The Transformation Of Criminal Minds's Paget Brewster

If you look up "Hollywood darling" in the dictionary, you might just find a picture of Paget Brewster. The dark-haired actor has charmed audiences for more than 30 years since her debut on the small screen with her wit and a personality that shines through every character. That's not to say she hasn't learned a thing or two since her first television role — a six episode arc on "Friends" that launched her into the mainstream. "When you are younger, you are so afraid of looking stupid, failing, or even being emotional," she told Icon vs. Icon in 2018. "I think I was always trying to be cool or to fit in. I think a lot of us who chose to do this job are misfits ... because you're being told you're not who anyone wants, and that's hard! Who chooses that? I think it's the artsy weirdos."

America certainly fell in love with this "artsy weirdo" when she took on the role of Special Agent Emily Prentiss on CBS's "Criminal Minds" back in 2005. Her character made a number of appearances throughout the show's 15 season run, but beyond her FBI alter-ego, Brewster has an extensive career that spans television, voice acting, and comedy. This is the transformation of Paget Brewster.

At a young age, Paget Brewster headed to New York to follow her dreams

Paget Brewster is the first to admit it's the risks she took at a young age that have gotten her to where she is today. One of two kids born in Concord, Massachusetts to her mom, who worked for the government, and her dad, a school administrator, one of Brewster's biggest risks came as a teenager. As Fame10 reported, Brewster moved to New York City to study at Parsons School of Design — a decision partially inspired by her secret goal of becoming an actor.

That's basically the reason why she dropped out after one year. "I just wanted to act so I went around and apologized to all of my teachers ... I said, 'This is just a con job, I just wanted to live in New York City so I got into an art college,' and I dropped out," Brewster recalled in a 2021 interview with 104.9 The Beat, adding that she worked odd jobs like bartending and waitressing for seven years before landing her first on-camera role.

She also had rockstar aspirations

While she's best known for acting, Paget Brewster tried her hand at music during her college days, playing with a couple of bands, including Mechanical Bride, which she fronted. "We were not good," she joked in an interview with 104.9 The Beat. Her musical pursuits did eventually lead her to San Francisco in 1995, according to TV Guide, where she began taking classes at the Jean Shelton Acting Studio and supporting herself bartending.

It was at the bar where she met the guys behind local San Francisco public access sketch show "Strange America," and got her first gig taking over the show while they were away. "[My partner Kris] left town to go to a Suns Microsystems conference, and he said, 'I'm going to give you my video camera,'" Brewster recalled in a 2015 interview with AV Club. It was at the same bar she met her first manager — "I just kept bugging him to manage me," she told the outlet — who eventually got Brewster her own talk show, "The Paget Show," on CBS station KPIX. The gig, however, didn't pay well. "I was hosting my show, and while I was bartending everyone wanted to put my show on, which is not great, to be on TV and fetching drinks at the same time," she revealed.

Her first big break came on Friends

Paget Brewster's first big role came as the recurring character Kathy in Season 4 of "Friends." Throughout her six episode arc, she dated both Joey (Matt LeBlanc), whom she met at acting class, and Chandler (Matthew Perry), who she got to know after a random coffee shop encounter. Unfortunately, she more or less left both of them heartbroken. As she told AV Club, she was "terrified" for the audition, especially when she saw "three devastatingly beautiful young women" — and Perry himself — at the meeting. "This was my first job in L.A. that I thought I might get, and suddenly I was going, 'I'm never going to get this,'" she said. "I went, 'Clearly, I'm your runty alternate, so let's get this show on the road!' And Matthew said that was it."

Her black bob, she told the outlet, was key to advancing the series' plot, as Chandler fell for the similar-looking Monica after Kathy's exit. "Friends" super fans might be interested to know the hair and makeup team originally planned for her to have red hair, until show co-producer Kevin Bright caught wind of it. "[He] started screaming,' 'I hired her because she had a black bob! You can't do this,'" she recalled. "I just went upstairs, I put my magazines in my bag, and I just sat there and waited, like, 'I lost my best job I've ever gotten.'" Thankfully, a quick dye back was all it took to solidify her spot.

