Jeanne Tripplehorn: 'Female Energy' on the Criminal Minds Set Offsets Dark Subject Matter

You could say that Jeanne Tripplehorn is feeling Big Love for her new TV role, on CBS’ Criminal Minds — this despite the at-times grisly subject matter at the heart of a series about serial killers and those who track them.

Making her debut in the Season 8 premiere (airing tonight at 9/8c), Tripplehorn plays Agent Alex Blake, a forensics linguist expert who, when the action picks up, has already been with the BAU for several weeks. She’s got Hotch’s vote, knew Reid before boarding the team and enjoys a difficult past with Strauss. Now there’s just the matter of winning over Garcia, who was away in London all this time, helping Prentiss get settled into her new life.

TVLine spoke with Tripplehorn about making the move from Juniper Creek to Criminal Minds‘ world of homicidal creeps, where women who kill with ice picks are almost quaint.

RELATED | Fall TV Preview: As a Tweaked Criminal Minds Team Hunts Killers, a Killer Will Hunt Them

TVLINE | What was your decision-making process after Big Love? What you were looking for, ideally?
Well, those are big long questions. Ideally what I would look for, that’s a question unto itself but… Anybody not like that character I played for five years, anybody but Barb-like women. Even though it was the greatest experience I’ve ever had, and while it was really sad to let go, I was looking for creatively something as opposite, as completely different as I could find. I like to call Criminal Minds “the right job at the right time” because my priorities are, first, my family and being local –and there’s hardly anything that films in Los Angeles, where I live and we raise our son. So the fact that this came along out of the blue was a Godsend because second on the list was to find something as radically different as I could from Barb. Alex Blake is the one-eighty opposite.

TVLINE | But as you said, you are a mom, and we saw what Mandy Patinkin recently said about Criminal Minds‘ dark subject matter [that a series that would "kill and rape all these women every night, every day, week after week, year after year" was "destructive to my soul"].  Did that give you any reservations?
No. My tipping point with this show was meeting with [showrunner] Erica Messer, who is an amazing woman, and [exec producer] Mark Gordon. At first when I looked at last season’s Criminal Minds, I was a little concerned about the violence, but every reality, news program or crime show [has content that's] just as bad, and they have entire channels devoted to them. I would also note that half of the people that work behind the scenes are women, including both [EP] Janine [Sherman Barrois] and Erica, who are running the ship. And the first episode was written by a woman [Messer]…. There’s a lot female energy on the set, and I don’t know if that helps to counteract the violence but it’s pretty equal opportunity in the violence department. We kind of cover it all — animals, humans, male, female. It’s all covered.

TVLINE | What do you like most about Alex? And what are her flaws?
I think her biggest flaw is that she is a workaholic devoted to her job, at a total expense of her personal life. She has a husband, and they’re both probably made for each other because they’re dedicated to their work first.

TVLINE | He’s off doing Doctors Without Borders, right?
Yes, so there’s a big huge Skype relationship. We’re filming [Episode] 7 right now and we have yet to meet the husband. That’s a big question mark, so he’s non-existent. She is all about her work, “career FBI.” I admire her intelligence and her drive and her wanting to do what’s right by the world. She is a team player. There’s a lot to like about Alex.

TVLINE | I heard she a bit of a past with Strauss.
We get right to that in the first episode. You find out that [Alex] was moving her way up the career ladder and [Strauss] just didn’t come to her aid when she should have. She’s a linguistics expert and during [the 2001] anthrax [scare], Alex was blamed for a failure that occurred and Strauss did not step in, when it wasn’t really Alex’s fault. Alex ended up falling down the ladder, so it’s taken her a good decade to get where she is.

RELATED | Matthew Gray Gubler Teases a ‘Uniquely Done’ Criminal Minds Love Story

TVLINE | What’s another interesting interpersonal dynamic that Alex has with somebody?
She and Matthew Gray Gubler’s character, Reid, are very close friends. They knew each beforehand, in academia. He’s a little more on the nerdy side than she is but they are just two brains that really get along and they have a really beautiful friendship.

