It’s hard to believe that the one-time star of Dharma & Greg is now the best-known profiler on Criminal Minds, but that’s exactly the case for Thomas Gibson.
I caught up with TV’s “Aaron Hotchner” to discuss his character, the success of the show, and why television audiences like to be scared.
I want to start by asking you about the character of Aaron Hotchner, do you think he’s finally in the category of iconic crime fighter like Fox Mulder or Andy Sipowicz?
Wow, when you say ‘iconic crimefighter’ I gotta go with Kojak and Columbo. I don’t know. That’s certainly not up to me. It’s certainly a nice idea to have had him been around long enough to consider it.
Will we ever find out more about his backstory and why he joined the agency?
I think one of the most interesting questions about the job and about the people who really do the job and us who play them on TV is what exactly got them from point A to point B. It’s not as interesting to give a full drawing of where it came from. It’s much more interesting to put it together on your own or at least put certain pieces of the puzzle together on your own and you have got these spaces in the middle where you don’t quite know.
How do the writers come up with the storylines? Do they just research all these killers or are they just twisted people themselves?
[Laughs] I don’t think that they are necessarily twisted people but I think that they have done all of their research on these twisted cases and criminals and I think you can’t help but be affected by it. I think all of our stories do germinate in some sort of real case. And then of course, elements of it get excised for many reasons and all these other elements get added to them for the sake of dramatic license.
With shows like yours and American Horror Story increasing in popularity, do you think viewers have just embraced the fact that they like seeing evil on TV and being scared? Have we moved past cookie cutter sitcoms like dare I say it, Dharma & Greg?
I take exception to the analogy to the cookie-cutter sitcom analogy with Dharma & Greg! I am just kidding, obviously. I think these shows and these trends are cyclical. A couple of my favourite shows when I was a kid were The Twilight Zone and Outer Limits and to me those were really scary. They certainly fell out of favour for a while as did the cop show and the medical show and the sitcom. I think any formula or any kind of cookie-cutter type genre can be revived with good writing.
So it’s not just about like eating brains and serial killers on TV now?
I saw that episode [American Horror Story]! [Laughs]. It’s pretty amazing and yet obviously (no pun intended), people are hungry for it.
What was the creepiest episode for you?
Hmm, we have some this season that are pretty dark. For me, the one that I remember and from my character’s point of view, it was killing the Reaper with my bare hands. Erica and the team of the writers came up with a great episode for our 100th and a great episode for my character. Edward Allen Bernero had me killing him with his own knife, the knife that he stabbed me with. I said that I thought that it was a stronger choice just to kill him with my bare hands. He had just killed my family as far as I knew. That to me was one of the more horrific choices but the appropriate one for the story.
With so much time being invested in the antagonist’s intent and background, do you think that there is enough focus consequences since most end with either the unsub (unknown subject) being killed or just being shown as they are carted off to jail.
We have to fill in the blanks there and understand that they are going to jail. In the episode that we are shooting right now, because Hotch was trained as a lawyer as well, he says (when they have caught their bad guy in this particular episode), “We’re not done … We’re going to stick around and help the DA build an airtight case against this guy.” I think that we are meant to believe and assume that there is follow-up from the team and the FBI to make sure that these people receive the appropriate punishment. We have only got 42 minutes and I think handing out justice, that’s the realm of Law & Order.
You recently guested on the Two And A Half Men season premiere, did you like the momentary return to comedy and Greg? I know you have denied that it was actually Greg, but come on, it was totally Greg!
My lawyers have said that I can’t say Greg.
So you can just say Gregory?
Exactly! A Greg-like character. It was great. I do certainly miss it. Most of the entire crew of Two And A Half Men is the old crew from Dharma & Greg so it was a family reunion. It was like a homecoming 10 years later. It was really nice. I do miss it. I miss the schedule. Although there is no shortage of laughter on the Criminal Minds set either. I think in direct proportion to the grimness of the material, we actually have a really good time.
Why is the subject of profiling somebody so compelling?
As objective as we try to be, we’re all subjective beings. I think to try to understand what is going on in someone else’s mind, especially a mind that has taken a perverse turn of some sort is always a fascinating question. Catching the criminals is satisfying and gratifying and you want to put the bad guys away to protect society but there is a satisfaction in trying to understand why, in the grocery line, that person is buying four rolls of toilet paper. The question begs some sort of explanation. It’s always interesting to speculate and to bring a little bit of my television experience to that question.
There are a few episodes left before the show breaks for the holiday. Can you tell me what to expect when the show resumes in the New Year?
We’re just about to start an episode with Dean Cain playing a gambler who finds a way to win … and that’s by killing people. So [laughs], it’s an interesting concept. The first version of the script just came out so I am interested to see where we are going to take it.
What about a romantic interest for Hotch?
I am not going to say anything, I am sworn to secrecy but it might be a possibility.
New episodes of Criminal Minds air Wednesdays at 9 PM on CBS & CTV Two with a new episode tonight and next week. The show returns after the holiday break on January 18.