‘Criminal Minds’: Are Shemar Moore and Kirsten Vangsness Friends in Real Life? Or Was Garcia-Morgan Arc Pure Fiction?

In a small pool of classic friendships between male-identifying and female-identifying characters in TV, Garcia and Morgan of the crime drama Criminal Minds are the rare birds who cheekily toed the line between friendship, flirtation, and romance for 11 seasons. Their frivolous banter and fierce friendship helped the show gain many brownie points throughout its run. This chemistry begged the obvious question then: are Shemar Moore, who plays Morgan, and Kirsten Vangsness, who plays Garcia, friends off-screen? 

Morgan and Garcia’s Journey On-Screen

LOS ANGELES - SEPTEMBER 8: "Lucky Strikes" -- When Garcia experiences anxiety over a case that's personal to her from her past, Morgan visits to lend emotional support, on CRIMINAL MINDS, Wednesday, Oct. 25 (10:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured: Shemar Moore (Derek Morgan), Kirsten Vangsness (Penelope Garcia)
Kirsten Vangsness and Shemar Moore | Darren Michaels/CBS via Getty Images)

Penelope Garcia, or as we fondly recall what Morgan called her – Baby Girl, was a goth nerd who joined the Behavioral Analysis Unit as a tech analyst in Season 1. Morgan is a young BAU team member who has the ability to be equally charming and intense. On the other hand, Garcia is an intelligent hacker, who because of her relative repulsion from violent crimes and a chirpy demeanor seems like a misfit at the first glance.

Garcia and Morgan have a unique relationship right from the start. Their light-hearted humor brings a much-needed balance between the show’s otherwise grave theme. Their nicknames, Garcia’s Baby Girl and Doll Face being the most popular ones, to Morgan’s hot stuff or chocolate thunder, were just the tip of the iceberg. Their conversations went from funny to frisky in a beat and never failed to entertain the fans. 

Their relationship also saw its earnest and authentic moments when both of them stood by each other, fought for and with each other as well. But never left each other, until Season 11 when Morgan decided to leave the BAU to be with his family. This, however, didn’t bring their friendship to an end. Morgan named Garcia the godmother of his son and that gave all the fans hope that Baby Girl and Hot Stuff would be BFFs forever.  

Moore And Vangsness Are Friends In Real Life

All of this genuine care and love couldn’t have been acting, could it? Well, in this case, it wasn’t. In a 2018 interview with Parade, Vangsness revealed that it was their chemistry off-screen that encouraged the writers to focus on their relationship on-screen. 

Initially offered a much smaller role, Vangsness was offered increased screen-time after the producers saw her joking with Moore. It was after the table read of her second episode that only the main cast was asked to stay for a video on sexual harassment. 

“I was sitting right next to Shemar. He was joking around during the sexual harassment thing, and I both wanted to be liked by the popular kid and I wanted to follow directions, so I’m very quietly joking around with him back,” Vangsness told Parade.

Within a day, she received rewrites that included scenes with Moore. 

“We shot together the next day and we were like, ‘Oh, my gosh. We have chemistry.’ Neither one of us knew it until we were doing it and it just built from there,” Vangsness added

From there until the end of Season 11, Morgan and Garcia gave their fans enough moments to fondly remember them. In fact, Vangsness, who later took to writing for the show, co-wrote Moore’s last episode and described the entire experience as quite “emotional.” And this is not all. Moore also had a small role in Vangsness’ movie Kill Me Deadly. What could this be if not friendship?

Friends Or More?


‘Criminal Minds’: Why Shemar Moore Wasn’t in the Series Finale

Despite their chemistry, which became a huge highlight of the show, their relationship never ventured into the romantic sphere, much to the disappointment of some fans. There were moments where it seemed like it was going to happen, but the writers never took that road for Morgan and Garcia.  

Criminal Minds was, by definition, a serious drama that did not have many major romantic arcs. The characters, almost all of them, at some point or the other had romantic relationships that were merged with the main plots or ongoing cases. But nothing that linked any of the team members with each other, except for JJ and Reid’s much-debated end of Season 14 arc, which highlighted the romantic aspect of their otherwise platonic relationship.

Since JJ and Reid’s relationship was the only other consistent male-female friendship in the show, who knows what turn Garcia and Morgan’s relationship would have taken had Morgan stayed on. Well, that has been left to the viewers’ imagination.

In real life as well, even as Vangsness and Moore have shared a close relationship in the public eye for a long time. They have, however, never left their relationship to anyone’s imagination and have maintained that they are friends. But even knowing that Garcia and Morgans are BFFs in real life, is a big win for Criminal Minds’ fans.