‘Criminal Minds: Evolution’ Scoop on BAU vs. Voit, UnSubs in Season 17 & More

A.J. Cook as Jennifer ‘JJ’ Jareau, Zach Gilford as Elias Voit and Joe Mantegna as David Rossi in 'Criminal Minds: Evolution' Season 17 Episode 1
Michael Yarish / Paramount+

The BAU is in the last position any of these agents want to be in on Criminal Minds: Evolution this season: having to rely on serial killer Elias Voit (Zach Gilford) for what he says he knows about their current UnSub, known as Gold Star.

But they must speak with him, and try to figure out how much he says is true. The hope? Maybe one of the members of the team can get him to slip up. They’ll have ample opportunities. Below, the cast and showrunner Erica Messer share some teases about what’s coming up with that and more as Season 17 continues.

The BAU vs. Voit

With the team having to use Voit, so far, as the second episode showed, they’ve been going to see him one at a time (first A.J. Cook‘s JJ, then Adam Rodriguez‘s Luke). Prentiss (Paget Brewster) will get some on-on-one time with him as well, according to Messer, then it’s halfway through the season, in Episode 5, that the moment in the trailer, of Voit being brought to the BAU in front of everyone, comes.

“The whole time you’re like, ‘Oh my God, what is his game here? What’s his long game? What’s he trying to do?'” she says. “It’s so dramatic and great when he walks off that elevator and he is in front of our team and he’s in our sanctuary. He is in the BAU. It just feels like so violating to have him there.”

Adam Rodriguez as Luke Alvez, A.J. Cook as Jennifer ‘JJ’ Jareau, Paget Brewster as Emily Prentiss, Kirsten Vangsness as Penelope Garcia and Aisha Tyler as Dr. Tara Lewis in 'Criminal Minds: Evolution' Season 17 Episode 5 "Conspiracy vs. Theory"

Michael Yarish / Paramount+

As Aisha Tyler points out, Dr. Tara Lewis is a forensic psychologist. “Her whole career was based on close encounters with serial killers. That’s how she came into the profiling profession was speaking to and understanding the mind of these serial killers,” she says. “I think that there’s a dispassionate approach that she has to interacting with serial killers because so much of her work was close quarters with them. But this guy, as A.J. put so beautifully, does really get under everybody’s skin. And I think we are just sick to death of this guy and furious that to do the work that we absolutely need to do save lives, we’ve got to be in such close proximity to the sky on an ongoing basis. And that way, Tara is no different.”

But what’s different this time is that they can’t just talk to him and then never see him again. “Voit just keeps popping up and he’s a sarcastic little prick, and everybody would love to just shut him up with a knuckle sandwich,” Tyler continues.

Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness), as the team’s tech genius, does seem to be the most removed from Voit. But like the others, she will come face-to-face with him. “The show this season is exploring a lot of what’s real,” Vangsness shares. “[Voit] gets everybody tense. Garcia’s the most ‘I don’t like your behavior, but I’m not going to be scared of you’ out of everybody. What I love about her is that you can be the worst. You can behave in the worst way possible, and she still is going to assume health. And so she’s always sort of shocked when people don’t act how they should. So I like that because she does interact with him and she keeps assuming he’s going to decide to be a person.”

Rodriguez reveals that one of his favorite moments of the season is between Garcia and Voit. “She just looks right through him and it’s so Garcia in that moment in a way that you don’t get to see her often, which is truly in this form of power and strength that is—there’s just not oftentimes for her to display that,” he explains. “But yet with this kindheartedness that’s so Garcia that, I don’t know, it pops to me as one of the best moments of the season.”

Adds Vangsness, “I did actually put a lot of essential oils on handkerchiefs when he was around to change the energy. And you do see it sometimes. So if you see it, know that that handkerchief is covered in actual essential oils and try to smell it through the TV.”

