Interview: Thomas Gibson
'Criminal Minds' is one of the most watched shows on Wednesday nights and star Thomas Gibson, who plays Aaron Hotchner, took a few minutes to talk to talk with us. His early television work included roles on such shows as “Leg Work”, “As the World Turns”, and “Another World”. He began to appear on film with the feature “Far and Away”, and appeared in a string of independent films before returning to television. He starred in the series, “Chicago Hope”, and then became a household name with his role in the comedy, “Dharma and Greg”.
The tenth episode of Criminal Minds aired taking us halfway through the season. The first half, especially the first episode, was an interesting one as they found a way to wrap up the chaos that was season six. Were you ever concerned with how they were going to pull it all together and get everyone back in place for the season?
Well, there were so many vectors involved that needed to be pulled together. I knew that there was a plan in case everything came together and there was a plan in case some things did and some things didn’t come together. So I’m glad that they were able to utilize ‘plan A’ which was pulling everybody together.
According to Deadline, you actually only renewed your contract with Criminal Minds two weeks before shooting began. Did you ever think that the contract dispute may have an effect on the season for yourself?
Well, I was hoping that it wouldn’t and I don’t think that it has. It just took that much time. These negotiations are always drawn out and this was no exception. I was hoping as the deadline for the season got closer – I know that there are other contract negotiations that have gotten even closer to the wire than two weeks, but I was hoping that this wasn’t going to be one of them. Fortunately, we were able to make a deal with a couple of weeks still to go. I think we were all hoping for the best outcome and we got it. So, you know, I know there was a ‘plan B’ but I’m just glad ‘plan B’ didn’t have to be implemented.
Yeah, it’s always good when you can go with whatever your 'plan A' was.
Yeah, exactly. Exactly.
Starting the season with such a bombshell though – where do you go with the second half of it now?
There are a couple of interesting developments that had their beginnings in the first half of the season that will play out in the second. I know that there’s a really interesting long arc for Shemar’s character that’s coming up; and there’s a really nice story about Hotch meeting this girl and potentially there being something there. So there will be some things that will be familiar in certain respects to our audience and then there will be some new territory which I think is always good too.
Now, was there always a plan to bring Prentiss back from the dead or did that just evolve as a way to bring her character back into the fold?
I think there was always the plan to bring her back that way – just because that seemed to be the most interesting way of kind of dealing with it all. It would also engender conflict among the team about the secret that was kept from certain members. And just in case they were not able to make a deal with Paget, she would stay dead. But I’m glad that they did – and like I said, the bringing back of her from her demise was part of ‘plan A’ and I’m just glad we were able to implement it.
It’s also good because bringing her back that way was a much more believable way than having her come back as a long lost twin sister of something.
Of course. I think our show… there are certain shows that do deal in that trade but hopefully we’re not one of them. (laughs)
The show is based around the Behavioural Analysis Unit which studies criminal behaviours which means everyone has a very specific skill set. Now, as you just mentioned, there’s a sense of distrust within the group after the cover-up of Prentiss’ death. How does that affect the inter-personal relationships of the group?
Well I wonder if distrust may be too strong of a word. I know that one of the things between the Morgan character and the Hotch character where Morgan said “you know, I don’t trust you anymore” and Hotch tried to explain to him that a decision was made - not to take lightly his accusation of mistrust – but there was a decision that had to be made that was going to protect the Prentiss character. That was the most important aspect at the moment; so the only way to get that done was to do what they did. I’m sorry if his feelings were hurt that I didn’t confide in him but the fewer people that knew, the better.
That, I think, was what he tried to make clear and it would be up to Morgan to accept that or not. Given that they needed to continue to keep working together and do their jobs as well as they could, I think that it was accepted; but at the same time, there are going to be moments where it probably flared up again – and we’ve seen a couple of those. But hopefully their relationship will deepen and whatever trust was compromised will be brought back.
It enables you to add an extra layer to the characters as well.
Well hopefully, yes. I mean, I think one thing that’s really nice about working on the series long term is that it’s interesting for both the actors and the audience to see and kind of live the characters over an extended period of time. And certainly, as that happens, in order for audiences to stay interested and for actors to stay interested, these characters must evolve. Certainly that’s part of the evolution of the characters, to give them conflict and to give them things that they’ve got to overcome both interpersonally and within themselves. Which is one of the more interesting things… finding each character’s challenge to overcome.
Because after seven seasons, you can’t be going through the same stuff you went through in season one. You have to move on.
You really can’t. Nobody wants that. The audience doesn’t want that and neither do the people that are responsible for telling the stories too.
The season premiere was celebrated for the way it was based in front of a senate committee hearing. Do you think it’s important to base the BAU in the real world once again? To remind the viewers that they must respond to a higher up as well? That they’re not a law upon themselves?
Yeah, I definitely think so. To remind everyone that they have people that they’re responsible to. Ultimately, they’re serving the public and therefore our government – even though it doesn’t seem to function very well a lot of the time – it does function and I think to see the channels, to see the wheels in motions of how they are accountable for their actions… Whether their actions are… I think they all – especially Hotch tries to keep them out of committee rooms as often as possible and tries to make sure that they only do things that would be commendable and certainly not raise any questions with what they have done.
I think ultimately, with that story – Prentiss summed it up very, very well by saying that it may have been unorthodox but they still did the right thing without breaking any laws and they take their oath seriously.
Kind of like the end justifies the means type of thing.
Well, not necessarily because that is just sort of a blanket for doing whatever you want and they have a responsibility to the job not to overstep the limits that they’re set forth with. But I think their means may have been unorthodox and they tried to bring the committee members along for the ride as far as how they justified what they did and that it may have seem to them that they skipped steps. But those steps were, under the circumstances, understandable.
