It’s hard to imagine an actress featured in a show about serial killers not taking herself too “seri-ously” but Kirsten Vangsness does just that. Vangsness, who plays Penelope Garcia on CBS’s Criminal Minds, is the paragon of eclectic. She’s always quick with a joke to lighten the mood and has a versatile background that suits her well in other ventures. With tonight’s episode “Hope” focused on her character’s search for a kidnapped friend, we spoke with Vangsness on creepy unsubs you can expect moving forward this season and even a future career path into the DJing world. (Expect some Duran Duran.)
For tonight’s episode “Hope”, the team investigates the disappearance of a woman in your survivors support group, can you tell us more about that?
You find out in Season 3 that in Garcia’s spare time she volunteers at a grief counseling center. Now in Season 7, we see her at that center and there is a woman that has been there a while she has grown close to, and all of a sudden is missing. Garcia takes it upon herself to go to the team with the info because she is not getting the support she wants from general police. She actually has to be so super duper involved with the case that she is there from beginning to end…you get to see her in a different way, she is much more serious.
It is a lot of Garcia and a lot of our two guest stars Brigid Brannagh from Army Wives and Jack Coleman from Heroes.
The kidnapping is on the seventh anniversary of the kidnapping of the woman’s daughter too?
Can they make it creepier? Her daughter’s been abducted and she is abducted. Yeah, it’s creepy.
What kind of unsubs can fans look forward to seeing this season?
You know, your sad clown unsubs, your deranged panda – that’s not true that last one (laughs)…I don’t really look forward to the unsubs, I look forward to what shoes I’m going to wear and pretend we don’t even get any unsubs, and after every case just say, “We got the last one!” Now let’s all just do an hour long show, play board games, hang out and get coffee but that doesn’t seem to happen. I like to remember the good things they did before they became serial killers.
Reid has been captured by an unsub in the past — is there any chance of an abduction from the team again?
There is some danger certainly involved but I think by now, we have all had enough run-ins. If you catch Princess, you are like “please,” she has been able to cheat death. Nothing will happen to her like I’ve been shot. Thomas Gibson, who is in charge of all of us, Hotcher has been blown up, shot and stabbed, so we’ve all had so many trials and tribulations. We are now officially superheroes and we just keep our capes under our clothes.
Before acting, you had several interesting jobs (substitute teacher, writer), did those positions help prepare you for acting?
I still write. [For teaching] I go and I volunteer for like “Read Across America” stuff like that. They were just really great day jobs because I have been acting and that’s pretty much what I’ve always wanted to do, and I was doing it for free since I was 14. They just prepared me in the way I could barely pay rent and helped me so I had my nights free to do this. Now it prepares me because although I’m doing this, I’m also making a movie with my friends called Kill Me Deadly and it helps me at that because I’m very good at moonlighting.
If you weren’t acting, what do you think you’d be doing?
I would be a DJ on a public radio station so I could play whatever I want…I would play all kinds of music. I would play Annie Palmer and Duran Duran and Cat Stevens and the Brandenburg Concertos…and Nirvana.
Your character is a computer genius, do you share that affinity for computers?
No I don’t (laughs). I know more about computers than most people but that’s because of the job…that is my bachelor’s degree in acting. My fiancé, she knows a ton about computers so I ask her questions.
I’d love to know what you watch on television other than your own show?
I watch Fringe, The Office, Parks and Recreation … I watch Modern Family, Torchwood, Doctor Who.
Criminal Minds airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. EST on CBS.