s Criminal Minds: Evolution uncorks its new season.

Premiering Thursday, June 6, with the first two of 10 episodes, the new season picks up as the team (played by Paget Brewster, Joe Mantegna, Kirsten Vangsness, Adam Rodriguez and Aisha Tyler) investigates the mystery of Gold Star. As that conspiracy unfolds, the BAU will be met with an unexpected complication when Elias Voit (promoted series regular Zach Gilford) negotiates a deal that transfers him to federal custody — in the BAU’s own backyard!

More from TVLine

TVLine spoke with showrunner Erica Messer during a February set visit, and again last week, about Prentiss’ “survivor’s guilt,” the unleashing of Voit’s “greatest weapon,” one very deep franchise pull and more. (The following Q&A consolidates excerpts from those two interviews.)

TVLINE | How much time has passed since the events of the season finale?
Two weeks. Just two weeks.

TVLINE | Why was it important to you to come back so soon, storyline-wise?
Part of it was how the timing actually worked out with our season ending in December of 2022, as far as we were concerned with production, and then the writers room starting back up in January 2023. In our head, we were right there, and the story breaking the way it did, the season breaking the way it did, it felt like we were doing not quite a direct pick-up, but a couple weeks had gone by. That allowed Prentiss to sort of figure out what’s going on with this Gold Star mystery that she thinks had something to do with [FBI Deputy Director] Doug Bailey’s death. We didn’t want months to go by — that felt false, especially for this team who investigates in their sleep. Two weeks felt accurate, and then obviously the [WGA and SAG-AFTRA] strikes happened, and now we’re back shooting this a whole year later.

Criminal Minds Evolution Finale
Criminal Minds Evolution Finale

TVLINE | It sounds like Elias Voit getting caught was by no means the end of his reign of terror.
No, and in fact this season we get to play into probably his greatest weapon, which is his mind. He gets to really flex that in front of the team. We’ve never been able to have a killer in custody like this, somebody that we have to consult with. It is an evolution of what our heroes have had to do in the past.

TVLINE | Will we get the sense that at the end of last season, he was perhaps formulating this Plan B in his head? “You know what? If I get caught, these are the games I’m going to play….”
I feel like Elias has a Plan A through Z. We saw in the finale that he had his family’s [fake] identities all set up, he was lying to them saying, “I got caught up with bad guys, it’s not that I’m a bad guy.” That was his plan — let me get away and get my family safe and I’ll lay low for as long as I possibly can. And then when he realized [the BAU] was closing in on him, that’s when he said “Gold Star” to Doug Bailey.

TVLINE | How far into the season do we get a read on what exactly Gold Star is?
You’ll know a lot in the premiere — you get to catch up on what Prentiss has done in the two weeks since the finale — but we have layers and layers to this Gold Star story. By Episode 5, you’ve learned even more.

TVLINE | And how soon will we find out who visited Voit at the end of the season finale?
You’re going to know in the premiere who visited him.

TVLINE | What’s up for Prentiss this season? Last we spoke, you said you wanted to give her a personal storyline, and Paget hinted on social media that she has “some serious s–t” coming up.
She does! Last season’s premiere had Rossi in a pretty dark place, where he was in a grief-induced depression and became a workaholic. He kind of went back to his old ways of doing things by himself and not counting on the team. When this season opens up, you realize that in these two weeks [Prentiss] has kind of gone down that path of “I’m putting these puzzle pieces together and I don’t want to tell the team about it yet. One, because I don’t want anybody else to die. I know that Doug Bailey being killed wasn’t exactly my fault, but it wasn’t exactly not my fault.” She’s having a little survivor’s guilt over, “Was there something I could have done to stop him from going to talk face-to-face with Voit?” She’s struggling with that quite a bit. The deeper she digs into all of this, the more intricate the web becomes.

And to have [neighbor] Brian Garrity (returning Season 15 guest star Paul F. Tompkins) even mentioning names and code words when there’s no reason this person should have any idea what this is – How the hell does he know this stuff? — it’s a little nod to the Emily Prentiss of old who had a bit of a clandestine past. It’s kind of bringing up a bit of that in her character. She didn’t trade places with Rossi, because Rossi has his own trauma going on after being a victim of Elias Voit’s, so they both have a lot going on.

