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After 15 seasons and 299 episodes, Criminal Minds ended its epic run last May. During its lifetime, the procedural drama brought some of the creepiest and most twisted criminals to fans’ TVs—although you could always count on the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit to solve the mystery and catch the unsub. And with a long lifespan, the show had plenty of time to lure some of Hollywood’s biggest names to guest-star.
The slew of celebs who stopped by the BAU at some point include Academy Award, Emmy, Golden Globe and Grammy winners, comedians who were looking for a different kind of role, and drama regulars who brought (some more) gravitas to the series, two future Breaking Bad cast members, and one member of the Skywalker family. Some led the team on wild chases all over the country, others assisted the BAU in their investigations, and a few were almost unrecognizable in their roles. But whichever way, you bet they were entertaining.
Since the end of the series, there have been multiple Criminal Minds marathons on broadcast TV, and the entire series is currently available on Netflix. So, before you read any further, if you’re in the middle of catching up with Gideon, Hotch, Rossi, Morgan, Reid, JJ, and Garcia or bingeing the whole series, consider this your warning for major spoilers ahead. These are the 40 celebrities you totally forgot were on Criminal Minds.
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Jennifer Love Hewitt
Season 10 of Criminal Minds brought with it a new member of the team: Kate Callahan, played by Jennifer Love Hewitt. Like the boss she is, the former undercover FBI agent chased unsubs with the BAU team while pregnant. However, when Jennifer found out she was pregnant in real life, she decided to leave the show, and Kate handed in her resignation after a crime against her family was the focus of the season finale.
“It’s the first time I’ve been on a show that I’m not producing and didn’t put together,” she told Entertainment Weekly of her experience joining the show. “I’m just a cast member. It’s their house and I’m just really honored to be invited in. It’s fun for me. It’s different in every way possible, but it’s really great.”
In one of the most memorable guest-star roles of the series, Jane played Diana Reid, mom to BAU team member Spencer Reid. Reprising the role over multiple seasons, Jane’s character added some emotional backstory to Reid’s character while also dealing with tough issues of her own, including being held hostage by an international serial killer (played by guest star Aubrey Plaza…but more on that later).
“She’s in a very interesting place right now,” Jane told TV Guide of her character in 2017. “She’s suffering from Alzheimer’s but she has moments of perfect clarity. She and Matthew Gubler‘s character have a very interesting, very complicated but very loving relationship. it’d be great to dive in to that again.”
In the first two seasons of the show, the BAU team was headed by Jason Gideon, a.k.a., Mandy Patinkin, a.k.a., your favorite swashbuckler from The Princess Bride.
Gideon and Reid had a particularly close relationship, and after a series of bad calls and emotional cases, Gideon resigns from the team by leaving his badge, gun and a letter for Reid behind in his cabin. And his time on the show seems to have had just as dramatic effect on Mandy personally.
“The biggest public mistake I ever made was that I chose to do Criminal Minds in the first place,” he told New York magazine in 2012. “I thought it was something very different. I never thought they were going to kill and rape all these women every night, every day, week after week, year after year. It was very destructive to my soul and my personality. After that, I didn’t think I would get to work in television again.”
Michelle Trachtenberg is always good for a little unhinged shake-up on a long-running TV series (Georgina Sparks from Gossip Girl, anyone?), and she didn’t disappoint as stalker Diane Turner.
Rachael Leigh Cook
Rachael Leigh Cook showed Reid some love during the final season of the series as art teacher Maxine Brenner. The two went on a handful dates and managed to work through some pretty tough early issues—namely a psychopathic hit woman who, in true Criminal Minds fashion, is focused on nipping the relationship in the bud.
Consider Benjamin Cyrus—played by the late, great Luke Perry—your regular reminder that joining a cult usually doesn’t work out for the best, even when the leader of the cult is, well, Luke Perry. Benjamin’s repeated instances of statutory rape and marriage to a teenage girl are what land him on the BAU’s radar, and their interactions don’t end well.
