Things are a little different on Criminal Minds this season, what with the departure of Paget Brewster and the introduction of Jeanne Tripplehorn as the latest BAU member Alex Blake. It’s a scary thing to become a part of a series well in to its lifespan – Criminal Minds just began Season 8 – especially given how the fanbase has shown how it responds to this kind of shake up. You might remember the last time Brewster left the show and what happened to her replacement. In season 6, Rachel Nichols joined the series as Ashley Seaver, only to be almost universally hated and soon fired once Brewster was brought back for Season 7. This does not bode well for Tripplehorn’s chances of being accepted.
“The fan base is huge for this show and I am honestly nervous about what they will think of Alex,” Tripplehorn told TV Guide. “A show bringing somebody new in on the eighth season, especially if you’ve been [a fan] since Season 1 – people will have their opinions. I think the fans are incredible and I respect this insanely rabid fan base the show has, and I do want them to accept Alex. I hope they like her.” With Season 8 only just begun, it’s a little too early to tell if fans will warm up to the character, but the writers are doing everything they can to avoid repeating the same situation with Nichols. They believe it was because her character was a cadet – a newbie. Blake is quite the opposite.
Blake is a seasoned FBI agent with a secondary career as a linguistics professor at Georgetown. She has a Skype relationship with her husband, not because they have a poor relationship, but because he works with Doctors Without Borders. She already has a history with some of the cast, knowing Hotch and Rossi from their careers and Reid because he has been a guest-lecturer in her classes. Says Tripplehorn: “We have to introduce Alex in a proper way and make sure that she doesn’t alienate everybody and they can work alongside each other while also showing what she’s like and what she’s capable of.”
With former star Mandy Patinkin’s recent comments against Criminal Minds‘ violent content and savage treatment of women, it should come as no surprise some might be curious what Tripplehorn might think of those aspects of the series as a new cast member. “I was drawn to the women who run the show, the writers, the cast, the crew,” she says. “So I don’t really give [the violence] much thought. But the world is violent, and this is TV. It’s fake. I can shake hands with all the corpses in the morgue.” As she says, there are a lot of women who work behind the scenes of Criminal Minds and if they’re okay with the content of the episodes then why shouldn’t everyone else?
As for whom Tripplehorn is replacing, Brewster is still opening up to the likes of TV Guide and speaking about her time on Criminal Minds and the circumstances behind her departure and where she’s hoping to take her career. Brewster made an appearance in the two-hour premiere of Law & Order: SVU, arguably a show a little too similar to Criminal Minds despite Brewster’s multiple attempts to get away from it. Doesn’t she care how that looks? “Of course, I do,” she says. “I’m an actress. I’m totally insecure, but I’m trying to stick to my guns about what is important to me and it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks I should or shouldn’t do.”
When she left Criminal Minds the first time, it was to do a comedy pilot, My Life as an Experiment, and comedy is still her ultimate goal. But that might take awhile and she still needs to get a paycheck every once in a while, so why not take the opportunity and work alongside Mariska Hargitay? And it’s not like the role was easy just because it was similar to Criminal Minds. Playing Paula Foster on SVU was a learning experience for Brewster, something she wasn’t getting from Criminal Minds. “I’m not saying anything to denigrate Criminal Minds; that’s a great show. I just didn’t appreciate it anymore. I appreciate those people, but I realized my heart wasn’t in it and I needed to go because plenty of people would rip their arm off to be on that show, so they should be.”
I can hardly blame her for losing interest in the series. After reducing her appearances on the show in Season 6 before leaving, she was forced to come back for Season 7 due to her contract. Being given no other choice – except going to court – Brewster had to come back, which wouldn’t exactly make every day at the job fun. So when her contract was finally up, she jumped at the chance to move on and find something else. I think I can honestly say I would’ve made the same choice and I hope her fans can appreciate how difficult that must have been for her. “It’s hard. I’m not going to lie. I’m jealous of Jeanne Tripplehorn, which is ludicrous because I decided to leave,” she said. “You hear, ‘Oh we’re doing this this week and these are our guest stars, and there’s a little tinge of regret. But I don’t ultimately regret it.”