TVLINE | Which character has most interesting personal stuff going on this season?
Both Lewis (Aisha Tyler) and Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness) are experiencing something that no one on the team has ever had to before, which is working with their exes [the DoJ’s Rebecca Wilson and Tyler Green, respectively]. Tyler Green is going to be consulting with the BAU, and Rebecca is the liaison between the BAU and Elias Voit, so Lewis and Garcia are like, “How did this become our lives?! The two of us are having to working with people that know us very well.” It’s not anything we’ve done before and now we’re doing it with two of our heroes.

TVLINE | We saw what Josh Stewart said on social media, that his days are done of playing Will are over. What do you want to say about how that can be?
We tried to make it work for this year and it just didn’t work out. We love Will, JJ loves Will… and that’s always a part of her world and her character.

TVLINE | JJ mentions in the season opener that Will is busy with work. Will that simply be the case all season long?
Yeah – again, not much time has passed, and this season is like six weeks of story. It’s just a blip in everybody’s life.

Criminal Minds Casting News
Criminal Minds Casting News

TVLINE | Was promoting Ryan-James Hatanaka (Tyler) to series regular always the plan, or did some storytelling real estate open up once you knew you wouldn’t be writing for JJ and Will?
It really opened up when we saw the chemistry between R-J and Kirsten. It gave us an interesting bit of a triangle with Alvez (Adam Rodriguez), even though we do feel Alvez and Garcia are really good pals and almost siblings in that sense. Bringing a romantic relationship into that workspace is something that we never did on the CBS version, so once we jumped off that cliff and did it in Season 16, we thought, “Now what? What if he stays around and becomes a consultant on the team?” That character can do things that the rest of the team can’t really do with their badge and guns. In fact, one of the things when the FBI makes the deal, the director (played by Clark Gregg) says, “Yes, Tyler Green can consult, but no badge, no gun.” So he gets to go do things that maybe we wouldn’t do.

TVLINE | Talk about Clark Gregg’s role as FBI Director Madison.
We love Clark…. We’ve mentioned the director here and there but we’ve never met them. So who could that be? We needed a recognizable force…. I am friendly with Clark, so I said, “Would you want to come?” and he thankfully said yes, and it all worked out. We’d love to have him [on] whenever he can come play. Just to have him going toe-to-toe with Zach…? Get your popcorn!

Criminal Minds Casting News
Criminal Minds Casting News

Criminal Minds Season 17: Everything We Know About Casting, Storyline and More

View List

TVLINE | You also have Felicity Huffman appearing, as Gideon’s ex-wife — which is… a deep pull!
It’s funny – way back in the pilot, it never made it but there was this idea that Gideon’s ex was his therapist. We never met her, obviously, but he still had a relationship with his ex. So it’s been stuck in my mind for a long time, “Oh yeah, this thing exists.” I always felt like it’d be a fun nod to the fans who’ve been watching the whole time, like, “Hey we have this really deep pull, but it also works if you never knew Gideon, because you’re learning it through Rossi’s eyes, and you’re all invested in Rossi.”

TVLINE | What precipitates her arrival?
She doesn’t come in until [Episode] 7, so there will be a whole lot that happens before that, but I can say she’s brought in as a Gold Star consultant.

TVLINE | Will there be any update on what Reid and Simmons are up to? (Last season’s premiere established that the two MIA agents were on “assignments.”)
When we did the season math, Season 16 was really only about six weeks’ worth of story, and now only two more weeks have gone by, so those guys are still doing what they’re doing.

TVLINE | Relatedly, was there any opportunity to have Shemar Moore back as Derek?
We didn’t have any [opportunity] this season; he was, he thought, finishing his run on S.W.A.T., and now they have a renewal.


TVLINE | I did the math and the first two new episodes average three F-words each. But perhaps conspicuously, JJ never swears. Is that a you decision, an A.J. Cook decision, or both of you?
I think she thought it was my decision, where it isn’t. I am a lot like JJ, being a working mom and all that, but I drop an F-bomb, so I was not being a prude for JJ’s sake. So just you wait, she’ll drop one and it’s gooood. It’s worth the wait.

Want scoop on Criminal Minds: Evolution, or for any other TV show ? Email, and your question may be answered via Matt’s Inside Line!

Best of TVLine

Get more from Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Newsletter