Kirsten Vangsness Thrives on “Criminal Minds”

a bonus, Minds has given Vangsness the added security to continue her
award-winning career in Los Angeles theater, a departure from the fear she felt
when she first discovered acting while a junior high-school student in Orange
County, Calif., a painfully shy girl who came out of her shell on the stage.

“I had no illusions whatsoever,” she said. “I knew I
would be living on cat food … but I knew I was going to be an actor. But I had
no idea I would make my living doing it. So there’s a certain kind of peace that
comes when you know where your rent is coming from, and you know you have
health insurance.”

different type of peace enveloped Vangsness five years ago when she and her
longtime boyfriend attended a birthday party. It was there that she first met

“I remember looking at her across a table and just
thinking, ‘Oh shit — oh shit! — everything is going to change.’” And it did — gradually.

Soon after, Vangsness broke up with her beau (they
remain good friends), but an initial attempt to be pals with Goldstein fell
flat, and the two did not speak for three years.

When they finally ran into each other again, Vangsness
turned to the written word.

“I sent her an apology letter — you know, because when
you come out, you kind of lose your mind. You turn into a 13-year-old again. So
I sent her this apology note. She was living her life, and I was living my
life, and I didn’t expect things to happen. I was just saying, ‘Hey, I’m sorry,
and I just wanted to let you know that I’m out now, and I think I’m more sane,
and I just wanted you to know that and to say that I’m sorry.’ So I was just
sort of cleaning up my stuff.”

The note obviously worked, as Vangsness and Goldstein
just marked their two-year anniversary together.

Vangsness with partner Melanie Goldstein

It was last year, though, when Vangsness decided the
time had come to come out to the public. She did so in a way that would make
Garcia proud — on the blog she was doing at the time for In
talking about a charity bicycle ride that she and other Minds cast members were
preparing for, she wrote, “My girlfriend and I (Happy
Late National Coming Out Day) bought bikes” for the event.

“[Melanie and I]
tried to do it louder,” she said. “We meant to be loud, but we wanted to be
loud in the right place. I never wanted it to be like a show: ‘Here I am at the
People’s Choice Awards holding hands with this gorgeous woman.’ I didn’t want
it to be like that.”

The couple had decided at one point that the 2007
Outfest would be the perfect place to make things official, as it were. “It was
totally appropriate. So we get all dressed up, we walk the red carpet. And the
next morning we go (online), and then we look up the event, and there’s
nothing. We can’t find a picture if our lives depended on it.”

At that point, Vangsness just wanted to get it over

“Because I work with this gorgeous man for whom,
obviously, I would be dead if I didn’t say that he makes one’s heart a-flutter.
And that flirting with Shemar is not fake at all. (But though) I enjoy men very
much, it’s just that the girls were just that much better, and you have to go
where things are that much better. So I was, like, ‘I need to get this

"So, because I was writing a blog, and it was the
day after National Coming Out Day, I was, like, ‘Well, there you go, and people
can just leave it to their imagination and take whatever they want from that.
But now I’ve said it, I’m not going to say it again.’ ”

Still, even after her blog post, some people wondered
whether Vangsness was serious or not, going so far as to parse what the word
“girlfriend” meant in that context. For Vangsness, there was no context to
translate. “Melanie’s the love of my life,” she said with beaming emphasis.

Other things
also became clear to Vangsness after she came out, including experiencing
anti-gay protests in a different way. Ever upbeat, she’s channeled those “sad”
feelings into her acting. “I think that dealing with that made me able to be
much more understanding and to tread gentler upon the Earth, certainly,” she
said. “Anything that makes you a better human being automatically makes you
better at your job.”

Content with her personal life, Vangsness has very
little to complain about professionally as well. She’s currently appearing in
"Spider Bites," a new play that’s being staged at Theater of NOTE,
the small Hollywood theater company that she’s been a member of for eight
years. And on Minds, Garcia isn’t hurting in the romance department herself,
thanks to her adorably geeky boyfriend, played by Buffy the Vampire Slayer alum
Nicholas Brendon.

Buffy alum Nicholas Brendon plays Garcia’s love interest on Crminial Minds

Before the TV bliss, though, Garcia has to overcome
one more cliffhanger, as last season ended with the explosion of an SUV that
contained an unidentified show regular. More angst for her fans?

Vangsness wouldn’t say, but did offer some logical
words of reassurance.

"If you shoot somebody, you’re not going to shoot
them and blow them up in the same season," she said with a sly twinkle in
her eye. "So I’m not saying I’m definitely golden, but I could be

Criminal Minds
returns for its fourth season
at 9 p.m. ET
on CBS.


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