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The Reason Thomas Gibson Left Criminal Minds

It's rare for a long-running series to feature the same cast from start to finish. Sometimes actors want to leave to pursue other projects. Sometimes their fate is out of their hands as the writers and producers dictate story. On Criminal Minds, which ran for 15 seasons during its original stretch on CBS (it's reportedly in the process of being revived), plenty of cast turnover occurred throughout the years. But perhaps nothing was more dramatic than Thomas Gibson's exit from the show.

Gibson portrayed Aaron "Hotch” Hotchner on the popular crime procedural from its debut in 2005 until his departure in 2016. A former prosecutor and profiler for the FBI, Hotch was a key member of the show's Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU), which assisted criminal investigations into murders by using profilers and analysts to catch and stop killers before they could strike again. Hotch was the BAU's unit chief, leading the team in its investigations. However, Gibson was written out of the show in season 12 after a shocking moment occurred behind the scenes.

Thomas Gibson was fired from Criminal Minds after an on-set altercation

In August 2016, Thomas Gibson was involved in an on-set altercation with Virgil Williams, a writer-producer of Criminal Minds, while Gibson was directing an episode of the show. He apparently kicked Williams and was initially suspended for two episodes. At the time, Gibson released a statement saying, "There were creative differences on the set and a disagreement. I regret that it occurred. We all want to work together as a team to make the best show possible. We always have and always will."

Later that week, however, ABC Studios and CBS Studios announced that Gibson had ultimately been fired over the incident. "Thomas Gibson has been dismissed from Criminal Minds," the statement read. "Creative details for how the character's exit will be addressed in the show will be announced at a later date."

Gibson also released a statement. It read: "I love Criminal Minds and have put my heart and soul into it for the last 12 years. I had hoped to see it through to the end, but that won't be possible now. I would just like to say thank you to the writers, producers, actors, our amazing crew, and, most importantly, the best fans that a show could ever hope to have."

This was not the first time Gibson was involved in an altercation on set, which may have contributed to the studios' swift action following the 2016 incident. According to reports, he previously pushed a producer and, as a result, was sentenced to mandatory anger management classes, though he was not suspended at the time. In 2013, Gibson was also arrested on suspicion of DUI.

What Thomas Gibson had to say about his Criminal Minds firing

In discussing his departure from Criminal Minds with People, Gibson attempted to explain what happened during the altercation that ended his tenure on the show. "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," Gibson said. "He said, 'Sorry, it's necessary, and I absolutely have to have it.'"

Gibson said he then returned to the set where he was talking with castmates when Williams entered the room. "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 explained. "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."

How the Criminal Minds writers wrote Hotch out

Gibson's sudden exit from Criminal Minds didn't offer fans much closure. His character, Hotch, joined the Witness Protection Program to protect himself and his son from a serial killer known as Mr. Scratch. Several months after the on-set altercation, Criminals Minds showrunner Erica Messer weighed in on having to write Gibson out of the story during an interview with TV Guide.

"Without having a chance to see Thomas again to physically write out the character, I felt like something massive had to have happened while we claimed he was off doing temporary duty," she said. "This was a character I've known and loved for 12 seasons. I really wanted to be able to send him off in a way that felt believable for that character. I think for all of us who love Hotch, we would say he was an amazing team leader, but he was also an amazing father. He's had so much tragedy since we've known him that he would not risk losing his life again or his son's life for the job anymore. He's the hero and he's amazing, but at the same time, he would never let Jack be an orphan. That was how I came at [writing] it."