Kirsten Vangsness Reveals Her Actual Feelings During Criminal Minds' Final Season

Perhaps when we needed it most, Criminal Minds finally came to an end in February 2020 after 15 seasons. The series, which follows an astute FBI team of profilers, had many characters come and go throughout more than a decade of production. We had to say farewell to some of our favorite early on; Emily Prentiss, for example, who had a practical yet loyal head on her shoulders, was among the first. Others took more time and space in our hearts before we had to mourn their absences on the show. Aaron Hotchner, or Hotch, stayed with us for twelves seasons, and overtime fans got glimpses into his personal life as a father despite his quiet and reserved demeanor, which made it all the harder to say goodbye. 

Then there was Derek Morgan, whose sometimes overconfident demeanor and his snarky "baby girl" nickname for his teammate and close friend Penelope Garcia we still miss. Over the course of nearly 330 episodes, two characters stayed through every "Unsub" on the set: Spencer Reid, played by Matthew Gray Gubler, and Garcia herself. It was their dedication to the show, plus their impeccable character development, that made it challenging for the actors themselves to say goodbye after 15 years. 

Kirsten Vangsness said she had an "incredible experience"

Penelope Garcia, played by Kirsten Vangsness, was the team's technical analyst, their computer wizard. Not only did she have the world at her fingertips, but she also had fans (and Derek Morgan, of course) wrapped around those stylish fingers. A decade-plus of dedication to the Behavioral Analysis Unit made saying goodbye a difficult task for Vangsness. In an interview with CBS's Watch!, she described ending the show as "an ambiguous loss" that gave her a "feeling of losing something you love, and that everything's about to change." Veangsness added, "In this case it's not a person, thank goodness. But still, in the middle of a scene, it hits you. But you can't cry; you have all this makeup on." 

"Plus, what are you crying for? It's been such an incredible experience...I love these people," she says. Then, almost as if some part of her is still in character, she adds, "No, sir. I'm not crying. You're crying." She was, indeed, crying. 

Unlike the rest of us, however, Vangsness will always have a piece of Garcia — 65 pieces, to be exact — with her. "I can tell you what I won't miss," she said. "Garcia's glasses — because I have them all already. I've bought every pair she's ever worn, so I have a collection of around 65 at home. They remind me to be confident like her, to see life through her eyes." Fifteen years later, and Vangsness is still drawing inspiration from Garcia.