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The Real Reason Shemar Moore Left Criminal Minds

From day one, Derek Morgan (Shemar Moore) was the charm and muscle at the heart of Criminal Minds. He made it through 11 seasons — barely — that included wrestling with bad guys and childhood demons, not to mention being framed, kidnapped, and tortured.

Finally, enough was enough for both the character and the actor who played him. Moore officially departed from the long-running crime drama on March 23, 2016 in an episode that saw his character's fiancée Savannah (Rochelle Aytes) survive a gunshot wound and give birth to their child. (And that was just two episodes after Morgan's own near death experience.) Suffice to say that having a baby changed Morgan's perspective on his career, and he decided to step away from the action-packed life and his colleagues in the Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU).

Since then, Moore has returned to both CBS and the role of crime-fighting action hero with a troubled past, playing Daniel Harrelson (a.k.a. Hondo) on S.W.A.T. But despite his talent for playing tough guys who won't say no to a fight, in real life, Moore's reasons for bidding farewell to his most famous role are surprisingly similar to Morgan's reasons for leaving the BAU. Here's the real reason Shemar Moore left Criminal Minds.

Shemar Moore left Criminal Minds because he wanted to have a personal life

It took eight years for flirtatious workaholic Morgan to find a steady girlfriend. As Moore put it to TV Guide, "you never saw... the off-the-clock side, where he lets his hair down, dates, has drinks and has somebody in his life." In the first episode of season 9, the character finally mentioned a girlfriend — but it took another eight episodes to meet the lucky lady, Savannah, a doctor at Bethesda General Hospital.

Moore can relate to his character's overdue love life. In fact, that's one reason he gave for stepping away from the role. A few months after his last episode aired, he told TV Guide that he said goodbye to Criminal Minds "so I could pursue other avenues of my life. I want to get married, I want to have kids, I want to travel."

A few years on, and it appears that unlike Morgan, Moore has yet to find the person he wants to settle down with. He's been romantically linked to several famous women since leaving Criminal Minds, including soccer player Shawna Gordon, whom he dated from 2014 to 2015, and actress Anabelle Acosta. In 2018, he told Steve Harvey that he and Acosta were taking things slow, while also emphasizing that he was looking for a long-term partner (via Extra). "I've done everything I could do by myself, and now I need that somebody... I need that partner in crime to do the rest of what I want to do," he said. Unfortunately, Acosta was not that partner: the pair split in 2019, and Moore's mission to find love continues.

Shemar Moore wanted to explore other creative opportunities

The other reason Moore gave for leaving Criminal Minds was both personal and professional. In that same TV Guide chat, he revealed, "I'm just ready to grow... I'm not leaving to go make a bunch of money... I'm leaving because I just creatively want to be fueled, and [I'm] excited to try new things and see what else I'm capable of."

It sounds like Moore wanted to flex his acting muscles and move beyond being the good-looking tough-but-sweet action hero. Moore's departure wasn't the real reason Criminal Minds was canceled in February 2020 after 15 seasons, but losing such a beloved character didn't help. Much of the untold truth of Criminal Minds deals with backstage drama, but Moore's reasons for leaving were less about the show and more about life beyond it.

What Shemar Moore has been up to since Criminal Minds

After departing from Criminal Minds, Moore landed the lead role of Matthew Taylor in the 2016 rom-com The Bounce Back, which he also executive produced. The film looked like it might be Moore's chance to break the mold, as he went from portraying an FBI Special Agent to playing an unlucky-in-love, self-styled "relationship expert." (Given Moore's own romantic history, perhaps that wasn't too much of a stretch.) Directed by Youssef Delara, The Bounce Back received respectable reviews from critics and audiences, but it didn't garner any kind of sweeping, worldwide attention or acclaim.

The actor also continued lending his voice to the character of Victor Stone (a.k.a. Cyborg) across several animated projects — 2017's Justice League vs. Teen Titans, 2018's The Death of Superman, 2019's Reign of the Supermen, and 2020's Justice League Dark: Apokolips War — which he had done even when he was still working on Criminal Minds, starting with 2014's Justice League: War and carrying on with 2015's Justice League: Throne of Atlantis.

In 2017, Moore went back to television and began starring on another CBS crime dramaS.W.A.T., a remake of ABC's short-lived '70s cop series. On the show, which is still airing as of March 2020, he portrays Sergeant Daniel "Hondo" Harrelson, a beloved Los Angeles native who knows the city and its community inside and out, making his job on the LAPD a bit easier. Moore told CBS This Morning in October 2017 that his role on S.W.A.T. is his "dream job."

"This is my dream job because I've always believed what I'm capable of. I get to be a lead, which I'm proud of, but I'm also smart enough and humble enough to know that I can't do it by myself and that it's not all about me," said Moore. "So what I'm really proud of with S.W.A.T. is that I get to be a leader."

It was certainly sad to see Moore leave Criminal Minds, but fans can take heart knowing that he truly did end up in a better place.