Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

On-set altercations and a moral crisis: How Criminal Minds lost its three leading men

Screenshots: Criminal Minds (YouTube)
Screenshots: Criminal Minds (YouTube)

After 15 seasons and 324 episodes, Criminal Minds finally came to an end in February. Whether you were a fan or not, the CBS drama’s long run is impressive. But over the years, the series became as known for its off-camera drama as it was for its wildly gruesome crime scenes. In fact, the show was back in the news this week after California’s Department Of Fair Employment And Housing took steps against what it characterizes as an “unchecked” environment of “intimidating, hostile, and offensive” behavior from Gregory St. Johns, the show’s director of photography. And it’s not just behind-the-scenes talent that had issues on the series. Here’s how Criminal Minds lost its three original leading men.

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Mandy Patinkin leaves the show

When Criminal Minds launched in 2005, Mandy Patinkin was the draw. But the former Chicago Hope star left the crime drama at the start of season three, citing “creative differences.” But in a 2012 interview with New York magazine, the actor revealed it was the personal toll the series took on him that led to his departure: “The biggest public mistake I ever made was that I chose to do Criminal Minds in the first place. I thought it was something very different. I never thought they were going to kill and rape all these women every night, every day, week after week, year after year. It was very destructive to my soul and my personality.”

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Shemar Moore leaves the show

After 11 seasons, Shemar Moore stepped away from his series-regular role in 2016. Like his character, Derek Morgan, Moore said he was stepping away to spend more time with his family—but it was reported by multiple outlets that there was longtime tension between Moore and his costar Thomas Gibson. (Variety had sources that Moore’s habit of arriving late to the set aggravated Gibson. “Shemar and I did have disagreements early on. People work differently and have different priorities, but we are like brothers and worked through it,” Gibson told People in 2016. “I was so happy to direct the three-episode arc that was written to send him off, with hugs and kisses.”) Moore returned as a guest star a few times beginning in late season 12—notably after Gibson had been fired. Speaking of...

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Thomas Gibson is fired

The Dharma & Greg star, who had been with Criminal Minds from the beginning, was “dismissed” from the series midway through filming the second episode of season 12 after a physical alteration between him and writer-producer Virgil Williams. “We were shooting a scene late one night when I went to Virgil and told him there was a line that I thought contradicted an earlier line. He said, ‘Sorry, it’s necessary, and I absolutely have to have it,’” Gibson told People in September 2016 of the situation, which he said escalated when the encountered each other later on set. “He came into that room and started coming towards me. As he brushed past me, my foot came up and tapped him on the leg,” Gibson recalls. “If I hadn’t moved, he would have run into me. We had some choice words, for which I apologized the next day, and that was it. It was over. We shot the scene, I went home – and I never got to go back.” That November, Williams told People the same story but claimed Gibson kicked him in the shin. “I pray for him,” said Williams. “I hope that he’s getting time with his family. I hope the best for the guy.” This wasn’t the first time Gibson lost his temper on set. In 2010, he was asked by production to seek help for anger management after an altercation while filming. This is what Gibson told People in 2016:

“Joe [Mantegna] and I were filming a driving scene, and I realized someone had wandered onto set. It wasn’t safe, and so I stopped the scene so we could figure out what to do. As soon as I got out of the car, I had someone screaming at me within inches of my nose telling me that I’d done something wrong. I put my hands on their arms, said, ‘Back off,’ and moved him away. That was it. I know that touch- ing is absolutely forbidden, but there was an in- vasion of my personal space, and I thought it was a completely reasonable and harmless reaction.”

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None of the parties involved in California’s actions in regards to St. Johns have commented on that ongoing situation.

Ed. note: a previous version of this story erroneously stated that Moore left Criminal Minds in 2012 not 2016.

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A.V. Club Editor in Chief...but really just a She-Ra, Schitt’s Creek, Grey’s Anatomy, Survivor, Big Brother, Top Chef, The Good Place superfan.

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