Monday, February 28, 2011


Criminal Minds: Kirsten Vangsness interview with Star-Telegram.

-Kirsten Vangsness, one of the stars of Criminal Minds, is thrilled that viewers love the show. But she, quite frankly, can't watch it.
The story lines involving FBI profilers and the twisted criminals they chase down are too disturbing for her sensibilities, the gruesome visuals too unsettling.
"It's just not my cup of tea," says Vangsness, who plays quirky technical analyst Penelope Garcia. "But I think it's fantastic that there are a lot of lovely people devoted to this genre of storytelling, because I love having this job."
Make that two jobs; Vangsness also co-stars in the Criminal Minds spinoff, Suspect Behavior, which premieres at 9 p.m. Wednesday.
It's not unprecedented for an actor to work in two or more TV series at the same time, but it is exceptionally rare for an actor to play the same character on two shows simultaneously.
How did Vangsness, whose new Suspect Behavior colleagues include Forest Whitaker and Janeane Garofalo, get so lucky?
"My fellow cast member, Paget Brewster [who plays Emily Prentiss of the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit], had a lot to do with it," Vangsness says. "We did what they call a 'planted' episode, which was basically the episode of Criminal Minds where we introduced the team of Suspect Behavior. I was in only two little, tiny scenes, because I think they intended to hire a different computer person.
"So we were doing the table read and Paget kept saying, 'Why don't they have you on both?' We're all very close on Criminal Minds. I think that's why people love the characters. Because they sense a connection that is very real. And Paget kept asking people, 'Why can't Kirsten do both shows?'
"Then, all of a sudden, the powers-that-be started talking about it, too. But I wasn't sure if it was going to happen until we all went to an event announcing Criminal Minds to return and Suspect Behavior to launch. That's when Forest Whitaker walked up to me and said, 'I can't wait to work with you.'"
For Vangsness, it's an embarrassment of riches.
"Especially if you consider that I couldn't get an acting job that paid me money before Criminal Minds," she says. "The fact that now I'm on two television shows is surprising and wonderful."
Flamboyantly dressed and wisecracking Penelope is a computer wizard and an indispensable BAU member. But her biggest contribution to the show might be how she lightens scenes that get especially dark.
"Penelope is the one who gives the audience a breather," Vangsness says. "She is the one who is going to be mortified and completely grossed out. She gives the audience permission to feel what they're feeling. I'm so happy that I get to be that person, and I do intentionally try to provide that."
She has her work cut out for her in the first two episodes of Suspect Behavior. In the premiere, the team led by Whitaker's Sam Cooper investigates the abduction of an 8-year-old girl. Week 2 introduces a killer who gouged out her victim's eyes.
"When we sit at table reads, sometimes, believe it or not, the scripts are more graphic than what you see on television," Vangsness says. "I sometimes have to plug my ears."
That said, she doesn't let the material affect her upbeat take on life.
"I would make myself crazy if I walked around freaked out about it," Vangsness says. "I choose to believe that most people are inherently good. I'm pretty Pollyanna, but whatever. If I'm wrong, well, I'm happy to keep living in my pretend land."