Aisha Tyler joined the team as Tara Lewis in the 11th season, but the former FBI forensic psychologist quickly makes an impression. But with an expertise like studying and interviewing serial killers to determine if they’re able to stand trial, how could you not?
“Tara Lewis has been a lot of fun to play,” Aisha told Parade. “She’s incredibly smart. She’s really passionate and fearless. Even though she’s tough—she’s there to fight very bad guys—she hasn’t lost her soul. I love the combination of hyper-intellectual and just ballsy badass lady.”
Amber Stevens West
Amber Stevens West gave BAU lead David Rossi (Joe Mantegna) the surprise of his life when she joined the series as Rossi’s daughter, Joy, who thought her stepfather was her biological father until his death. While she may not have known Rossi growing up, she certainly followed in his footsteps as a true crime writer.
Jason Alexander took on a decidedly un-Seinfeld-like role in season four of the show when he guest starred as Henry Grace, a deranged professor/serial killer with a personal vendetta against Rossi.
“This guy is truly messed up, but I didn’t approach it with that kind of judgment,” Jason told the LA Times. “It’s more interesting to look at the thing that has made this guy this angry—I approach as if the character’s agenda is righteous and pure. Otherwise, you fall into the trap of just playing a villain.”
Everyone knows that motherhood has its difficult moments, but there are probably more than most when your son is a necrophilic abductor and serial killer, as Cybill Shepherd’s guest-starring role in season four, Leona Gless, quickly discovered.
Mark Hamill tapped into the dark side of the Force for his role of copycat serial killer John Curtis aka The Replicator. The Replicator taunts the BAU over the course of several episodes in season eight before it all comes together in an explosive (literally) season finale.
Mark told Buzzfeed that it was his daughter, who’s a big fan of the show, who encouraged him to take the role. “Usually you don’t have an arc like this where they set up something over a period of many, many episodes,” he said of the character. “As soon as I started watching these episodes, I said, ‘Oh, I gotta do this!'”
Long before Aaron Paul was selling drugs on the streets of Albuquerque, he was the founder of The Lords of Destruction, a cult-like group of Satanic teenagers. Let’s just say it didn’t make for the most heavenly experience for the BAU when their paths crossed.
The Bush frontman played a Goth rock musician with a vampiric alter-ego named Dante whose fans keep ending up dead on the fifth season of Criminal Minds. While the team considered him a suspect at one point, the only thing Gavin’s character was guilty of is spending too much money on eyeliner.
Academy award winner Forest Whitaker was the star of the series’ first spinoff, Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior. FBI agent Sam Cooper and his team, the BAU Red Cell, were introduced to audiences in the fifth season of the show before getting their own 13-episode season (before it was cancelled due to low ratings).
“I like the notion of exploring human behavior,” Forest told CBS News of the show. “We’re behavior analysts, so the concept of trying to figure out what makes us do what we do was a really interesting road to go down.”
Hit woman, narcissist, international serial killer—what’s not to love about Cat Adams, Aubrey Plaza’s role on Criminal Minds? There is the whole “obsessed with Spencer Reid to the point of being dangerous” thing, but you can’t deny that Cat makes for some entertaining TV.
Aubrey told TV Line that her real-life friend Matthew Gubler sent her the script for the episode, and she was in right away. “To be totally honest, I haven’t watched much of the show,” she said. “I just thought playing that role would be really fun. There aren’t many opportunities for me to play a psychopath that has planted a bomb in a restaurant and who’s holding a gun under a table trying to kill an FBI agent. That’s some juicy stuff. I don’t care what show it’s on.”
When the BAU has to take a second look at one of their old cases, it means viewers are in for a nice flashback episode, featuring Ben Savage as young Gideon. The Boy Meets World star brought back the original character—sort of—in the 10th season of the show, eight seasons after Mandy Patinkin’s Gideon went to his cabin in the woods and resigned from the team.
The team is called in and saves a young Elle Fanning not once, but twice during season two. The first involves a visit from the BAU to the small town where Elle’s character Tracy Belle lives after her classmates’ bodies are found in the woods. The kids (and the team) suspect the local bogeyman, but the actual killer is much more sinister (more on that in a second).
