Thomas Gibson Teases Criminal Minds' Halloween Scares, Rossi as Wingman

Criminal Minds Halloween

Halloween is an occasion oft mutually enjoyed by both parents and their kids, so it was fitting that as Thomas Gibson directed tonight’s episode of Criminal Minds (CBS, 9/8c), his 12-year-old son was among the guest cast.

TVLine invited Gibson to reflect on his latest turn behind the camera and the “treat” of it being a family affair, as well as share the “trick” to conjuring a compellingly creepy episode. Plus: How will Rossi help Hotch recover from a romantic setback?

TVLINE | So give me the bullet on this week’s episode. What’s going on?
We’ve got a guy abducting kids annually on Halloween for some strange reason, and after we find the kid that he’s released on the 30th we fly to San Diego on the 31st to keep him from grabbing another one. We kick into high gear and do everything we can to find this child — who happens to be best friends with a kid played by my son Travis. My daughter [Agatha, 10] is in it as well, as a trick-or-treater, and my oldest son, J.P. [15], who’s a budding filmmaker, shadowed me during prep and shooting and post, and also wrote a song on the radio that our bad guy’s listening to while he’s medicating himself.

TVLINE | Oh my God. It’s a family affair.
A complete family affair. It’s a long time that I’ve been doing the show, and my kids have seen little or none of [the show] which is appropriate …

TVLINE | And any opportunities for them to ever have a part in it are, like, slim to none.
[Laughs] Exactly. So now my son Travis wants to finish all of his schooling online and be a full-time actor. I said, “Hey, it’s not all riding bicycles and egging cars and houses. Why don’t you go finish the seventh grade, and we’ll talk about it later.”

TVLINE | Does this week’s UnSub have a suitably despicable endgame with these kids?
I think so. It’s one of those stories where you know he’s been horribly victimized and really can’t help doing it. I mean, obviously he’s an adult and hopefully adults make choices that keep them from hurting others, but he’s one of those ones that don’t have the tools to keep from sort of playing out what happened to him over and over. That’s a story that we hear about on the show all the time, because it happens in real life all the time. But J. Michael Trautmann, who’s on Shameless, did a wonderful job. And we were lucky to get Pamela Reed (Jericho) to play his mom. They all brought their “A” game.

TVLINE | Is it the luck of the draw when it comes to who gets which script to direct? Or do the writers say, “You know what, this is more of a Thomas script, this is more of a Matthew [Gray Gubler] script….”?
Part of it is the calendar. The couple of times I’ve directed before, I’ve done the episode where I prep before Christmas and shoot after, because of the fact that I live out of town. That helps me a bit. But this one was shot in early September, when my kids had just started school. But I was able to bring them here for a couple of days of shooting, which helped me see them while I was busy working. But yeah, it’s something of a roll of the dice. [Showrunner] Erica [Messer] put the great writer Virgil Williams and I together for this one, and we’re actually going to do my next one, [Episode] 1016, which is an UnSub-in-a-prison story.

TVLINE | Does it up the ante for the director, being handed a Halloween episode of Criminal Minds?
Well, the network said they wanted a big Halloween episode, so yeah, you want to be able to take that ball and run with it — and I feel like we did. There were a couple of times when I felt like maybe I could’ve made a richer choice cinematically, but that’s me being supercritical of myself. I think the story is effectively told and we managed to come away with some very rich choices both with actors and with the way we shot it.

TVLINE | Talking about Halloween scares, TheOmenyou’re more or less of my generation, where we grew up with the Michael Myers. I remember seeing that movie in broad daylight with my dad, and being terrified afterward.
I think actually avoided it for a while because I knew how badly I would take it, because I was pretty easily scared as a kid. I remember driving home from a movie — it wasn’t Halloween but another one, maybe the original Omen — and I dropped my friends off, and it was also broad daylight, and yet I was sure that, like, Damien was in the backseat or something like that. [Laughs] People’s imaginations are sort of there for the taking, I guess. If you tell the story right, you’re going to hook them.

TVLINE | Is there a trick or two that you’ve learned over the years, for making a Criminal Minds scene that extra level of spooky?
I think the trick that I’ve learned to make it work is to hire good actors. And here, I got lucky again. We got everybody we wanted. We actually lost one actor [to scheduling] who played the transvestite psychic, and Cornelius [Jones, Jr., Law & Order: SVU] stepped in with a day or two notice and hit it out of the park. He was absolutely fantastic.

TVLINE | I understand Criminal Minds Hotch Beththe show will be addressing the Hotch/Beth situation. That there’ll be no “happily ever after,” despite their best efforts.
That’s not this week, but yeah, it’s coming up. Unfortunately, you know, I was dating the First Lady and she’s busy! [Beth’s portrayer Bellamy Young stars on ABC’s Scandal.] So yeah, it’s actually dealt with in a nice way. Rossi then of course decides that he needs to play matchmaker for me, and we get very few opportunities for lighter moments like that….

TVLINE | I always enjoy seeing Rossi in that mode.
I do, too. Joe [Mantegna]’s obviously very good with pretty much anything they throw at him. It’s a lot of fun to do those scenes — we actually just shot one of those this morning and another one yesterday.

TVLINE | And lastly, what if anything are you hearing about Erica’s big, midseason plan to mark the show’s 10-year anniversary?
I’ve been busy with this other stuff, so I can’t tell you anymore details than you already have, but I know it’s going to be good!

