For the cast of Criminal Minds: Evolution, shooting Paramount+’s limited series felt “very much the same, but different,” Joe Mantegna tells TVLine in the cast video above. “It was” — wait for it — “an evolution.”
Premiering this Thursday, Nov. 24 with the first two episodes of 10, Criminal Minds: Evolution finds a splintered BAU slowly reconstituting itself as it becomes ever more clear that they are dealing with one of their most ambitious and sinister UnSubs ever (played by Friday Night Lights‘ Zach Gilford).
Kirsten Vangsness, who is back as Penelope Garcia, says that returning for Evolution was no less than “so pleasurable,” especially with the CBS drama’s most recent showrunner at the helm. “Erica Messer could say, ‘I took a cantaloupe and wrote my name on it,’ and you’re like, ‘Let’s act that!'” says Vangsness, “because anything she does is so interesting.”
A.J. Cook, who plays JJ Jarreau, says that the crime drama’s new streaming home and the freedoms that come with it “gives us the space to breathe a little bit more” and dive deeper into the characters.
Similarly, Mantegna says that they could explore “beyond” the restrictions previously foist upon them by broadcast-TV standards. “We sometimes have to go to a dark place,” David Rossi’s portrayer reminds, “but now sometimes we go to a place that’s even darker.” (And using language that can get a bit saltier, he adds!)
Cook raves that Evolution “looks like a movie” but in a real, not glam, way. And that reality extends to the Special Agents we know so well. For example, JJ is experiencing some big-time fatigue. “I wanted her to be the exhausted working mom, like everybody was through COVID,” Cook says.
Aisha Tyler in turn says that Dr. Tara Lewis, a forensic psychologist, has been out in the field these past few years, and as a result is “battle-hardened” when we next see her. (“She’s still the intellectual, but with dirt under her fingernails.”) Rossi, meanwhile, “is not in a great place,” Mantegna warns. “But it’s not how many times you fall down, it’s how many times you get up. And I’m betting on him.”
On the much, much lighter side, Garcia — who had accepted a job offer elsewhere in the CBS series’ finale — has been “thriving” ever since the pandemic’s shelter-in-place protocols kicked in. Until, that is, circumstances “thrust” her back into the darker world of the BAU.
And as for new unit chief Emily Prentiss, played by series vet Paget Brewster?
“I call her Prentiss 2.0,” Cook reports with a smile. “I really love this streaming version of her. There’s this sass there, and the confidence which exuded from her is really impressive.”