You were promised sinister, and this is it. Cameron Monaghan, known these days for his roles on Shameless and Gotham, guest starred as Jeffrey Charles, a kid with anger issues and severe resentment of his classmates. Since this is Criminal Minds, this leads Jeffrey to start bludgeoning his classmates to death, including an attempt on the life of Elle Fanning’s character, Tracy Belle.
Wil Wheaton was every traveler’s worse nightmare as Floyd Hansen, a hotel owner who enjoyed torturing and beating his guests to death. To make matters harder for the BAU, after killing his victims, Floyd would stage their deaths to look like car accidents.
“I’m really proud of this episode and my work in it,” Wil wrote on his blog. “I felt great when we shot it, like I’d done what the script demanded, and everyone seemed very happy with the quality of the work.”
Legendary actor Ed Asner added to SSA Aaron Hotchner’s stress when he guest starred as the character’s former father-in-law, Roy Brooks. While he has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, he does remember enough to still blame Hotch for the death of his daughter at the hands of a serial killer he was investigating.
James Van Der Beek
James Van Der Beek left Dawson and his creek behind for a more chilling role as Tobias Hankel, a serial killer and hacker who was brought down by the BAU in season two, although not without first making a lasting impression on the team.
“For me, personally, it marked a beginning of a new way of working, a new way of approaching acting goals,” James told TV Insider of the role. “In the beginning of my career, I did what a lot of younger actors do, which is, you get a role with some darkness and you think, ‘I’ve gotta find the darkness. I’ve gotta get there.’ By that point, I recognized, ‘you know what? There’s darkness in the world, and I can channel that pretty easily, it’s just a matter of doing it cleanly without it sticking to me.'”
While best known as Freddie Krueger from A Nightmare on Elm Street, Robert Englund was on the side of the non-serial killers this time as Detective Gassner, brought in to help the team solve a series of ritualistic murders in Oregon.
You could say that Jason Rathbone guest starred as two characters when the Twilight star played Adam/Amanda, a serial killer with split personalities on season four of Criminal Minds. After his previous experience with Tobias Hankel (remember James Van Der Beek?), Reid is the one who helps steer the team from two unsubs working together to one with two conflicting natures.
Frankie Muniz starred as Jonny McHale, an acclaimed comic book artist and author in season three, but, like most guest starring roles on Criminal Minds, you’ll find there’s something more troubling going on when you read between the lines of Jonny’s comic books.
As Beth Clemmons, a fellow triathlete and love interest of Hotch, Bellamy Young brought a little bit of happiness to a series that has more than its fair share of gloom and gore. Bellamy made appearances in multiple seasons of Criminal Minds before she and Hotch decided to end their relationship when she got a job offer in Hong Kong.
“I’d been a fan way before I got on the show,” the Scandal star told TV Insider this year. “It’s a great show and it will always be a great show. It was such a reliable tune-in. It was framed in a literary device and then delivered some really compelling, creepy, but revelatory story every week, so yeah, I certainly thought I was stepping on board to a very sure thing.”
Anna Gunn’s character on Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders was supposed to be the female lead of the show’s second spinoff, but Anna left for undisclosed reasons after the series was introduced in a Criminal Minds episode before the show started its own season. Regardless, fans still got a full episode of Anna as Special Agent Lily Lambert in season 10.
The actor who did end up starring as a lead of Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders for two seasons? None other than Lieutenant Dan, a.k.a. Gary Sinise. With the end of CSI:NY after nine seasons, Gary jumped from one CBS drama to another.
“I’ve really enjoyed playing these heroes,” the actor told W Channel in the U.K. He went on to say: “They deal with very challenging issues, cases, people and events—and I think we’re lucky that we have a lot of people that want to do this kind of work. It’s a privilege to be able to play them and to try to show off how qualified these people are. It’s good to show how grateful we are that we have people out there that are doing this dangerous work.”
