‘Criminal Minds: Evolution’: Zach Gilford on Playing This Season’s ‘Complex’ UnSub

The agents of the BAU face off against a man who may be their most devious opponent yet in Criminal Minds: Evolution. The revival of the long-running CBS series debuted Thanksgiving Day on Paramount+. The first two episodes reintroduced viewers to the returning members of the team (most of the original cast is back), as well as this season’s big bad: an UnSub who has spent the pandemic building a network of other serial killers.

Zach Gilford plays the ultra-creepy Elias Voit. He spoke with Showbiz Cheat Sheet about what’s driving his character to kill and how the new Criminal Minds explores “who these monsters really are.  

[Warning: This article contains spoilers for Criminal Minds: Evolution Episodes 1 and 2.]

The BAU tracks their most dangerous opponent yet in ‘Criminal Minds: Evolution’ 

Zach Gilford as Elias Voit leaning against a kitchen counter in 'Criminal Minds: Evolution'
Zach Gilford as Elias Voit and Kiele Sanchez as Bridget Voit in ‘Criminal Minds: Evolution’ | Michael Yarish /Paramount+

When we first meet Elias Voit in Evolution, it’s 2005, and he’s torturing a young man inside a shipping container. Fast-forward 17 years, and someone has finally uncovered his collection of more than a dozen victims. The BAU’s Tara Lewis (Aisha Tyler) is sure they have a serial killer on their hands – one who’s apparently been operating undetected for years. (Criminal Minds premiered in 2005, so Voit was apparently been out there killing people for the entirety of the show’s original timeline.)

Meanwhile, BAU head David Rossi (Joe Mantegna) is working a case on the other side of the country involving multiple families who’ve been slaughtered while they slept. Then, a different killer starts murdering people by severing their spinal cords. At first, none of the cases seem connected. But by the end of episode 2, the BAU team has begun to suspect that the UnSub responsible for killing the victims found in the shipping container is even more dangerous than he initially appeared. He’s not just killing people himself: He’s giving directions to others. 

Zach Gilford says he was rooting for his ‘Criminal Minds’ character in some ways 

So, what’s driving Elias Voit? He just can’t help himself, according to Gilford. 

“Unfortunately, I think people who do these sort of things, there’s urges that they cannot control,” he said. “There’s something within him that is beyond his control without serious, serious counseling. And he has not searched that out yet.” 

Voit has also been able to operate for years without getting caught. He has these rules that he follows and he’s so strict,” Gilford explained. “And I think not getting caught is a huge motivation.”

There’s another side to his ‘Criminal Minds’ character, Gilford says 

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‘Criminal Minds: Evolution’: Aisha Tyler Says Revival Is ‘More Authentic’ Than Original Series

But Voit has another side to him, and it’s one the show gets to explore in some depth over the course of the season, Gilford says. 

“What we’re doing, which we haven’t really ever been able to do before in Criminal Minds, is we’re going home with the UnSub and we get to see who these monsters are when they’re humans and they live in the world and they have jobs and the people who are around them,” Gilford said. “And as we get deeper and deeper into his life, I think it’s becomes clearer and clearer the struggle he has with what he’s doing.

As a result, Gilford said he found himself rooting for his character in a weird way. 

“They’ve written such a complex character that I find myself, and maybe just because I’m playing him, rooting for him and being like, ‘Come on, man. Like, you can’t get caught. You can’t. Just stop. Just stop murdering; just retire and then go do your thing.’” 

New episodes of Criminal Minds: Evolution are available Thursdays on Paramount+. 

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