Kirsten Vangsness and Tyler James Williams Interview: ‘Criminal Minds’ and ‘Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders’

Tyler James Williams and Kirsten Vangsness from Criminal Minds
Tyler James Williams and Kirsten Vangsness at Comic Con 2016 (Photo © Richard Chavez / Showbiz Junkies)

Criminal Minds and Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders stars were part of the CBS Fan Favorites panel at the sold-out 2016 San Diego Comic Con. In additional to participating in the panel, Criminal Minds‘ bubbly Kirsten Vangsness (‘Penelope Garcia’) and Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders‘ Tyler James Williams (‘Russ Montgomery’) teamed up for roundtable interviews in a packed press room to discuss their roles in the primetime shows and why they believe procedural series remain so popular with audiences. The interview took place prior to all the drama surrounding the firing of Criminal Minds star Thomas Gibson so that controversy wasn’t addressed. However Vangsness did talk about another new addition to the series (Adam Rodriguez), saying fans of the show should keep in mind that he’s a new character who won’t be attempting to replace departing series star Shemar Moore.

Season 12 of Criminal Minds premieres on CBS on September 28, 2016. Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders‘ second season will kick off in 2017.

Kirsten Vangsness and Tyler James Williams Interview:

What can you say about next season without giving away any spoilers?

Kirsten Vangsness: “Well, we’re going to have crossovers – crossovers from… I hope we have crossovers from you guys over to us.”

Tyler James Williams: “We’ve already had crossovers from them to us.”

Kirsten Vangsness: “I’d gone on Beyond Borders and I believe that Mr. Mantegna is going over. I hope he is.”

Tyler James Williams: “I can’t confirm or deny anything.”

Kirsten Vangsness: “I just want him to! I don’t know if that’s true. Actually, I could have just made that up.”

Tyler James Williams: “I do hear things about that.”

Kirsten Vangsness: “I want him to. And, let’s see, on Criminal Minds ‘period’ – because there’s that punctuation and their punctuation is Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders. The one without the colon…that sounds weird, too…we’ve got Aisha Tyler back. We’ve got Paget Brewster coming for multiple episodes so it’s very exciting. Adam Rodriguez is now on the show and he is lovely. Totally different energy than Shemar (Moore), no one is trying to replace or whatever. But, yeah, I think we know how the car works and now we’re all seeing how fast the car can drive. That’s I think what’s been happening. What’s been happening on yours?”

Tyler James Williams: “We’re now able to explore the characters a bit more. First season was just kind of establishing the tone and now we’re really able to figure out who these people are. We’ll get a lot more into their backstories and what makes them tick, why they are in that kind of field. That wasn’t really explored a lot in the first one, and we’ll be able to get into it a lot more in the second season and see how each case affects them.”

Since you’re kind of the ‘Garcia’ character on Beyond Borders, did you feel any pressure being that she’s such a cool character?

Tyler James Williams: “It’s interesting. The way we kicked it off, no. I thought I would but we really introduced the characters together.”

Kirsten Vangsness: “We’re so different. We’re so complementary, you know? Like, we’re both very empathic but we have different energies so it’s never (that way). What they’ve done in theirs is sort of interesting because you’ve got Annie (Funke) who’s got a character that’s kind of snarky like Garcia. Garcia’s not cornered the market on snarky and quirky and all that. There’s just different ways to make it and it’s neat how their show has done it. I feel like we complement each other really well. They never tried to make him a male version of Garcia.”

Tyler James Williams: “And they did a good job of introducing the characters together. That’s what helps. I could not in any way take that shape because in the first scene we were together.”

Kirsten Vangsness: “Yeah. It’s nice to have like, ‘Oh, there’s somebody else in this big building’ … now because of the spin-off you see more of the big building … ‘there’s somebody else who can do what she does.’ It’s more like she found somebody. At least there’s two people in this whole place that can do what they do. It always takes different brains to do it better, so it’s good that his brain is very good.”

Garcia’s one of the few cast members left from the original cast. How does that feel?

Kirsten Vangsness: “Really good. Very gratifying. You don’t put a lot of her in there. She’s like saffron: you can’t put too much Garcia in it. But, if you’re going to use it, it’s got to (mean something). She’s good for giving information. She’s good for giving exposition. She’s good for a lot of things so I just got really lucky. It’s weird and cool and great and strange because I’ve never played a character this long. It’s sort of like this other thing now. It’s like, ‘I’m an actress and then also I play Garcia.’ I channel this woman and then I act over here. So it’s a weird thing but it’s so great. The core group has been there a long time.”

Why do you think this type of procedural is so popular?

Kirsten Vangsness: “I don’t know. I have my theory which is that… On our show, why our show is so insanely popular and I think the reason why this spinoff is really working is because you can tell underneath the characters that the people who are playing the characters genuinely vibe. So then on top of it you put character on top of good story and then this high intense pressurey stuff, it makes people…”

Tyler James Williams: “I think also it creates immediate comradery between the cast and the audience to have a target that everybody can focus their energy on. With this kind of criminal situations of the week, you naturally bond with people who are trying to figure this out with you. This show does a really good job of adding those twists and kind of turns that you don’t see coming that immediately hooks the team in with the audience as well.”

Kirsten Vangsness: “I’ve always said on our best day Criminal Minds is a show that shows monsters are made by monsters and I feel like that’s a good thing. We all need to realize that we all have those capabilities, so we have to be nice to each other as a family.”

Watch the full Kirsten Vangsness and Tyler James Williams interview: