‘Criminal Minds’: Kirsten Vangsness’ Garcia Was Slated for 1 Episode But Her Shemar Moore Chemistry Was a Gamechanger

Those who like their television shows with a dash of heinous crimes have likely already discovered the joy that is Criminal Minds. The long-running series wrapped up in 2020, but fans have their fingers crossed — and their breaths held — in the hopes for a revival to bring back the mystery and gore they found so thrilling.

In the meantime, there are literally hundreds of episodes available on streaming to keep fans invested in the stories while they await the news of what’s coming next. 

There are plenty of crime-solving procedurals that center each episode’s plot on a new case to solve, so what makes Criminal Minds stand out? A lot of it has to do with the fascinating cast of characters and the way their personas interact. 

Fans might be interested to know that fan-favorite Penelope Garcia wasn’t initially supposed to stick around, but the chemistry she added to the ensemble cast was too good to pass up. 

‘Criminal Minds’ premiered in 2005

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On the surface, Criminal Minds has a familiar blueprint that brings to mind series like Law & Order or CSI, but there’s a reason that crime series are such a popular subset of dramatic television. Criminality is fascinating because it takes us into the darkest parts of human behavior and gives us a safe way to explore our own deepest fears. 

Criminal Minds leans into this macabre fascination by providing a close look at a fictional Behavioral Analysis Unit, a part of the FBI dedicated to picking apart the cognitive and psychological explanations behind the most depraved of human actions. 

The work is grueling both in the long hours and in the often-disturbing subject matter, so the members of the unit become fiercely loyal to one another and dependent upon each other like family members. This dynamic leads to plenty of opportunities to not only build suspense through each episode’s case but also showcase the bonds, tensions, and trials between the members of the team. 

Kirsten Vangsness played Penelope Garcia 

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The nature of the Behavioral Analysis Unit means that it needs top talent with a wide variety of skills, and no team would be complete without a technology inclined member. That’s where Penelope Garcia, played by Kirsten Vangsness, comes in.

She’s got a fascinating backstory that includes dropping out of school and going “underground” to work on her coding skills, adopting a Goth persona before landing herself on a list of potentially dangerous hackers — a designation that eventually leads the FBI to recruit her. 

As a member fo the team, Garcia is a Technical Analyst who puts her hacking skills to good use to solve the toughest of crimes. She’s got a unique and quirky style that’s marked by colorful — and sometimes child-like — features, and she has a flirty relationship with team member Derek Morgan. 

Kirsten Vangsness had great chemistry with co-star Shemar Moore

Kirsten Vangsness as Penelope Garcia on 'Criminal Minds.'
Kirsten Vangsness as Penelope Garcia on ‘Criminal Minds.’ | Cliff Lipson/CBS via Getty Images

Back in 2016, Vangsness opened up to Parade about her work on Criminal Minds. By that point, the actor had been on the series for years and was explaining her creative process behind being the writer for an episode of the show — a skill her IMDb profile shows she put to use five times over the series. 

During the discussion, Vangsness took some time to wax nostalgic about how she got started on the thrilling series. “I was only supposed to be in one episode and then they brought me in for the second one,” the actor explained.

What happened next changed the course of Vangness’ career and the show as a whole. Vangsness ended up joking around with fellow actor Shemar Moore, who plays Derek Morgan. Later, she was sent new scripts that included moments from her real-life interactions. 

Vangsness admits that her chemistry with Moore landed her the job: “really, I wouldn’t have this job if it wasn’t for Shemar, if it wasn’t for the energy between Morgan and Penelope. It’s the yummiest, delicious, coolest male/female relationship.”