Paget Brewster found her footing in Andy Richter Controls the Universe and Huff

After stints on short-lived CBS series "Love & Money" and ABC's "The Trouble With Normal," Paget Brewster found a home on Fox's quirky sitcom "Andy Richter Controls the Universe," where she played Jessica. "We had a great time on that show," she told AV Club in 2015, adding, "We were cracking ourselves up all the time, and Victor Hammer, our director of photography, and our camera operator, we'd all laugh in the middle of takes. We thought we were hilarious."

Although she learned a lot about comedy working alongside comedian Andy Richter and his team, the show only lasted two seasons, ending in 2003 despite positive reviews from the critics. "It was the best of times and it was the worst of times," Brewster joked to AV Club. "It was a bummer to be canceled! That was very upsetting. It was sad." She went on to play Beth Huffstodt for 25 episodes in Showtimes' "Huff" in 2004 — her "first real sort of drama" and a bit of a stylistic pivot, which set the scene for what would be one of the most prolific roles of her career: "Criminal Minds."

She then became Emily Prentiss

Paget Brewster's biggest role came with "Criminal Minds," when she joined the cast in Season 2 as Supervisory Special Agent Emily Prentiss. The role came at the perfect time, as she was looking for a gig that wouldn't require her to be on the road and was going through, as she told AV Club, somewhat of a true crime obsession at the time. "I have since grown out of this phase," she explained to the outlet. "I was one of those people who had every serial killer book, I knew everything, I watched everything."

Prentiss was a fan favorite, which is why viewers were upset when CBS announced her character was leaving the show after Season 5. The show's avid audience petitioned for her to remain on the series, and she continued to appear on the procedural through its seventh season, eventually leaving the show to focus on more comedic roles. "I love you," she wrote in part to her castmates on Twitter following her 2012 exit. "I always have, I always will." However, she wasn't away for long, thanks to her love for the cast and its loyal fanbase. Brewster made a few guest appearances before returning for good, coming back on for Season 12 until its fifteenth and final season.

The actor turned down Playboy

Although she's known for her quirks and comedic roles, it's no secret that Paget Brewster is a bombshell, so much so that she was invited to pose for "Playboy" by Hugh Heffner himself back in 2007. It was an offer she eventually turned down, though she did consider it. "At first, I was like, 'I'm not going to do it,'" she told UnderGround Online in 2007. "Then I talked about it on ['Late Night with Conan O'Brien'] and I was like, 'God, I do kind of want to do it,' but I can't do it. ... I think the re-touching would be great, and there is something kind of thrilling, dangerous, and sexy, and cheesy about being naked in a magazine."

Ultimately, she decided not to go through with it because her team was against it and she thought her parents wouldn't have liked it. "I talked to them about it and they said, 'You know what, if you really want to do it, that's okay,' but I knew that it would ... make them uncomfortable," she explained. Still, she was flattered. "I'm 37," she said at the time. "It's pretty good. I feel like I'm looking pretty good."

Her love for Criminal Minds fans will never end

The last season of "Criminal Minds" aired in 2020, and even though the hit crime drama is done and dusted, Paget Brewster will always feel connected to her onscreen character Emily Prentiss. "I love our fans, I think it's a great show and I was incredibly fortunate to be given that role and to have learned everything I learned and to have friends for the rest of my life," she told AV Club in 2015. In fact, it's one of the parts she most often gets recognized in public for — though she's not quite as multilingual as her "Criminal Minds" alter-ego. "People come up to me speaking other languages because they think I speak other languages fluently," she told the outlet, adding, "A lot of times people are just happy to see me because they love that show. And that's kind of an extraordinary feeling."

We might not have seen the last of Emily Prentiss, either. Rumors of a Paramount+ revival of "Criminal Minds" have been circling since early 2021, but as of this writing, nothing has been set in stone — and Brewster isn't confident it will be anytime soon. "Sadly, we think it's dead," she wrote in a tweet.

