Out actress Kirsten Vangsness is the only Criminal Minds star that is crossing over to the new spin-off, Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior. She’s joined by new cast members Janeane Garofalo and Forrest Whittaker for a show focused on the psychological situations that FBI agents deal with on the job. Both Garofalo and Whittaker play agents, and the role is certainly a new one for Janeane, who has done mostly comedy in her 20 year career.
“I have tried to pursue dramatic roles over the years as well,” she said at the TCA set visit for the show this week. “But I think there is something about dark-haired women with deep voices of ambiguous sexuality that plays into dramatic programming.”
Her character of Beth Griffith is, indeed, sexually ambiguous, at least for now. “So far we haven’t [seen any of Beth's personal life] but I think that goes consistently with most of the characters thus far in
the first season,” Janeane said. “We haven’t entered into their personal
lives to a great deal. So far, I am married to my job. Again, the ambiguous
sexuality and the — we don’t know. I don’t know what
it’s going to be. Maybe next season you will find out
what I do in my private life.”
Obviously, America loves their sexually ambiguous female cops. Look at Olivia Benson on SVU or Jane Rizzoli — I have a feeling viewers will gladly add Janeane’s Beth Griffith to that canon. Unfortunately, executive producer Edward Allen Bernero sees things a little differently.
“I don’t agree with her. That’s only what she thinks. I also think she’s beautiful. She’s beautiful on the show. She has very different opinions on herself than everyone else does. So not only did we not intend [for her to be sexually ambiguous], it’s not even true, ” Bernero said. “The character is a very unique kind of character because she really is alone in the world, and I don’t think she knew how alone she was until she had a family.”
When asked if Janeane’s character will be interested in men, Bernero said, “Oh yes — absolutely.”
However, Bernero said he does take input from the actress, and borrows things from her real life personality for Beth.
“There are some things that Janeane has brought to the character that are really interesting, like the ability to accept a compliment from somebody that we’ve written into the character,” Bernero said.
But she won’t necessarily have a love interest that will take up a lot of screentime because that’s not what the show is about. “It’s really hard to go ‘yeah let’s forget that we just dealt with a murderer and go make out with somebody.’”
Even though we might not get what we want from Janeane’s character (or Olivia Benson or Jane Rizzoli, for that matter) one thing Criminal Minds does prove is that lesbian actresses can play straight characters convincingly. Kirsten Vangsness is playing straight, flirty Penelope Garcia on both shows.
“I understand being up-in-arms about that [Newsweek] article, but it was so bizarre to me, and not true.” Kirsten said. “I’m the only character on Criminal Minds that’s had sex. You see her come out of the shower with a guy. I shamelessly, obviously flirt, and I enjoy all of that, and I’m as queer as a purple unicorn singing Madonna. You wouldn’t do that with a straight woman playing a gay character. Ninety percent of the women on The L Word were straight and no one was walking around saying ‘This is somehow unbelievable.’ I can look at men [on the show] and say ‘I want to go there!’ As an actor, you can find those things. I think it’s really silly.”
Taking on double duty for the network has been a little bit to juggle, but Kirsten explained that she just has to remind herself what wild storyline they are doing on which show.
“The only part that
gets a little confusing is that you end up being, like,
‘OK — This one is about the guy who kills them with
ferrets, and this one is about —
and then you kind of go to one, and you are, like,’”Oh,
shoot. This is ferret. That’s crazy evil clown who is
beating the mom,” she said.
No matter what, we’ll still see the same wacky, fun Penelope Garcia that we’ve grown to love, and even though she may resemble the actress playing her, Kirsten claims they actually have different ideas of style.
“I personally think that we dress completely differently.
You might disagree. I think that we do,” Kirsten said. “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. And that, I
have a glam squad that definitely does that. And they
borrow from — like, I think the part that they borrowed
from is, like, ‘Oh, she can pull this off because, in
real life, she dresses like a seven-year-old pirate from
Catch the premiere of Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior on CBS February 16.