CBS’ Criminal Minds marks its 200th episode tonight at 9/8c with a fast-paced hour in which Hotch & Co. try to find JJ, who has been mysteriously abducted. But when the BAU’s priorities bump against those of the DoD and State Department, it’s time to call in for backup, in the form of ex-team member-turned-Interpol biggie Emily Prentiss.
Paget Brewster spoke with TVLine about her encore and its distinct stakes, and whether she’s game for a full-time drama gig or now partial to “scary” comedy.
TVLINE | So, [Criminal Minds showrunner] Erica Messer was telling me that Prentiss has quite the swanky office now.
Oh, it’s ridiculous. Interpol is phenomenal in London, like a three-story glass structure, and they added a blue-ish tinge to the film stock, I think. It has a very, very “action film” feel. It’s very cool.
TVLINE | She also said when we first see you, it’s like “a queen looking over her domain.”
I know! And I’m wearing, like, a cream dress with a little cape….. You don’t get to wear that when you’re in the FBI. So, yeah. Prentiss has clearly chosen well.
TVLINE | Tell me about the phone call she gets while standing there.
She gets a call from Hotch saying that JJ is missing, so she drops everything, gets on the Interpol jet and boom, goes to Virginia to try to help solve the problem.
TVLINE | What all does the team have to go on?
Not much. I mean, they know that both JJ and [section chief Mateo] Cruz are missing. And they start to find out with Prentiss’s help that those two have the codes that would de-encrypt a list of undercover operatives. So, a lot of peoples’ lives are in jeopardy. After that, the race is on to try to get to her before they break them and give up the codes. It was a really well written episode and I was thrilled that I got to do so much. I didn’t know that I would.
TVLINE | Erica actually told me that Prentiss is a bit of a driving force in the episode.
I think the reason for that was because Prentiss has information on JJ that no one else knew — the same way that J.J. spirited Prentiss out of the country [in the Season 6 episode "Lauren"], after Doyle almost killed her, and kept the secret that she was alive. I thought it was nice to see that mirror, years later, of these professional former teammates who count on each other and love each other helping each other out and saving each other.
TVLINE | Of course, we’ve seen BAU members – Prentiss included — become victims before. How would you say this JJ scenario is distinct?
Well, we find out why the sweet little press liaison, JJ, became a much tougher, ass-kicking profiler. It has to do with something that happened in the past that the team doesn’t know about. We find out that when JJ was flying Prentiss to Paris, she was in fact undercover, working on a mission. We see in a flashback that Prentiss knew JJ was changing, in her job and as a person, and that she had more responsibility. It really is a very interesting way to go into the past and see how JJ became who she is now.
TVLINE | Were you privy at all to seeing what the JJ character was going through during the episode? It’s supposed to be pretty harrowing.
Oh, yeah. Yeah. I mean, I don’t want to give anything away, but she’s being tortured for information and it’s horrifying. It’s emotional, spiritual and physical torture that she and Cruz are going through to try to protect all the people who could be killed.
I also want to point out that A.J. [Cook] and I did a stunt at the end of the episode that is one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever done — and what A.J. had to do was way worse than what I had to do. She goes off the roof of a building. We were three stories up above the parking lot with just a little rope tied around our waist, and I’m telling you… A.J. Cook has more balls for stunts that anyone I’ve ever seen. That beautiful little blonde is a monster in the best way. There was no crash pad. There’s no ledge. I was amazed by her. There I was, getting home at two o’clock in the morning, texting her: “You are such a badass.”
TVLINE | On a much lighter side, Erica said that at the end of the episode there’s a small moment where we might sense that if Emily was sticking around a bit longer, Hotch might have suggested that they grab a bite together. During your run on the show, did you ever see her leaning romantically toward Hotch, or Morgan?
You know, I don’t think that Prentiss and Morgan would ever get together because that upsets the relationship between Morgan and Garcia, and nobody wants to see that. And it would probably be deeply, deeply unprofessional for Prentiss to get involved with Hotch — also, it’s possible career suicide, getting involved with a co-worker. But I guess I would say, if it were going to happen with anybody, it probably would’ve been Hotch. Because they did have an understanding. But Thomas [Gibson] and I joke that we think we look more like Zan and Jayna, the Wonder Twins, from [DC Comics].
TVLINE | Would you ever go back to drama full-time? Or are you enjoying dipping your toe into the comedy waters with last year’s Spy pilot and Modern Family, and your recent visit to Community?
I would absolutely go back to the drama waters if it was something I thought was really beautifully crafted. Right now, I’m staying picky and I’m only doing the things I really want to do. I’m offered a lot of parts that are the grieving mother, because that’s what they saw in Huff, and cops, because that’s what they saw in Criminal Minds. I’ve done both of those roles and they’re great, but right now, I’d prefer to do other stuff, things that really, really excite me and scare me a bit. And that’s what comedy does. I would guest-star on Criminal Minds if they ever want to use me again for something — I love those guys, and I think it’s a great show. Criminal Minds was like college for me, I’ve learned so much. Or would that be a doctorate?
TVLINE | You’re at the doctorate level now, yeah.
Am I? I’d have a PhD?
TVLINE | You know, CBS just announced a pilot about a female Secretary of State. You’re probably a little young for it, but you should go for it. [The role has since been filled by Tea Leoni.]
No, and you know why? Isn’t Julia Louis-Dreyfus already sort of doing that [on Veep]? You can’t be better than her, so why try!