Midway through the first episode of Criminal Minds: Evolution, it becomes clear that Paramount+’s follow-up series won’t shy away from moments that are not 100-percent shiny and happy for the members of the BAU.
Take the scene where former team member Penelope Garcia (played by Kirsten Vangsness) videoconferences from home with unit chief David Rossi (Joe Mantegna), and challenges his theory that the person who abducted a teenage girl after slaughtering her parents is in his 30s or older.
Rossi aggressively holds his ground, mocking Garcia’s own, highly qualified POV that the UnSub is a teen or mayyyybe in his early 20s.
“You don’t know what it took for me to dive back in,” Penelope tells David. “I want to help, and I’m going to. But nobody talks to me like that anymore. Especially not people I love. So… bye.” And what that, she abruptly ended the call.
The tension ‘tween the two was picked up again in Episode 2, when Garcia and Rossi came face to face and she strongly urged the widower of a year to get therapy and stop trying to go it alone. The mood in turn cooled down, and Garcia returned to her bank of monitors at the BAU — for this one last, major case.
TVLine spoke with Joe Mantegna about Rossi barking at Garcia/dismissing her opinion, and then broaching the clearly difficult topic of Krystall’s passing — a workplace conflict that surely would have been glossed over in the CBS version of Criminal Minds.
“That takes acting, boy,” Mantegna noted, “because first of all I couldn’t love anybody more than I love Kirsten. When you talk about people you work with being ‘family,’ that’s an instance where it is.”
Nonetheless, this darker, streaming incarnation of Criminal Minds presented Mantegna and Vangsness with a moment “where we have to tap into something else to show this aspect of our on-screen relationship, but that’s what [acting] is all about,” Mantegna said. “And that’s what comes through, too, that people who do love each other — whether they’re in their own family or not — will have those moments where it gets really bad. Can you get past that? And do you get past that? Hopefully you can, and should.”
Both Mantegna and Vangsness shared with TVLine their appreciation for that atypically prickly exchange between their characters, which is emblematic of how Evolution as a whole presented an opportunity to know these familiar agents in new and different ways, and in scenes that can breathe.
“I feel blessed to work with this quality of actors, writers and producers… right down the line down to the extras,” Mantegna effused. “Everybody on our show takes it very seriously, because they know we’re doing some that’s hopefully a little better than average.”