In early January, Legacy Games is releasing a Criminal Minds computer game. Did you ever think that the show would eventually turn into a video game?
It’s weird; none of us have actually seen this game though so I don’t know. I know there’s a CSI game. I’ve never seen it though so I’m not really sure. I hope it’s interesting. I hope that they’ve done a good job making it but because I’ve never seen it, the jury is still out on whether it’s interesting or not. But it is funny to imagine that it’s been turned into a game.
It might make a better board game than a video game but maybe it’s a board game on the video. You know?
Yeah, kind of like a Clue type of board game.
Yeah, exactly. Exactly.
So I’m guessing you didn’t lend your voice to it then? It’s more of a complete separate entity?
I believe it’s a completely separate entity. No, I have not lent my voice to it so I don’t know exactly what they’ve done.
Do you think you’re going to be able to let your kids play it or think it may be a little bit too violent for them?
Yeah, my kids don’t watch the show. It’s really not a show for kids. Maybe when they’re older but not in the mean time.
You mentioned earlier that you’re right now in San Antonio where you live with your family. Do you find it difficult commuting so frequently between LA and San Antonio to film Criminal Minds?
It’s a challenge for sure. My wife and I decided that, since we don’t have any family in California and there were a period of time during which every job seemed to take me out of time. This was between my doing Dharma and Greg and Criminal Minds. So we decided to go ahead and make the move to San Antonio which is her hometown knowing full well that that’s probably the quickest way to get a job back in California which is exactly what happened.
But we knew that was part of the landscape as well and we were prepared for that. Fortunately there flights that happened to coincide with the beginning of our show that were very convenient non-stop flights for me to be able to get home as quickly as possible. It’s certainly been a challenge; I miss my time at home full time. But it’s been great for my kids to grow up with their family around and none of us really counted on this thing happening for so long. But you know, I try to make up some of the time when I’m on hiatus and when I’m home on my break. We do pretty well. My kids, before school gets back into session, once I’ve gone back to work in July – they come out to California before they go back to school too so. So we work it out pretty well.
I remember reading an interview you did with, I think it was Hello Magazine, where you said when your kids come to set they really like getting the make-up on.
Yeah, Dayne is always very gracious. He’s the head of our make-up department and he’s very gracious to share the things that the kids really want which are bullet holes and blood.
And then with them living in San Antonio it does make a visit to the set much more of a special occasion.
Yeah and certainly more of a treat. That’s true. I also have to be careful though about which day they come because some days are a little too bloody and I don’t necessarily think that would be a good idea. So we choose a day that’s a little bit more neutral for them to come visit.
Yeah, you definitely need to take the violent nature of Criminal Minds into account.
You performed your first play with Footlight Players when you were only ten, with your kids around that age – have they shown any interest getting into the acting world?
Actually, each of them has done a little bit of acting and they do like it although I’m certainly not pushing it. My two boys have each done a play. They’ve done school plays as well but one of them did a local production of Waiting For Godot and he played the boy. My son Travis played Macduff’s son in a school production of Macbeth when he was in the third grade and the production was a high school production. So they’ve dipped their toes in the classical theatre world and they both really like it and my daughter is going to do school plays as well. She’s in the second grade but she’s also been performing with her ballet class for a few years now so they’ve all got a little bit of the performance experience. I don’t know if any of them will pursue that as a career but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. It’s a tough life and I know I’ve certainly been very fortunate with it. I think that they will all certainly have all the information that they need to make a decision when the time comes.
And for now it’s a fun pass time.
Just a few more questions. A few months ago made a surprise appearance on the heavily publicised return of Two And A Half Men reprising the role of Greg Montgomery from Dharma and Greg…
It wasn’t actually Greg Montgomery because Greg Montgomery is owned by 20th Century Fox and this was an appearance made on a CBS show for Warner Brothers. So I think that even though he looked like Greg Montgomery, he actually probably wasn’t Greg Montgomery.
Just a long lost twin or something.
What was it like doing that, I guess not really reprising the role but reprising a similar role?
Well, it was great. Because one of the things that’s really nice is that most everybody that’s on that crew is the crew from Dharma and Greg. Chuck, he works with a lot of the same people so it was a homecoming of sorts for Jenna and me because a lot of those people we hadn’t seen since the end of Dharma and Greg. So it was really, really nice to sort of hang out with everybody ten years later – or nine years later I guess. It was great. It was really quick. Just a couple of hours on a morning. I was already in production so they worked around my schedule and it was great to see Jenna. We kind of flipped right back into it. It was not tough. It was a really, really nice experience for us – I think for everybody.
In an interview you did with TV Guide you said one of your favourite moments of season six was making fun of Reid’s Backstreet Boys haircut. Do you miss doing that kind of comedic character and do you think you’re going to be able to slide some of that comedy aspect into Hotch’s personality over the next little while?
I think he’s got a very dry sense of humor and hopefully when it does show up, it works. It works within the character. Having said that, it’s nice to surprise people but I think it would be a little jarring to see Hotch suddenly become the funny guy. So I think we kind of play for those moments when he kind of lightens up a little bit. We want them to be a nice change but you also want them to be within the realm of the character. But having said that, with the introduction of the Beth character, there will be some nice things and some lighter moments both for him and for her this season.
I guess that’s about it, thanks a lot. Do you have any final thoughts you’d like to add?
Nothing that I can think of but thank you very much. I’ve certainly enjoyed it and I hope you have a great holiday.
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