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The Real Reason These Criminal Minds Actors Left The Show

First airing on CBS in 2005, Criminal Minds has become one of the longest-running TV dramas of all time, pulling in millions of viewers each week with its stories of the FBI's elite Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU). In the show, the collective of special agents uses psychological profiling and other sophisticated investigative tools and techniques to find "unknown subjects" or "unsubs," dangerous criminals who've just committed grisly and frightening crimes. 

Seeing the good guys beat the very bad guys each week makes for compelling and oddly comforting TV. But because Criminal Minds has been on the air for so long, it's only natural that many actors have come and gone from the series, portraying a special agent for a while before moving on. There are lots of reasons why actors leave a successful, long-running TV series, and here are some of the most salacious stories behind cast exits on Criminal Minds.

Thomas Gibson's outbursts got him fired from Criminal Minds

Once best known for his role as stuffy Greg on the breezy Dharma & Greg, Thomas Gibson switched gears considerably as part of the original cast of the dark and twisted Criminal Minds, playing Unit Chief Aaron Hotchner from the show's inception. That all came to an abrupt end in 2016 when CBS ordered Gibson to leave the series that had been his professional home for more than a decade. It all stemmed from an incident in which Gibson was directing an episode for the show's twelfth season, when he kicked Criminal Minds writer and co-executive producer Virgil Williams in the shin. 

"There were creative differences on the set," Gibson explained in a statement. "I regret that it occurred. We all want to work together as a team to make the best show possible. We always have, and we always will." However, this wasn't an isolated incident. A few years earlier, Gibson had pushed a producer on set and was ordered to attend anger management classes. For that one, Gibson earned a suspension, but for the kick, he was fired.

The show was killing Mandy Patinkin's soul

When Criminal Minds joined a crowded marketplace of law enforcement procedurals in 2005, the show offered something that CSI, Without a Trace, Bones, and all the others couldn't: Mandy Patinkin. The best known member of the original cast, Patinkin is a Tony-winning Broadway legend, and he's the guy who played Inigo Montoya in the beloved 1987 film version of The Princess Bride. 

He's also a habitual show-quitter. 

Patinkin abruptly abandoned his role on Chicago Hope in 1995 out of the desire to spend more time with his family, and in 2007, he left Criminal Minds. At the time, Patinkin attributed his retreat to "creative differences. Five years later, Patinkin revealed the true cause of his early exit. He admitted to New York magazine that signing up for Criminal Minds was "the biggest public mistake I ever made," and that he found acting in a show about murder and kidnapping was "destructive to my soul and personality." Well, okay then.

Paget Brewster and A.J. Cook weren't 'new women'

Just before the sixth season of Criminal Minds started up in 2010, long-term cast members Paget Brewster (Supervisory Special Agent Emily Prentiss) and A.J. Cook (Jennifer "J.J." Jareau) were fired from the show. According to Deadline, producers were looking to cut costs, but that wasn't the real reason, according to Brewster. In a 2015 interview with The A.V. Club, Brewster said that a high-ranking executive from "CBS had just called [executive producer] Ed Bernaro and said, 'I want new women.' So we were fired." It gets even weirder from here. While Cook's character was given a quick sendoff, Brewster's agents talked the show into allowing their client another 17 episodes before leaving. However, the actress requested that the show's writers kill off Agent Prentiss. 

They complied, Brewster left Criminal Minds, but then heard that her character was set to return. Brewster, confused, called her agents, who explained that CBS had added a year to her contract so as to get her to film those long-ago negotiated 17 episodes. "So I was forced to go back or ... terrifying things were inferred," Brewster said. She remained with the show for the rest of its run, and so did Cook after one brief year of "recurring" status.

Rachel Nichols couldn't survive the fallout from some Criminal Mind's controversy

After all the drama surrounding the forced (albeit ultimately brief) exits of Paget Brewster and A.J. Cook from Criminal Minds, actress Rachel Nichols was awarded the unenviable task of walking into a tense situation and replacing both actresses and their characters, portraying FBI cadet/Special Agent Ashley Seaver. (Brewster was tasked with training Nichols, the actress coming in to take her place.) 

Criminal Minds viewers didn't take to the new cast addition, and they let Nichols know about it on social media. "At the beginning, fans didn't give me a chance at all. They were very angry about the Paget and A.J. situation. Fans hated me," she told Parade. "I was relatively new to Twitter, and people were just very mean to be on there." As the season wore on, Nichols says, viewers came to accept her, but that was cold comfort when she wasn't asked to return for a second season with the show. 

Jennifer Love Hewitt had family matters to attend to

Jennifer Love Hewitt is a familiar name and familiar face thanks to her many roles in late '90s teen movies like I Know What You Did Last Summer and Can't Hardly Wait. In the new millennium, she shifted to a career as one of the most consistently employed performers in television, starring for five seasons on Ghost Whisperer and two seasons on The Client List before joining Criminal Minds in 2014 as Supervisory Special Agent Kate Callahan. 

However, the veteran actress endured some backlash from fans who didn't think she was a good fit for a show that was, by then, in its tenth season with certain rhythms and formulas established. Some disgruntled Criminal Minds viewers even distributed a petition to get Hewitt off the show. And in the season finale, which aired in May 2015, Callahan resigned from the BAU, and showrunner Erica Messer confirmed that Hewitt wouldn't return to the series for season 11. However, upset fans hadn't gotten to the actress or network powers-that-be. Instead, Hewitt was leaving of her own volition for a personal reason. "She's having another baby," Messer told Entertainment Weekly.

Shemar Moore was ready for something new, baby girl

The most recognizable character on a long-running TV series is almost always going to be the one who generates a catchphrase. For Criminal Minds, that's Supervisory Special Agent Derek Morgan, as portrayed for the first 11 seasons of the series by Shemar Moore, who added to Michelle Tanner's "you got it, dude!" and Steve Urkel's "did I do that?" with "baby girl," his affectionate, show-lightening way of addressing close friend and coworker Penelope Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness). 

Morgan was also a remarkable BAU agent, but all good things must come to an end. Not counting occasional guest appearances later on, Moore left Criminal Minds in 2016. Why? Well, it was just time to go. "I've treated my acting career like school," Moore told TV Guide, comparing his stint on The Young and the Restless to high school and Criminal Minds to college. "Now I'm ready for grad school, a Ph.D., whatever you want to call it. I'm just ready to grow. I just want to leap." And so, he leapt from one hit cop show to another, heading up the cast of CBS's S.W.A.T. a year later.

Lola Glaudini left Criminal Minds because she didn't love L.A.

Criminal Minds has been a TV mainstay for nearly 15 years, debuting on CBS way back in the fall of 2005. As a result, the initial cast is much different than the one fighting the good fight in the show's final episodes in 2019. Early stars Mandy Patinkin, Thomas Gibson, and Shemar Moore all left long ago after lengthy runs, and original cast member Lola Glaudini, who portrayed Supervisory Special Agent Elle Greenaway, bolted early in the series' second season. She helped launch Criminal Minds and assisted in helping the series find its formula and voice, but it just wasn't the right fit for the actress. 

So why was that? Well, here's a little production secret from behind the scenes of Criminal Minds. While each episode finds the BAU crew flying away in a private jet to tackle a new, urgent, and sensitive crime, the series shoots almost entirely within the Los Angeles area, and Glaudini didn't like that part of the job. After all, her biggest pre-Criminal Minds role was playing Federal Agent Deborah Ciccerone-Waldrup on The Sopranos, a show that shot on the East Coast, where she's from. According to the Los Angeles Times (via TVaholic.com), Glaudini hated living in L.A. and couldn't bear it anymore.