Criminal Minds: Cast's Off-Set Relationships

Criminal Minds is well-known for its amazing friendship bonds between the members of the team. But are the actors friends in real life? What made the bond between Derek and Garcia so special? How did Paget Brewster change Matthew Gray Gubler‘s outlook? What did A.J. Cook think about the dynamic between JJ and Reid? Let’s find out the answers to these questions!

The Criminal Minds cast / Getty Images

The Criminal Minds cast / Getty Images


It’s so exciting to see on-screen friendships go beyond the set! The connection between Shemar Moore and Kirsten Vangsness gave an extra level of realism to the show. So many fans assumed that their unique relationship was real! And it is, in a way! Kirsten and Shemar became great friends, both on-screen and off. 

Moore is actually responsible for Kirsten's career on Criminal Minds! Initially, Vangsness was supposed to appear in only one episode. But the creators of the show noticed the spark between her and Shemar when the actors were joking around off-camera. So they decided to keep her for a bit longer to see how the characters worked together and the rest is history!

These two kept calling each other affectionate names, like "baby girl," "hot stuff,” "sweetness," and "sugar." It felt spontaneous and organic - because it was! Their exchanges were based on a bit of improvisation on Moore's part while shooting a first-season episode.

“I’ve said silly pet names my whole life. This started when I had a scene with Kirsten on the phone, and I was just in a goofy mood, and I just kind of riffed.”

Shemar Moore and Kirsten Vangsness are great friends in real life / Getty Images

Shemar Moore and Kirsten Vangsness are great friends in real life / Getty Images

Shemar himself was surprised that the script supervisors didn’t say anything, and then Vangsness started coming back with “chocolate thunder” and “brown sugar.” In an interview with Parade, Vangsness says the start of their relationship was “instinctual.” 

“We shot together and we were like, 'Oh, my gosh. We have chemistry.' Neither one of us knew it until we were doing it.”

When Moore left Criminal Minds, fans were heartbroken, just like Garcia. His departure from the show was bittersweet because it was none other than Vangsness, who co-wrote Moore’s final episode. And she definitely put her all into doing the best job possible! But nothing could keep Penelope and Derek apart for long, and Shemar kept appearing on the show as a special guest. 

In real life, Shemar and Kirsten have kept their exceptional bond. We still get glimpses of it on Instagram, where each year Kirsten shares sweet photos of them together for Moore’s birthday. By the way, Shemar put his famous catchphrase to good use: he started a clothing line called "Baby Girl" and gives a portion of the earnings to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.


Kirsten Vangsness is very similar to Penelope, as they're both lively and treat their teams like family. Shemar Moore wasn't Kirsten's only friend on the show. She's close with the entire cast and loves to hang out with them. On the screen, Penelope, JJ, and Emily enjoyed girls’ nights out despite their busy schedules. Off-screen, the girls have even more fun together!


And looking at these behind-the-scenes pictures it’s safe to assume that Kirsten made friends with the majority of the Criminal Minds’ crew as well! The Criminal Minds cast truly looks like a family, and that's probably why this show became so hugely popular. Joe Mantegna calls the series a “truly wonderful experience” he loved being a part of.

Joe Mantegna and Kirsten Vangsness / Getty Images

Joe Mantegna and Kirsten Vangsness / Getty Images

Although he came to Criminal Minds when it was already in production, the actor was welcomed by the cast and crew from day one. In his affectionate post on the occasion of the show’s wrapping up, Mantegna wrote that he will mostly miss seeing his fellow castmates and fantastic crew every day.

“It may seem a cliché to say we’re like family, but it’s so very true,” he said.

Joe Mantegna with 'Criminal Minds' co-stars / Getty Images

Joe Mantegna with 'Criminal Minds' co-stars / Getty Images


Matthew Gray Gubler totally agrees with Mantegna. The actor shared that it was “a real honor” to be on this long-running show. He also said that "family" is the only thing he can think of to sum it up. In a recent interview with TV Insider A.J. Cook explained why she felt the same:

“We believe it's building each other up that gets things done and not the tearing down of one another. That's why it was such a beautiful place to come and work and play every day”.

Incredibly, these talented people spent more than a decade working together on a daily basis. And still, finishing the final season of Criminal Minds, Cook confirmed that all the chemistry in the series was “110 percent real”, and the show’s cast members were just “savoring every last moment of it”.

Being on the show since episode one, Matthew Gray Gubler bonded with the entire cast of Criminal Minds. The actor revealed that Joe Mantegna is like his LA dad, Shemar is like his brother, and A.J. is like a sister, while Paget is his best friend.

And what could be better than bringing happiness into your best friend’s life? That’s exactly what Matthew did when he introduced Paget to his friend, musician Steve Damstra. After dating for several years, Paget and Steve got engaged in 2013. Naturally, they asked Gubler to do them the honor of officiating their wedding ceremony – and he agreed!