UnSubs of Season 17

The BAU may be busy with Voit and Gold Star, with these season-long UnSubs new for the Evolution revival, but there will also be a few standalone ones throughout that are unrelated to Gold Star, according to Messer. Episode 2 wasn’t, and she shares that Episodes 3, 6, and 7 aren’t either.

Joe Mantegna directed his 11th episode of the show (it airs fourth this season), and Gilford (who directed his first episode this season) calls him “the cast whisperer,” explaining, “last season, he cast my whole family, and they all ended up to be these amazing actors. And then this season he cast two of our, I guess they’re UnSubs who play huge arcs throughout the season, and they both were phenomenal actors.”

Mantegna says doing that “was a huge responsibility because it’s not just one of these things like, ‘Well, if they blow it, at least they’ll only be here for one show.’ … It’s a joy when it works out.” He also praises Gilford for the “wonderful job” he did directing. “We haven’t talked about it yet, but I’ll be curious to pick his brain because you learn so much—especially the first time you direct something—about casting,” he adds. “Because when you go in there as an actor and you try out for a part, it’s one thing and you think sometimes, ‘Gee, I felt really good about that. I wonder why I didn’t get the part.’ Yet, when you go in as a director and cast it, it starts to become much clearer to you.”

Gilford notes he only cast one person in his episode. “In his audition tape, he’s sitting there and then he stood up and half of his audition tape, he wasn’t even on camera. And I just knew. I was like, ‘This guy is so in it that he’s realizing that he’s not even filming himself,'” he shares. Mantegna is certain that he’ll direct again.

Prentiss and (or versus) the FBI Director?

The beginning of Season 17 revealed that the person who visited Voit in the interrogation room at the end of the previous finale was the FBI director, Ray Madison (Clark Gregg). He’s also the one who now has the BAU working with Voit on the Gold Star case, against Prentiss’ wishes (it’s Rossi who agrees to it during the discussion when she threatens to resign).

Joe Mantegna as David Rossi and Paget Brewster as Emily Prentiss in 'Criminal Minds: Evolution' Season 17 Episode 1 "Gold Star"

Michael Yarish / Paramount+

As Messer notes, Brewster and Gregg have worked together before (How I Met Your Father), “so that was fun to reunite them. Prentiss is so powerful, and I just love that she stands her ground and says, ‘We are not going to do that. We’re not going to rely on that guy.’ And it’s like, ‘You most certainly are,’ but she’s not going down quietly. And it’s obvious that she disagrees with him. And I just love that for her, that she’s not going to hold it in. She’s going to let him know how she feels.”

Both Prentiss and Madison are leaders—her of the BAU, him of the bureau—”and different leaders can disagree on how they lead and decisions that they make,” says Messer. “I think there’s a mutual respect happening with them, but they also very much disagree right now.”

Get Ready to Meet Voit’s Attorney

Brian White is coming in as Voit’s shady attorney, Vincent Orlov, in four episodes. The serial killer uses him to his advantage against the BAU while he’s locked up. While Gilford can’t share much about his motives, “what I do know is Brian was awesome,” he raves. “He was so fun to work with as an actor.”

He also notes that he directed him and had to pivot as a result of what he did. “We had done a take, it was great. I said to him, ‘I love it. I don’t really need another, but we might as well do a second, do whatever you want.’ And he gave me something, I was like, ‘F**k, I wish we had been doing this the whole time,'” Gilford shares. “He just was so great that the camera moved in a way that we hadn’t planned on, so we moved in closer on him, and then we had to go reshoot a whole other side just because we knew we were going to use that take and we had to match it on the other side.”

As for Vincent, Gilford says White “played his version of almost Better Call Saul, not too slimy, there’s some goodness in him, but he’s got a shady side and things he doesn’t want to come out, and Voit uses all that to kind of manipulate him into getting things done on the outside world that Voit can’t stuck in his cell just sitting there.”

Criminal Minds: Evolution, Thursdays, Paramount+