Monty Brinton/ CBS
When "Criminal Minds" made cuts at the end of last season -- eliminating A.J. Cook's role and cutting back on the number of episodes for Paget Brewster -- Kirsten Vangsness was the one women left unscathed. In fact, her unique style and computer skill as Penelope Garcia has multiplied. Now, ETonline talks to the out-and-proud actress, who will be seen on both the original series, airing tonight, and the spin-off, "Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior," premiering Feb. 16 on CBS.
ETonline: Is it hard for you to have two "Criminal Minds" shows and some of your former castmates don't even have one?
Kirsten Vangsness: That part sucks. There is nothing else you can say about it. They are completely separate things. I love my job. I love this character, so any opportunity I have to do that is awesome, but that part sucks. It won't suck for them. A.J. is going to rise like a Phoenix and I hope she invites me to the Emmys when she wins one.
ETonline: This was a big year for you on "Criminal Minds" because your character went through a lot of changes. Was it like a roller coaster?
Kirsten Vangsness: It was a little bit. I am such a pacifist. I am not a fighter. I try to be assertive. Sometimes they decide they want to instill a change. They will be, "She has been doing this for six years, she shouldn't be squeamish around these pictures." I say, "She will be squeamish for the rest of her life because that is just how she is."
ETonline: Your character seems a little bit different in "Suspect Behavior" than it does in the original "Criminal Minds." In the original, you are flirty with Shemar Moore. Are you going to be flirty in the new show?
Kirsten Vangsness: I think it would be weird, and I think that the writers thought so, too, and told me it would be weird to have Garcia come in and start working with these new people and all of a sudden be familiar, like "Hey, babycakes." So I have to kind of be like how the audience would be where you are sort of the new third-grader, or they are the new third-grader, or someone is the new third-grader and feeling it out. So, she's not going to be all out. I think, actually, she can't help but to kind of say things that she doesn't mean to. But I think she's a little more formal, a little more just-the-facts-ma'am kind of a thing.
ETonline: Is your character's unique style based on your personal style?
Kirsten Vangsness: I personally think that we dress completely different. You might disagree. I think that we do. I think we both let our freak flags fly. I like dressing how I like to dress, and I look like a little art statement. And I think she likes to dress like that, but I think she makes her own art statement. Garcia has a glam squad that definitely does that. I think what they borrowed from is: "Oh, she can pull this off because in real life, she dresses like a 7-year-old pirate from space."
ETonline: Was going from blonde to red to blonde your decision or theirs?
Kirsten Vangsness: That was me. I colored it red; then I got bored with the red. I remembered, I like [blonde] and I went back to the blonde. It is just what she does. I think that is what makes her a superhero. Unlike Kirsten, when Penelope dyes her hair, it doesn't go through extensive damage and breakage. Penelope has a team that makes it look great.
ETonline: Aren't you proof that the Newsweek article that said gay actors can have trouble being cast as straight characters convincingly is wrong? To be on both of these shows as a straight woman flirting with guys seems to prove that you can do that.
Kirsten Vangsness: I understand being up in arms about that article. But it was so bizarre to me and so not true, it wasn't something to get upset about. I am the only character on "Criminal Minds" you have seen having sex. You see her coming out of a shower with a guy. I enjoy all of that. I am as queer as a purple unicorn singing Madonna. I think you can be all of that. You wouldn't do that with a straight woman playing a gay character. Ninety percent of the women on "The L Word" were straight. No one was going around, "This is unbelievable." I can look at lots of men and go, "I want to go to there." That is totally normal for me. I think it is really silly.
ETonline: In the episode in which you were shot, did they tell you ahead you were going to survive?
Kirsten Vangsness: You don't know. They could turn around tomorrow and be like, "We have a much better girl now. We want this person." So when they said that, but said, "You are going to be fine," I was, "Oh, okay." Then I really was fine. That was dreamy. I have an episode named after the character.
ETonline: I was watching and going, where is her scar supposed to be?
Kirsten Vangsness: That was one of the things. They shot me in the heart and then they went through this whole thing with the makeup department, saying, "You know, if you shoot her through the heart, we will have to explain and crack open her breast bone to get it out. So every day when she goes into work, if you are going to continue showing off the girls, you are going to have to put a scar here." So that is why when they do the whole thing and I am in peril, they put in this thing where they say, "It didn't go through the heart. It actually went through her back." Then when they did the follow-up, they were, "Can you clutch your back, never [your heart]?"
Tune in tonight for an all-new episode of "Criminal Minds." Then, catch the premiere of "Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior" on CBS February 16.