Kirsten Vangsness is about to play one character in two series, but she admits her professional happiness is tempered.
As quirky techno-whiz Penelope Garcia, the actress has enjoyed a long run on CBS’ crime drama “Criminal Minds,” and she’s carrying the part into the spinoff: “Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior,” which will team her with Oscar winner Forest Whitaker and Janeane Garofalo when it premieres right after the parent show Wednesday, Feb. 16.
Vangsness landed the extra duty largely because of lobbying by co-star Paget Brewster, whose own “Criminal Minds” presence has been reduced this season. Also because of last year’s dismissal of fellow cast member A.J, Cook, Vangsness maintains mixed feelings over currently being the franchise’s representative full-time female.
“I hate it,” she tells Zap2it. “That’s the short answer. I can’t even tell you it’s bittersweet, though it is that in reality. It’s like being a squatter in a house, since [the producers] have control over what they decide to do. The sweet part is that those women will rise like phoenixes.
“A.J. is going to be on [NBC’s] ‘Law & Order: Special Victims Unit’ with Jeremy Irons tonight (Wednesday, Jan. 12), and I’m sure she’s going to be amazing. She’s great, and it’s the same thing with Paget. I’m dear friends with both of them, so there is nothing shiny and sparkly to say other than … I don’t like it.”
Vangsness has no worries about being so candid. “I can say ‘no comment’ about things, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong about speaking your truth about something like this. At the end of the day, it’s going to work out fantastically for both those girls.”
At least for now, “Criminal Minds” has a replacement in Rachel Nichols (“Alias”), playing an FBI cadet working with the Behavioral Analysis Unit. The third of her episodes was set to air this week, but it’s been postponed by a last-minute shift that moves Paula Abdul‘s “Live to Dance” into the “Criminal” slot for one night.
“She’s fantastic,” Vangsness says of Nichols, “and I’m so glad she’s here. It’s so weird to have all these things happen. I’m still sore in my heart that A.J. isn’t here, but so happy that Rachel is — and they’re entirely separate things. I can have both of those feelings. It’s not like one person smashed out the other.”