‘Criminal Minds: Evolution’: Showrunner Erica Messer On Rossi’s Trauma, Penelope’s Pink Note, And All Those Bonus Expletives

Spoiler alert: This story contains plot points from the premiere of Criminal Minds: Evolution on Paramount+.

Executive Producer Erika Messer There was never much explanation as to why CBS canceled it in 2019. criminal mind, this long-running crime procedural that has become appointment viewing for millions. “Neither of us wanted to end it constructively,” she tells Deadline. “We felt there were so many more stories to tell. The cast was in such a groove and everyone loved being here.

So when she was asked to bring the show back in the summer of 2020, Messer wasn’t too concerned about whether or not she could rejoin the BAU. “It all lined up and worked,” she recalls. “We had four months to shoot 10 episodes and I was pretty confident that we could muster our troops for this.”

Here, Messer talks about the show premiering on Paramount+, why he cast zach gilford As for this season’s villain, and will we ever learn the contents of Penelope’s pink note.

When did Deadline start talks to revive the show?

Erika Messer We wrapped in May of 2019. In February of 2020, the last episode aired on CBS, and then a month later the world shut down. Towards the end of the summer of 2020, I got a call asking if I wanted to do another version of Criminal Minds. I didn’t want to do another version like the spinoff version, but if we can bring it back with our cast I’ll do it. Then about a year later they were able to get deals done and then I would say by January of 2022 it looked like all the deals were going to happen.

Time limit This took a long time. Why?

Messer It was a lot of things I was never comfortable with, definitely above my pay grade. But on the creative side, we felt it would be a fun opportunity to bring the show back, to bring it back to a premium streamer and be able to lean into a 10-episode arc with the serial killer who beat our team. To be, which we never really did.

why couldn’t make the deadline Matthew Gray GublerJoin the fun who played Dr. Spencer Reid?

Messer He’s doing other projects and a lot of them were lining up during our window. Our shooting time was only August to December 2nd. Such was the case with Daniel Heaney, who was working on The Wheel of Time. So I wasn’t able to get them, but I was able to get six other actors. They’ve never been better. they are very happy. Their characters took about as much time with the pandemic as they did in real life. The world has changed since we last saw the BAU. And because of this the characters have changed. We needed to write down the reality of existence for all of us.


Deadline How did you come up with the Network of Unsubs? Have you read that headline somewhere? Do they exist?

Messer I hope not. I haven’t read anything about it. It’s my crazy mind thinking, ‘What are serial killers doing during a pandemic?’ Why did I think so? I do not know. But then I thought, ‘What if they’re talking to each other? What if they are giving signals?’ That’s what I told Paramount and they said, ‘What happened to you? And yes, please do so. I don’t know why it came to my mind. I guess it came to me because, after the summer of 2020, I started seeing some things that I decided I didn’t need to see back in the day. There was a Ted Bundy show on Netflix or something. That’s when I thought, ‘Okay, I know why I am watching it but are there people who watch Ted Bundy who are watching it another cause?’

Deadline Will all Unsubs kill in the same way, severing the spine?

Messer No, we’ll see it mixed. I think the spine is the most muscular.

In the Deadline premiere, we learn that something has happened to Rossi’s wife.

Messer Yep, his death, which we’ll learn a little more about in later seasons. It was one of those Covid imminent deaths. You couldn’t really go to the doctor unless it was an emergency. One of her annual exams was postponed and when she finally went to the doctor, they found cancer and it was advanced and it was too little, too late. Ross is really pissed about this so he blames everything and everyone including himself. I feel like it was important to represent the sadness many of us have experienced since the show ended, simply because life happened. I mean, it might not be related to Covid at all for you, but we all have loved and lost and in our lives. For joe mantegna To bring heartache and grief to this season, many people could [relate], A speech he gives to the young girl they rescue at the end…. This is really a gesture to all of us who have lost someone and we still need to live and we don’t want to give up. The advice he’s giving her is advice she needs to take on herself. And he will get there this season. It’s not like overnight he’s going to be fine for three episodes, but it’s a great arc for this season.

why did deadline penelope play Kirsten WangnessBasically leave the unit?

Messer She went on to star in the finale on CBS. The last scene was the lights turning off, leaving the team in a high-tech room. She decided to leave because she felt there was more good she could do in the world. This was his first step towards self-care. We play it like they’ve been in touch, but she hasn’t come back to consult on a matter until this first episode.

Deadline When will we find out what was in the pink note she left for herself?

Messer We’ll never know. What you want will never happen. Kirsten wanted it to be something I didn’t like and I wanted to be something she didn’t like and we were like, you know what? We’re never going to see it.

Deadline you’re stuck on the same episode length as if you were still on CBS. Why?

Messer I had to cut one. Episode one is going to air on CBS Thanksgiving night. So that one is 43 minutes, but the Paramount+ ones are like 53 minutes.

Time Limit Did it feel like a struggle to fill the 53 minutes?

Messer The weird thing was we still shot it in eight days and it was still like a 50 page script with 50 scenes, and it runs at 53 minutes. We live in space for a while. You’ll be in the creepy moments longer and you’ll be in emotion longer than the broadcast. I feel like our directors’ cuts are really getting to live in a way that they couldn’t before because we couldn’t air the full 53 minutes. It’s been a really fun thing, but we haven’t changed the structure of the show.

Deadline You have added more to shift for dialogue.

Messer There were, yes! That was the one thing that never felt right to me. I have a family full of law enforcement and they need more than “damn” at times. I was really glad we were able to release some of them. But at the same time, I didn’t want it to suddenly sound like an HBO show. I know a lot of families watch this show and I didn’t want this to happen all of a sudden No Well known But other than that, I mean, in terms of violence, we may be in one frame a little longer than before, but I’m still a big believer in letting your imagination fill in the blanks. I don’t like to show a lot of stuff. And then just the fact that we can live with a killer for so long, get to know him and show the complex dynamics of his relationships at home. We’ve never really gotten this kind of insight into a killer before. Zach Gilford is amazing and makes his character so complex.

on deadline he was dear Friday night Lights. How can you make him a bad guy?

Messer I know. So I was like, ‘Oh, he’s not going to do that.’ I don’t know if you saw The Midnight Club or not, but this was my obsession last winter. Zach was like, ‘That sounds like so much fun. I don’t get to do anything like this. Sign me up.’ So I guess he wanted the challenge of being the unpredictable bad guy.

Deadline How did you arrive at the word development for the title?

Messer This was from a Paramount+ brainstorming session. They were looking for an evergreen word that was not just related to this season. I think it might be a word they were using a lot when they were describing how the show has evolved. I think internally they kept using that kind of language and then they landed on Criminal Minds: Evolution and pitched it to me. It just felt very organic to the internal dialogue of all of us, actually.

Deadline In your heart, does this season feel like a one-off or could it last for several seasons?

Messer I think this can go on for as long as this group wants to do it. We all are energetic, excited and love what we are doing. I think as long as we want to keep doing it, I don’t see why we shouldn’t.

Deadline could have shut down, you know, and could have even written a romance for Netflix or a Hallmark Christmas movie. but you came back criminal mind.

Messer Oh god, isn’t this funny? I have another project which is the complete opposite of this. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen The Biggest Little Farm documentary, but we’re doing a doc series for Disney+. So when I’m not working with Criminal Minds, that’s where I spend my time, which couldn’t be more different.