TVLINE | Have you by chance caught your sister-wife Ginnifer Goodwin on Once Upon a Time?
I saw the first four episodes, and she is living her dream. We love Disneyland, she loves Snow White…. I just saw her a week ago, and I’ve never seen her so happy. She’s having a great time and feels really great about the work. I love it. I knew the minute she got that job, that it was just heaven-sent!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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54 Comments
  1. sofia says:

    “Janine and Erica, who are running the ship” I think what she really meant here was “Janine and Erica, who are ruining the ships”, but that’s just me.
    Oh, and I didn’t like the season 8 premiere. Sorry!

    • meem says:

      Ruining the shipS, eh? Interesting comment. This show isn’t about “ships,” and never has been. You people who imagined them all over the place were. . . . imagining things.

    • Debra says:

      I’ve yet to see it,but I have a Canadian friend online.She gave us spoilers of what was happening.
      I wasn’t none to please.I guess it was stupid of me to even entertain the possibility that MESSer would have enough common sense to maybe keep the new character low key and give the fans a chance to get use to her.Lot of fans still miss Prentiss,even though they know the actress left on her own this time.
      But oh no MESSer has to make her prominent in her very first episode and not surprisingly there wasn’t a lot of Reid.
      I miss Emily,but I really wanted to give the new character a chance,However it appears that idiot MESSer is going to make it difficult for me.

      • Joc says:

        Well, Prentiss was pretty prominent in her first episode and Rossi was pretty prominent in his first as well. Why wouldn’t they make her prominent? I miss Prentiss too but it’s absurd to think they will keep a new person in the background.

      • Kimberly says:

        Dude, it’s ONE episode. There are 22 episodes in a season. Each character will get their “very special episode” as they always have and that leaves 15 more episodes for the writers to mix and match. Of course they are going to put her front and center in the first one. She’s the new character and they need to introduce her to the viewers. They will get to everybody else soon enough.

        • RIGHT??? Oh. My. Gosh, what did they want? To pretend like she wasn’t new? That she hadn’t been there forever? Like nothing that had changed? Yeah, because that would work! Why not just call her Prentiss and change the actress instead of the characters! Geez, these Prentiss hardcore fans annoy me! I, for one, think it’s obvious she needed to be properly introduced the first time she came on the show, and needs to be properly developed on her first season so people will actually get to know her and like her.

  2. Saint Alicia says:

    lol, CM is so female-friendly it sets up two (presumably mature, professional) women to have a catty/back-stabbing relationship dynamic. Heh, you know ladies, always causing that drama!
    Anyway, hope there’ll be some news about a return from Paget; she’s the only reason I was still watching. At least she’s appearing on Law & Order: SVU tonight at 9/8c on NBC!

    • Amy says:

      Oh settle down. They also have several smart, successful female characters who work well together and treat each other with respect. The character of Strauss has been a jerk to pretty much everybody male or female and she certainly treated Hotch poorly when she thought he was coming after her job. Not to mention there was plenty of conflict between Hotch and Derek (two men) early on in the series. You are trying to make something out of nothing but the facts just don’t support it.

    • LDSK says:

      Actually, I think this show has gone out of it’s way to show females as strong, professional and competent. Seriously, go back through all the episodes and count how many times they have a female guest star as a doctor or lead detective or some other important role. Be thankful they don’t have them dressing like bimbos and sleeping with everybody like they do on most other shows. The women on CM never had it so good.

    • DebDub says:

      Seriously! It’s ironic that of all the shows we have on TV these days that one featuring serial killers is probably the most female friendly of the lot!

    • Jackson says:

      Having now seen the episode I can attest that there was absolutly nothing catty about it. Yes there was an incident in the past but Strauss went out of her way to appologize for it and both women were at least professional to each other. Sorry Alicia…nothing for you to complain about here. Move along.

  3. Dee says:

    Wow don’t give the new gurl a chance ladies

    • Debra says:

      I want to give the new character a chance I really do,but it appears as if Messer is going to make it difficult.
      Erica Messer is the worse thing that has ever happened to CM.She is a complete and utter disaster as a show runner or should I say show ruiner.
      The new character should not have been so prominent in her first episode.Of course it would take someone with common sense to realize that,unfortunately CM is being run by a woman who seems to devoid of common sense.