Paget Brewster got married to this rocker

"Criminal Minds" has been a formative part of Paget Brewster's career and also her personal life. In fact, she met her husband, Steve Damstra — a musician who has played in bands like Whirlwind Heat and Folded Light — through Dr. Spencer Reid, aka her co-star, Matthew Gray Gubler. The couple got engaged in 2013 before officially tying the knot in 2014. Gubler was even present to officiate the ceremony.

The two have been happy together ever since, and Brewster frequently gushes about her hubby on social media. "Ladies, I got married at 45," she wrote on Twitter in 2017. "Wait for the person who thrills you, adores you, gets you and calls you on your bulls**t. It's worth the wait." Aw! As of this writing, the couple resides together in Los Angeles and Damstra even helped out when Brewster was forced to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. "He records my voiceover work, we have an audio booth. ... I'm terrible at technical things, he's very good at that, so he records me for all of the animation and narration work I've been able to do over quarantine," she revealed to 104.9 The Beat in 2021. 

Her regular role on Community was one of her favorites

One of Paget Brewster's best roles — and one of her personal favorites — was in the cult comedy series "Community." She made her first appearance in a guest role on Season 5 before joining the cast as a series regular with another character, Francesca Dart, for the beloved show's sixth and final season in 2015. Much like "Criminal Minds," the show has its own devoted fanbase and the pressure was on to deliver a kooky and lovable enough character to compete with its regular ragtag crew. "I think it's a really special show, and it's a really special bunch of people," she told AV Club in 2015. "I'm really proud that they asked me to do it and that I didn't f*** it up."

While the show only lasted one more season after her arrival, Brewster said she'd love to do a seventh season or a movie if invited, and she still even keeps in contact with the cast. "We're all on a giant text chain, texting each other all the time," she told AV Club. "They're great."

She played a grandma in Grandfathered

After "Community" wrapped, Paget Brewster remained booked and busy, starring alongside John Stamos in Fox's 2015 sitcom "Grandfathered." Brewster portrayed Sara, Stamos' ex and the mother of their child, Gerald (Josh Peck), who recently welcomed a child of his own into the world. Although she told AV Club that she "certainly didn't think [she] was going to be cast as John Stamos' ex-girlfriend," she auditioned for the show after becoming enamored with its script. "I've been around a long time and I've saved my money, so I don't have to do anything I don't want to do," she told the outlet. "And I hope that doesn't change, because I've been pretty frugal, and I like being able to choose."

At 46 years old, Brewster was certainly a young grandma, even by television's standards. Despite the series receiving decent reviews in its first season, Fox pulled the plug on the show in 2016, marking the end of her most recent series regular role on a live-action show, as of this writing. That's not to say she hasn't been busy, though. In addition to a handful of animated series, she's had guest spots on shows like "Mom," "Hollywood," and 2022's "How I Met Your Father," where she played the mother of Hilary Duff's character, Sophie.

Paget Brewster has found a passion for voice acting

If there's one thing Paget Brewster is going to do, it's stay busy. In addition to her beloved roles on series like "Criminal Minds" and "Friends," she's got quite the established career in voice acting, with appearances on shows like "Family Guy," "BoJack Horseman," and "Dan Vs." In 2018, she took on the role of Della Duck in Disney XD's "Ducktales," a part that earned her a Daytime Emmy nomination for Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program. In 2021, she scored the lead role in the animated superhero comedy "Birdgirl," where her character splits time fighting crime and managing her father's business, Sebben & Sebben Worldwide.

While she enjoys acting both from the vocal booth and in front of the camera, she's definitely enjoyed the perks of not having to get all dolled up. "You don't have to worry about, 'Oh, do I like my hair, I gotta hit the mark, I can't put a shadow on that guy's face,'" she told Solzy at the Movies in the 2021. "It's just a totally different thing." Without the focus on "external stuff," she feels voice acting is "kind of like pure acting." "You really have to feel each line or [become] super angry or hysterical or frightened," she explained. "It's really just specific to the voice so I love it." No matter what role she's in, she's always had our attention!