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Jeanne Tripplehorn's Criminal Minds Introduction Taught A Hard Lesson

Of the 15-season run of "Criminal Minds," the show saw numerous characters come and go with the Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU), a branch of the FBI that solves murders around the US. One of the notable departures was Emily Prentiss. 

Played by Paget Brewster, Prentiss was a key part of the show from Season 2 to Season 7. To fill her space, the team had Dr. Alex Blake, a linguistics expert, join the show. 

Played by Jeanne Tripplehorn, Dr. Blake came into the BAU with some unresolved issues between her and Section Chief Erin Strauss (Jayne Atkinson) from when they worked the Amerithrax case. Strauss ultimately apologized to Dr. Blake, and they made amends during her time on the show.

Following Dr. Blake's departure from the team at the end of the ninth season, agent Kate Callahan, (Jennifer Love Hewitt), stepped into the vacant position. "Criminal Minds" showrunner Erica Messer was asked about how she changed her approach to introducing new characters after Dr. Blake, and she realized the series shouldn't introduce a new team member who instantly had conflict with the established characters.

Messer was worried the character's initial introduction became too big an obstacle for fans

In an interview with TV Fanatic, Erica Messer was asked about how the character of Kate Callahan was integrated into the show. Messer responded that Jennifer Love Hewitt was naturally likable, to the point that it felt inauthentic to have Callahan be in conflict with the team. 

She also pointed out that the show learned from the audiences' reactions to Dr. Alex Blake in Season 8. Messer noted that viewers of "Criminal Minds" were not onboard with Blake having some friction with the team when she joined, and she was worried that this made a poor first impression that the character never recovered from. 

While the intention was simply to add some dimension to the character of Blake, it didn't work out that way, so the crew wanted to make sure they avoided that mistake this time around with Callahan. Messer emphasized, however, that Hewitt herself helped make the decision easy, as she connected well with the team, both in character and behind the scenes. 

The writing team thus leaned into what was already present, making it easy to avoid the mistakes of the past. This lead to "Criminal Minds" fans feeling differently about her introduction than they felt with Dr. Blake's introduction.