      • Adam says:

        What?!? That’s just silly. The new character is always prominent in the first episode. They have to introduce them to the audience. Every show that has ever added a new character has done it that way. You’re just sore because they aren’t focusing on YOUR favorite character. Making up rediculous excuses to justify your anger doesn’t make it true.

      • DK says:

        Wow. You Hotch/Printess shippers are a vicious lot.

      • Beverly says:

        If you really want to give the new character a chance then do so. Nothing is stopping you. Except for the fact that you seem intent on judging her before you even see the episode. (And yes, I know your friend in Canada told you about it but that’s not the same thing as actually seeing it for yourself and making your own judgments)

      • Erica Messer is perhaps, one of the best show runners on tv, along with CSI:NY’s Pam Veasey! She’s always been there for the fans, she’s worked the characters beautifully, and, sorry if she didn’t do your ship, and if she couldn’t keep Paget from leaving, but that’s not her fault. She tells her stories, she does it right.

        • Dixie says:

          I’m a CM fan, just like you, but I disagree with your statement that Erica Messer has always been there for the fans. I don’t think she pays attention to us at all. Check out the fan bases on TVLine and TVGuide since the end of Season 7 when that horror Beth/Bellamy Young was introduced. The majority of fans expressed a fervent dislike (I’m being kind) for this character/actress. She was a stagnant puddle, had zero chemistry with Hotch, and made him look very foolish. Basically, most fans felt the storyline and the casting was handled poorly. After all that, we hear that Erica has Beth accepting a job in New York (too close to Quantico, VA) and will be coming back for guest appearances when Scandal can spare her. Does that sound like Madame Messer cares about the fans?

          • Jackson says:

            Actually, I liked Beth and so did other fans. The fact is, you can’t please all the fans because they all have different opinions. Same with the shipping. If you do one thing to make one group happy you will end up pissing others off. (something Messer herself spoke about in an interview on this very topic). It’s a no win situation and the best thing a writer can do is stay true to THEIR vision and what they imagine for the characters. If Messer tried to write what all the fans wanted the show would turn into a big steaming pile of crap and nobody would be happy. I for one, am happy she isn’t listening.

          • Jeff says:

            There is a difference between caring about your fans and pandering to them. The former is great the latter (which you seem to prefer) will ruin a show quicker than a writers strike.

  4. Kevin says:

    Same old b*%ching and complaining. Blah, blah, blah, whatever. I, for one, am happy the show is back and I am looking forward to seeing Ms. Tripplehorn in action!

  5. Julies says:

    I am hoping the new character will shake up the writing staff because things have certainly been getting stale. Can’t wait to see what happens tonight!

    • Samwise says:

      I agree. The writing has been going downhill for the past two seasons. Hopefully a new person will bring some new, positive energy to the show.

  6. Kiki says:

    Debra – Erica Messer got AJ and Paget back. We owe her for Prentiss’ final season. Paget did not have to come back. You sound a little like a troll.

  7. Dav says:

    Woo Hoo! So excited CM is back!!! I will be glued to my TV at 9:00. (And DVRing L&O:SVU because…well, Paget of course!)

  8. Debra says:

    Excuse me but Emily was not prominent in her very first episode of CM.She appeared a little at the beginning of the episode and at the end of the episode.I really think some of you people need to go and rewatch her first episode.
    Rossi had more screen time in his first episode,but I wouldn’t say he was very prominent in his first episode.

    Oh for the record I am not a Hotch/Prentiss shipper.I personally didn’t see any chemistry between the 2 of them.

    • Joc says:

      OK, semantics. The first episode when she appeared was a short scene but the very next one, when she really came on board, focused a lot on her. As well as many of the episodes that first season. She spoke multiple languages, she was butting heads with Hotch, she had that thing with Strauss, Her mother came on the show…etc. Sounds pretty prominent to me. And yes Rossi was very prominent in his first episode. It was all about him. He was this big shot agent coming back, the scene in the office with Strauss putting her in her place, all the other agents fawning all over him, Reid following him around like a puppy dog, he butted heads with Hotch and then made a decision that was against Hotches orders and that’s what brought the UNSUB out. I think maybe you need to go back and watch the episodes again.

