When Criminal Minds returns to CBS for its seventh season in September, Kirsten Vangsness will be there, as usual. Despite shakeups in the cast last year, the out actress (who has been with the show since its inception) has stuck around, playing the eccentric FBI technical analyst Penelope Garcia. And in the off season, she has been keeping herself busy by writing and starring in plays at the Theatre of NOTE in Los Angeles, guesting on two different web series and working on a musical film she originally wrote for the stage.
Somewhere in there, she has some free time to spend with fiancee Melanie Goldstein and attend press events, like the CBS TCA party where I caught up with her at last week. Kirsten spoke with me about her first love (theater), her excitement for the return of co-stars AJ Cook and Paget Brewster and when she and Melanie will say “I do.”
AfterEllen.com: You have a ton of side projects going on right now.
Kirsten Vangsness: I’m doing a play written by my best friend, who used to be my boyfriend. He’s now my best friend. It’s like a twisted Douglas Sirk thing where I get to make out with this girl, who’s been one of my friends forever, and it’s this crazy ’50s David Lynch-like — it’s totally different than Criminal Minds. I get to play crazy. I basically play Marilyn Monroe, like dressed up like a turkey. It’s sort of like you don’t know what’s going on the whole time until the very end. She tells this whole story about how she burns this chicken and slaps her kid and you don’t know what’s going on. She tells the girl “I’m in love with you.” Basically, they make out and then she gets internalized homophobia and then she beats the s–t out of her and that’s the whole play.
It’s intense. It’s a night of one acts but my theater company is super punk rock crazy and I love it and it’s my art home. So it’s fun! I’m about to start filming Season 3 of Pretty, which I now a series regular in the web series. And then I’m doing Kill Me Deadly, which is my baby — in which Paget has agreed to play the photographer.
Paget Brewster: I get a hat!
KV: It’s a film noir spoof. I’m convinced it’s going to be the next Young Frankenstein. My theater friends decided we’re going to make a movie out of this and we’re going to do it on our terms and you have to be able to — it’s like a theater aesthetic but it’s a movie. It’s all done in black and white and I’m the femme fatale and it’s super funny and there’s music in it. Shemar is in it. I sing in it and it’s crazy. I’m producing that and I’m in it and it’s fascinating and really interesting to learn about all that stuff.
And then we start Criminal Minds, which is amazing because the girls are back. I just wrote a show for the Fringe Festival, a one-person show. I wrote a play called Potential Space that is about vaginas — it has a giant map that looks like Narnia if Narnia was a vagina. And it’s actually not — well it’s got gay boy queer stuff but besides that — that’s going to be done next weekend at the NOTE and then there’s some other things.
I’ve been doing the Vampire Mob. They just released the second episode of season 2 and they just finished filming the second season. So right now I’m currently learning five sets of lines.
AE: So you are doing all kinds of mediums, but it sounds like theater is your first love.
KV: You know the new show Two Broke Girls? [Star] Beth [Behrs]? I’m like, “Why do I know her face? Why do I know her name?” She was the usher when I did Fat Pig at the Geffen, like, four years ago. I just saw her and she was like “Hey, I know you!” I got so emotional because it’s the best because it’s like “I know you, I used to see you at the theater!”
Theater is my first love because I think it’s — I’m a big DIY person and I think it’s the beginning of conversations. We live in a city, in a world where we can create something and the place where anybody can do that. You can do it in your backyard if you wanted to. I do believe those are the unsung heroes — that’s where Bohemia is, that’s where everything starts and I love the web idea because it is the same kind of thing: “We’re going to pack all our stuff up and just do it.”
Kill Me Deadly is a show we’re making a movie because I wanted all of my theater friends who do great work to be union. I think we are going to create a community of people. My hope for is it that it becomes a big deal. We have got so much content, my little troupe of pals and I just want this to be the stepping stone to the next thing and the next thing. I play a very specific character, and I’m happy and I love it, but if I don’t do other projects, I am going to play that part forever.
I would never get cast as the part I play in Kill Me Deadly, I get to do it myself. I get to do that for my friends and my community which is really important to me. I’m one of the freaks. I always — I go to these parties and I get dressed up to go to them and I always feel like I don’t fit in and I don’t ever want to feel like I fit in because I think there’d be something really wrong if I just show up at these things and don’t feel like “You know what? I scratch my nose in the night and my skin is flaking off” and I’ve got dirt stains on these nylons on my ankles so I had to wear boots.
I love being at the beginning of something. That’s why I’ve never been great at having a stylist because it feels like I’m not in that and that’s not me. I’m very much — I’ve always been the kind of actor where I like being a part of it.