Kirsten Vangsness has a pretty rad gig playing Penelope Garcia on CBS’ hit show Criminal Minds. Now in its eighth season, the series has seen some cast members come in and out, but the out actress has been a mainstay and fan favorite. Penelope stays out of the show’s blood and gore, though, and concentrates more on the technical sides of things, which Kirsten said she’s quite OK with.
“No, I don’t want that at all!” she said at CBS’ TCA party. “It’s good! Because it means I usually stay [in L.A.] and I am making the movie I’m making and I have a play that’s opening with my theater company, so it’s nice. It’s nice to do all the different things.”
It’s perfect, actually, because Kirsten is able to pursue her passion projects while also starring on a hit show. She’s excited about this season that Jeanne Tripplehorn has joined the cast but also says the series is just a well-oiled machine by now.
“It’s sort of like ‘dead person, how’d they die? This is how! Next!’ Which is awesome,” Kirsten said. And that formula has proven to work very well for one of TV’s highest rated dramas.
Meanwhile, Kirsten is working on a few other things, like a play about vaginas.
“Vagina vagaina vagina! I’ve currently been in lots of conversations with graphic artists so ‘OK, if you’re going to make the dildo look like that, then it should be..’ or there’s a giant map of a vagina so it’s like ‘I want the labia manora… could it be….’ Making little maps and things!” Kirsten said. “I’m working with a friend of mine who’s a vagina physical therapist so we’re kind of delving into this whole like — it’s a lot of vaginas! It’s called Potential Space, which is really what a vagina is.”
Potential Space opens tomorrow, September 27, and runs through October 27 at Los Angeles’ Theatre of Note, which is Kirsten’s theater company. Meanwhile, Kirsten’s also spent most of her summer making a movie based on another play she wrote, called Kill Me Deadly.
“It’s got this weird neat hybrid kind of audience because it’s like a Young Frankenstein,” Kirsten said of the film. “It takes place in 1948, it’s that sort of Mel Brooks kind of thing to it but the speed of the comedy is very modern. And it’s also a participatory kind of a movie, the kind you want to watch in a room full of people. Like Rocky Horror Picture Show. It’s really really cool.”
Kirsten’s Criminal Minds co-stars Shemar Moore and Joe Mantegna are in the film, as well as soap star Lesley-Anne Down and should be wrapped by Christmas of this year.
One of the actress’ passion projects is Alex’s Lemonade Stand, “which is one of the little things in my heart that I help on,” Kirsten said. The foundation was started by a five-year-old diagnosed with terminal cancer who raised a million dollars through opening lemonade stands before she died at age nine. “Now it’s a grassroots thing for pediatric research,” Kirsten said, noting she’s on the advisory committee. She’ll be part of a fundraiser on September 29 that will be hosted by Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka and emceed by Jimmy Kimmel.
In any free time Kirsten has, she said she enjoys watching comedies, such as Girls, Parks and Recreation and anything involving Tina Fey. “I’m obsessed with shows that are the complete opposite of what I’m on,” she said.
But when it comes to when she might finally have time to tie the knot with longtime partner Melanie, Kirsten said it’s just so hard to stick with a date.
“We’ll pick a day and then ‘What about that?’ And then we’re like ‘Oh wait, why don’t we do…? Oh that’s better!'” Kirsten said. “Life is an adventure and there’s lots of happy adventures that happen and we’re busy doing that or busy doing that.” But eventually, Kirsten plans to let things slow down enough to make it official with her love — and it’ll likely be a theatrical event, per usual.