      • Right? On the other hand, for Morgan, Reid, Hotch, JJ and Garcia, it was everything a progressive. Just HOW LONG did we take to actually learn about JJ’s past (about her sister’s death)? And Garcia’s past? That’s how it goes! Pretend you’re a character on a tv show! You’re on this job for a while… unless there’s something bothering you, something happened, you’re not going to have attention, they’re not going to focus on you. But, when you’re new, maybe your boss will give you that extra attention on your first day, call you up for talk, orientation… Turn this into tv show land, and first day, they may focus on you… show you up a little… but if you’ve been working at this place before the show starts, you’ll get attention once it involves you personally, you know…

  9. JD says:

    Out of curiosity, please explain exactly what it is you thing Messer has done that is ruining the show?

  10. Kimberly says:

    I’m so excited Criminal Minds is back tonight. Counting down the hours…

  11. Allison says:

    Hey, as long as they are still catching serial killers I am happy. So glad that my favorite show is back!

  12. Emily says:

    I think the main difference between introducing prentiss or Rossi is that we were given time in between the transition, when rossi appeared we had several episodes to digest what happened, and we were expecting a new character because we recognizied the need to fill the space, before we got a new character, same with prentiss, we were gradually introduced to the idea of here (by appearing for s tiny bit in one ep) Also at the start basically no one liked either character, and it took several episodes before they actually started too, not one.

    • Speak for yourself, I ADORED Rossi from the moment he stepped in, and I think he’s the best thing that ever happened to Criminal Minds. I also did like Prentiss better than Elle. I’m hoping, too, that it’ll be insta-love for Alex, and by the end of the season it’ll be Prentiss-who? It happens, sometimes, when a character is strong and has a lot of voice. Like it would never have happened with the Seaver Fiasco, that every episode I was “I miss JJ.” (Too much look-alike, not nearly as much life!)

    • DebDub says:

      Actually I loved Prentiss right from the start. She’s actually the reason I started watching the show full time instead of occasionally.

  13. Am I the only one who awwwed with thew Ginnifer Goodwin comment? :)

  14. so did not like last nights episode…. i have a deaf son with cochlear implants………….. and i knw they factored in the unsube had been abused etc, but the main reasoning was he wanted peace and quiet!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!for his killings. well i disagree and hope that giving my son the gift of hearing doesnt mean he will some day become a murderer!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!?????????????? ive always been a huge fan of the show but this hit my gut hard and now im sick, dont even want to watch anymore…

    • Jamie says:

      I don’t think that’s what they were saying. The UNSUB was clearly mentally unstable and anything could have set him off. They aren’t saying he became a murder because he had cochlear implants. They are saying he became a murder because he was seriously psycologically damaged…and the “noise” just happened to be the thing that he focused on.

  15. wease says:

    think the new woman is a robot….she has NO personality whatsoever. We have put up with killing off prentiss…only to have her come back and then disapear again. This Person….doesn’t fit in….get rid of her…..or you will loose me as a loyal viewer.

  16. Allison says:

    I thought the episode was good. But I do miss Prentiss….so very much.

  17. Donna Morere says:

    Quite frankly, all other aspects of the season premier were ruined for me by the completely stupid misinformation about cochlear implants presented in the episode. What absolute trash. Don’t these people have any consultants? Oh, right. he got the implant at 14 and became completely hearing and developed advanced literacy skills. Oh, and he was able to hear without the external processor – you know, the part with the microphone and the computer that converts the sound to the impulses and then sends them to the internal component. And without which there is ABSOLUTELY NO SOUND. Absolute garbage.

    • Wendi says:

      Thank you, Donna! I have bilateral cochlear implants and was laughing in disbelief at all the misinformation. When I’m not wearing my processors and the magnet headpieces, I am completely profoundly deaf. There is no ‘vibration’ or sound whatsoever unless you wear the processor — so all he had to do was not wear it! And the scar extends up and above your ear, not 2 inches below it. Geez.

