‘Criminal Minds: Evolution’: Is Matthew Gray Gubler Returning in Season 17?

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When Criminal Minds continued with Evolution two years after the original run ended after 15 seasons, it did so with nearly every actor from the series finale: Joe Mantegna (David Rossi), A.J. Cook (Jennifer “J.J.” Jareau), Kirsten Vangsness (Penelope Garcia), Aisha Tyler (Dr. Tara Lewis), Adam Rodriguez (Luke Alvez), and Paget Brewster (Emily Prentiss). Scheduling didn’t work for Matthew Gray Gubler and Daniel Henney to reprise their roles as Dr. Spencer Reid and Matt Simmons. But will that change in Season 17 (premiering on Thursday, June 6 on Paramount+)?

There has been at least one sign pointing to a possible return from Gubler: a photo of Spencer Reid’s nameplate on a desk in a photo shared on Mantegna’s Instagram story (see below). So TV Insider turned to showrunner Erica Messer for answers. As it turns out, unfortunately, we will not be seeing Gubler this season.

Joe Mantegna/Instagram

“It never worked out for Season 16 and then Season 17, maybe it could have worked out, and then the strikes happened and then it hasn’t worked out for Season 17. But we love him. He loves us. It’s not any of that. It’s just we’ve got to find a time to make it work,” Messer says.

As for that nameplate, whoever posted that photo on Mantegna’s Instagram was “walking through the BAU up to Rossi’s office and held on that nameplate just long enough for it to be a thing,” according to Messer. “But I’m keeping that desk there and I’m keeping that nameplate there. It’s always staying there as far as I’m concerned. So that’s why you saw it. You’ll see it throughout the show. It’s like, there’s his desk.”

To explain the absences of both Reid and Simmons in Season 16, they were said to be on a special assignment, with no other details. That will remain the case in Season 17. “Once we know we could have them, then we can play with whatever. But it’s like, until we know, it’s hard to say,” the showrunner explains.

Plus, as Messer points out, while each season may be 10 episodes long, story-wise, not too much time passes.

“So yeah, those guys are still not in this season. Daniel’s on another series [The Wheel of Time], and Matthew’s been doing projects that have kept him away,” Messer adds. “But yeah, it’s like, this home is always there for them. We’d love to make it happen.”

Criminal Minds: Evolution, Season 17 Premiere (two episodes), Thursday, June 6, Paramount+