Want more scoop on Criminal Minds, or for any other show? Email insideline@tvline.com and your question may be answered via Matt’s Inside Line.

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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18 Comments
  1. love the interview and cannot wait to Watch tonight’s episode!

  2. B says:

    I <3 Hitch!!!

  3. Dixie says:

    I’m looking forward to tonight’s episode. What a nice opportunity for TG to be able to include his children in his work. I’m really looking forward to the episode where we bid farewell to Beth. Her exit is long, long overdue. It might sting a bit for Hotch, but I’m confident that both he and Jack will work through it. If the writers continue with the “love interest” scenarios, I hope they find an actress who works well opposite TG – because Bellamy Young (as spectacular as she is on Scandal) was a total disaster on CM.

  4. Angela says:

    The promo for this week’s episode made it sound so creepy-the cases involving children are always particularly unsettling. I’d always wondered how they sorted out the assignments for when the cast members get to take a turn and direct, so that was fun to learn, too. I’m looking forward to seeing how it all plays out, and it’ll be fun to see Thomas’ family making an appearance along the way :).
    And I’m looking forward to any future Rossi/Hotch moments-those two have such a great friendship, and I love it when Rossi’s helping Hotch out with personal stuff. Same with their episode to celebrate 10 years. I’m very excited about that one.
    (Also, Matt, I’m with you on ‘Halloween’. Michael Myers is the stuff of nightmares for me. Damien’s pretty creepy, too, though.)
    Nice interview. Always fun to hear from one of the cast members. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Colleen says:

    Love this Thomas Gibson and love his portrayal of Hotch on Criminal Minds. I’m overjoyed that CM is finally kicking Beth to the curb. She was a terrible choice as a partner for Hotch. Can’t wait for the episodes with Rossi chiding Hotch. He is the perfect wingman. But the only person person for Hotch is Emily. She can run another agency, help the BAU out on some cases and spend time with her true love–and us, course.

    • Angela says:

      Be a little hard to do that if she’s not returning to the show, though, wouldn’t it?

    • NO no no . Love Emily but not for Hotch!!!

    • Dixie says:

      I’m glad to see that someone else hates Beth as much as I do. Don’t get me wrong. I was a Bellamy Young fan long before anyone saw her on Scandal. She’s one of the best talents coming of Hollywood. But chemistry is everything – and she has “none” with Thomas Gibson (nor he with her). As much as I loved Emily, I don’t think she’ll be the one to finally capture Hotch’s heart. I think Paget Brewster has other plans for her career. If the writers insist on a “love interest” for Hotch, maybe they’ll do their homework this time and cast an actress who “clicks” with TG. What’s Jenna Elfman (remember Dharma and Greg?) doing these days? She and TG were “magic” together. Better yet, if there must be “personal” scenes, let’s see some serious interaction between Hotch and Jack — or between Hotch and Rossi. There’s a ton of great material just waiting to be developed by Team Messer. Let’s keep up the momentum in Season 10!

  6. Thanks a lot for the interview! I really can’t wait for the new episode.

  7. Jennie says:

    i love criminal minds I watch old episode over and over. I don’t get tired of it. Please give us 10 more yrs.

  8. No Love-Hewitt. I speak for the MAJORITY we want to see Morgan and “Baby Girl” get together and stay together!!!! But not married yet, the more of the same flirting. That Kevin thing was RIDICULOUS!!!! Not even realistic. Why wont you HEAR the FANS????

    • Angela says:

      Why wont you HEAR the FANS????
      Maybe because they see the fans typing like that and find it kind of off-putting and very demanding?
      Seriously…I have pairings within the team, both past and present, that I love for this show, too, and which I ship (Morgan/Garcia being one of them). But I’m mystified as to why anyone’s still expecting/demanding the show to actually make any in-team pairings canon at this point? If they haven’t done that in the last ten years, barring any special episode where they do some “what if?” scenario or something like that, I’m not sure why people think they’ll start pairing off team members now. Nor do I get why it’s so massively important to have these relationships become canon. Part of the fun is playing with the what ifs. Sometimes the show might not have the relationship play out the way you expect/want, too-that whole “be careful what you wish for” thing.
      This show is first and foremost about people chasing violent killers for a living. Nothing wrong with putting in a bit of romance every now and again, and if the show ever did put any team members together, fine…but it’s not ever going to be the main focus of the show.
      (Not to mention, given what’s tended to happen to many of the women the BAU members have dated over the years, maybe it’s better the female team members not get together with them romantically, on the show, at least!)

      • Sherry says:

        I think it might have a lot to do with viewers of the show also reading fanfiction of the show. In fanfiction, writers pair off the cast members all the time and let their imaginations run wild. Readers shouldn’t expect the show’s producers to do the same.

  9. Dixie says:

    When will we finally have the pleasure of seeing Beth kicked to the curb? I read that it would take place in Episode 5, but we’re past that. Team Messer has treated us to some great writing this season, but Beth’s exit (forever) will be the highlight for me.

  10. Beverly Dyer says:

    Would like to hear more about Thomas Gibson. He is an actor that I really respect!

  11. Nobody will ever bring the role of Emily Prentiss the suberb acting;the very real compassion and human interaction. It is definately a void only making her replacements confirming that there is a real void without Paget. I understand her desire for comedy;however, she really belongs on the team.