When a serial killer targeting female drivers on freeways in Orange County, California, Gina Torres (as Detective Thea Salinas) is called in to help the team. Luckily, The Road Warrior, as the media as dubbed the serial killer, quickly has his license revoked.
Oh, to be part of this poker game. While seemingly out of nowhere, the final scene of season 11, episode 17, featured Rossi and Morgan playing a couple rounds with legendary singer Bill Withers.
Also at that poker game? Joe Walsh, guitarist and singer of The Eagles, was also holding down a seat at the table. Again, to be part of whatever magic brought this particular group of people together for a few hands.
Way back in season one, Amber Heard starred as Lila Archer, a Hollywood starlet with a stalker who is killing potential threats to her career and has a particularly steamy moment with Reid in her swimming pool.
Sterling K. Brown
In addition to introducing the cast of its new spinoff, the Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders episode also featured Sterling K. Brown as the U.S. embassy’s regional security officer. Sterling’s character, Fitz, helps the BAU solve the case in Barbados—although unfortunately only for two small scenes.
Tim Curry’s character Billy Flynn, a serial killer who uses rolling blackouts caused by an intense heat wave in California to enter, rape and murder his victims, was responsible for the cliffhanger between seasons five and six of the show.
And Tim’s character seemed to have left an impression. In a TV Insider interview after the series finale this year, Joe Mantegna, A.J. Cook, and Kirsten Vangsness all agreed that Tim’s role was one of the creepiest unsubs the team ever dealt with.
Charlie Hillridge, the character Evan Peters plays in season five, was abducted from the fair when he was 8 years old and turned into the unwilling accomplice of the couple who kidnapped him as he grows older. Luckily, the BAU is on the case to help free Charlie and the two other girls that are being held captive.
After Emily Prentiss (Paget Brewster) left the team for a job at Interpol, linguistics specialist Alex Blake, played by Jeanne Tripplehorn, joined the BAU for two seasons.
“The aspect I’m truly surprised about—given that the show is heading into its eight season—is the fun and warmth that is around the set,” the former Big Love star told TV Addict. “Criminal Minds is a smooth running machine. After seven seasons they’ve worked out all the kinks, we have a lot of laughs on set, and it’s just fun to go to work.”
Anton Yelchin plays a high school student in season two who seeks out Reid when he realizes that he has some instincts that would be less than ideal (or legal) for him to act upon.
Spy kid Daryl Sabara guest starred in a season-two episode where the BAU helps the FBI’s Crime Against Children Unit save the life of a missing boy who appears a year later for sale on the internet.
C Thomas Howell
C Thomas Howell as George Foyet (a.k.a. The Reaper) toys with the BAU in season four before targeted Hotch’s ex-wife and son in the season finale and beginning of season five.
“The Reaper, for me, that’s one of the most important roles I’ve played,” Thomas told the AV Club. “I hadn’t played many bad guys, and I certainly hadn’t played any bad guys successfully up until that point, but it was really an opportunity for me to discover what that note really meant. When I played the Reaper, I was really clear that I wasn’t going to be playing a bad guy. And when you watch the performance in that show, I’m playing someone who’s a good guy who’s doing really bad things.”
Kim Wayans—yes, sister of those Wayans—was half of a team of female vigilante killers in season eight. Kim’s character, Darlene Beckett, was living a happy life, until her daughter disappeared and police were unable to find her body or evidence to connect the main suspect with the crime. Everything changed when Darlene meets Ellen Russell, who also believes the criminal justice system failed her, and the two, as they say, decide to take matters into their own hands.
In season two, Keith Carradine plays Frank Breitkopf, a twisted sadist who earned his spot in the Criminal Minds Hall of Fame For Really Terrible People by torturing and killing more than 100 people in a 30-year timespan. (That’s just half as long as the show itself ran!) And he targeted Gideon’s girlfriend.
“Without a doubt, this is a very personal case for Gideon,” Patinkin told TV Guide at the time. “In terms of catching up with this man, it is something he would do until he took his last breath. He wants to annihilate this individual, and everything he stands for, from the face of this earth.”
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