      This is the third show I’ve seen with gross misinformation about CIs — first House (you can hear as soon as you have surgery! And rip the implant out of your head with your bare hands!), and even Switched at Birth — they called it brain surgery, when it absolutely is not. Ugh.

  18. Jackson says:

    I soooooo missed Prentiss but it was Paget’s decision to leave and she’s not coming back so no use crying over something I can’t change. Over all I thought it was an OK episode. Not great, but OK. I think the new agent will be fine once she settles in and they all get use to each other.

  19. GGL says:

    This show has just become too female centric in the last 2 years. I realize part of this has to do with CBS’s meddling but these people are writing for prime time network television and should have been able to handle it without reducing the male characters to bit players. Sure, they have had the odd episode here and there but it is just too female dominated. Case in point. This episode could have been written any time in the last 2 years as a Reid episode as he has the same skills as they had Blake demonstrate and is an experienced profiler as well. Hotch has not has a real story line since season 5. I don’t mind the Beth storyline but I want to see him as a leader and profiler as well as a boyfriend and Dad. We have seen a little more of Morgan but that is because they continue to push the Garcia character, I realize they had to introduce the new character but I hope they move on and develop some strong storylines for the male characters, it has been far too long.

  20. mleo says:

    she doesn’t fit…AT ALL!!! hate her. i have watched since the beginning, but i won’t be watching much longer…

  21. Dixie says:

    I’m still willing to give Alex a chance as Jeanne Tripplehorn has proven to be such a good actress in the past. I’m for anyone and any storyline that will keep Beth off the screen. Actually, I like the idea of Hotch finally finding some happiness, but they need to replace the actress (which I’m sure they are too egomanical to do). Bellamy Young just doesn’t fit. I wish the powers that be would just admit to “bad casting” and send in a new actress. It’s still early enough in the game where everyone would buy it; especially if they found the right person – a less bimbo-type, more on Hotch’s level who doesn’t push herself on Jack with dreams of being the new baby mama.

  22. sharona says:

    i miss prentiss and am not crazy about the alex blake at all . she seems to try too hard to fit in and does not. she is kinda like a female spenser which only he needs that role .

  23. amelia says:

    What were they thinking with casting Jeanne with this group. She really doesn’t have any substance of her own, but rather tries to take on every other character of the show. Her chemistry does not work no matter how hard she tries. She’s not likeable. CM is my favorite show and I’ll keep watching, but this new addition has to go!

  24. yasu says:

    Alex Blake is not a member’s member and a family.
    I want Emily Prentiss to return in the end of series.
    Reid is in a brains group.

    • amelia says:

      She just does not fit with this dynamic team. Female energy…REALLY- what energy not from her on her character. She’s taken on every other characters personality & frankly that’s insulting. It’s painful watching her and everytime she drowns out her line I just say “shut up” & “go away”. It’s like a bad dream that goes on, and on and on with each episode she’s in. Sorry to say, but I don’t want to watch this show anymore.

      • Dixie says:

        Amelia – don’t give up on CM just because of Jeanne Tripplehorn. Her perfomance has disappointed me as well, but the rest of the cast is so superb and worth a second chance. If you forfeit the series, you’ll be giving JT the power she doesn’t deserve. JT is a good actress, but not a good fit for CM. Too bad the writers don’t see what the fans have noticed for quite some time. Hang in there!

        • amelia says:

          You’re right Dixie. That’s the whole point,she does not have the power. Perhaps in the 2hr. season finale, she’s given a new assignment that will take her away and never have to be seen again. One can only hope!

          • Dixie says:

            If that happens, I hope she takes Beth with her. I love the actress who plays Beth (Bellamy Young); she is fabulous on Scandal, but she has zero chemistry with Thomas Gibson and is another bad fit for CM. Also, there’s something about Beth that I don’t trust and haven’t from the very beginning. She’s pushy and dull at the same time, and she makes our beloved Hotch look very submissive. We all want so much more for him and Jack, don’t we?