Paget Brewster and Steve Damstra were married by Matthew Gray Gubler / Getty Images

Paget Brewster and Steve Damstra were married by Matthew Gray Gubler / Getty Images

Matthew became a certified Minister and actually married his besties. He opened up about the rare experience in an interview with Glamour Magazine, saying that Paget showed him the true meaning of love.

“She taught me that all in the right time, true love will find you. She was sort of like, 'I'm fine with either being alone or not,' and then she met Steve, and she knew what the lifetime of waiting was for. I admire that.”

Gubler is definitely a people's person, and he is also very close with his co-star A.J. Cook. Their friendship is indeed inspiring – but we’ll talk about that later. And right now we’ll tell you about a special event, created by Matthew to honor his Criminal Minds family.


It’s a little known fact that Matthew Gray Gubler hosted an award ceremony for his fellow cast and crew members. It is called the Goobie Awards, and its categories include such ‘prestigious’ titles as Best Facial Hair, Craziest Accent, an award for working too hard and making everyone else look bad, and one for crew members who play bit parts in episodes.

There’s even a category for the crew member who looks most like an unsub! And although the event started, in Gubler’s own words, as a joke, over time it has become a traditional and heated competition. But, unfortunately, not everything is perfect among the cast of Criminal Minds.

Matthew Gray Gubler hosted the Goobie Awards for his friends / Getty Images

Matthew Gray Gubler hosted the Goobie Awards for his friends / Getty Images


Being open and friendly sometimes becomes a problem. Keith Tisdell appeared as a guest actor on two episodes of Criminal Minds. He became friends with Shemar Moore and soon became involved with Moore’s company Baby Girl LLC. It came as a shock when an audit uncovered Tisdell’s illegal behavior.

Shemar Moore encountered problems with one of the actors / Getty Images

Shemar Moore encountered problems with one of the actors / Getty Images

It turns out that he stole more than $60,000 (!) from Shemar’s company! Tisdell was arrested on suspicion of embezzlement and later admitted to grand theft. Moore also gave Tisdell $10,000 worth of rims, paid vacations, and $20,000 in expenses. Moore was reportedly devastated by the incident and allegedly told the judge:

“I’m not here for money. I’m here because he betrayed a friendship. This is not OK. You don’t do this to people.”

Shemar Moore wasn’t the only Criminal Minds star dealing with a real-life drama. Thomas Gibson made headlines for getting physical with an employee on the show. In 2010, the actor reportedly pushed an assistant director in front of the cast and crew during filming. Six years later he assaulted a writer on set when an argument with creative differences escalated.

As the result, Agent Hotchner was written out of the show. But, there was also a silver lining to this situation, as Paget Brewster was promoted back to full-time cast member. Fortunately, most of the co-stars remain friends off-set, and even continue to work together on other projects.

Paget Brewster, one of the stars of Criminal Minds / Getty Images

Paget Brewster, one of the stars of Criminal Minds / Getty Images


Josh Stewart, who portrayed J.J. Jareau’s husband, invited A.J. Cook to play his wife again. The duo teamed up on the set of Stewart’s indie drama called Back Fork. A.J. revealed that she agreed to do the project because of how comfortable she was working with Josh in Criminal Minds.

Josh Stewart and A.J. Cook portraying husband and wife / Getty Images

Josh Stewart and A.J. Cook portraying husband and wife / Getty Images

“I love that he and I have a really great chemistry and trust for one another," - the actress told Parade, - "So, of course, he could ask me to do anything and I’d probably say ‘Yes.’”

In an interview Josh Stewart did for his film, he explained why he decided that his Criminal Minds co-star was the right fit for his film: “The comfort level that comes with knowing and working with someone for 12 years is invaluable. She’s an amazing talent and an amazing person. That decision was easy.”

Moreover, the character he wrote was full of qualities that AJ possesses, like undying love and loyalty towards the people she considers her own. And there’s one more story of a beautiful bond from the set of Criminal Minds.


Fans of the show absolutely loved Reid and JJ together and cherished every moment of them on screen. Remember how JJ was “the only person in the world” who called him Spence? Reid even became a godfather to JJ’s elder son! The reason for such an amazing dynamic between the characters is that A.J. Cook and Matthew Gray Gubler's friendship is the real deal off-screen!

A.J. Cook and Matthew Gray Gubler are best friends in real life / Getty Images

A.J. Cook and Matthew Gray Gubler are best friends in real life / Getty Images

And they managed to preserve it through all these years! It’s cool to work with your best friend – you can always goof around together and have a good time! And although A.J. doesn't post on her Instagram very often, she never fails to wish her dear friend a happy birthday.

Surprisingly, not everyone was happy when, in the show, the two finally confessed to having feelings for each other that went beyond friendship. And the actors themselves were full of anxiety about the JJ and Reid situation, where the besties revealed that there could have possibly been more. However, A.J. Cook agreed that “It was a really interesting twist”:

“It definitely made both of our characters grow in the areas that they needed to grow. I think it was really brave of our writers to do that.”

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