Zach Gilford says his 'Criminal Minds' killer doesn't go home with him

Joe Mantegna (L) and Zach Gilford star in Season 2 of "Criminal Minds: Evolution." Photo courtesy of Paramount+
1 of 5 | Joe Mantegna (L) and Zach Gilford star in Season 2 of "Criminal Minds: Evolution." Photo courtesy of Paramount+

NEW YORK, June 6 (UPI) -- Friday Night Lights and The Fall of the House of Usher alum Zach Gilford says he has no trouble leaving behind the prolific serial killer he plays on Criminal Minds: Evolution when he goes home at the end of each day.

"It doesn't take a toll. It's kind of fun," Gilford told UPI in a recent Zoom interview, prompting his co-star Adam Rodriguez to laugh and say, "Says the worst character in television history."


"I shadowed on the first episode and that was the grossest one because I had to sit through all the prep and look at all the photos of the mutilations and I was like, 'Oh, God!' I was watching tests for how they [recreate the killings]. That was gross, but I don't usually have to do much of that stuff. People allude to it. Nobody's proved I've done anything."


Premiering Thursday on Paramount+, Season 2 of the sequel to the long-running Criminal Minds flagship series follows members of the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit as they are forced to consult Gilford's Elias Voit -- a family man who secretly trains and arms murderers in his spare time -- regarding a new case.

Many of the show's original stars returned for the follow-up, including Rodriguez, Joe Mantegna, A.J. Cook, Kirsten Vangsness, Aisha Tyler, Ryan-James Hatanaka and Paget Brewster. Felicity Huffman is set to guest star in the new episodes.

Vangsness plays Penelope, an empathetic brilliant BAU team member who struggles to protect her mental health as she deals daily with the worst of humanity.

"I think, in general, monsters are created by monsters," she said.

"I think evil, reprehensible behavior exists, but everybody was a baby," the actress added. "I'm happy to be that person. It's not Pollyana. It's real. The universe is friendly."

Vangsness doesn't let what Penelope experiences in her job impact her own work-life balance.

"Joe always talks about how there are real people who do this stuff," Vangsness said.


The actress would feel weird, she noted, whining about the fictional disturbing material she is exposed to because she makes a lot of money and has health insurance.

"I work with such lovely people," Vangsness said.

"Someone gets me tea. It's fine," she added. "There are days where you have to cry 12 times, but I will forget because I had such a good time at work. I'll go home and go: 'Why am I so tired? What's going on?' But that's regular job stuff. We just happen to use our nervous systems sometimes more."

Rodriguez agreed.

"We have such a great time together that it balances out the darkness," he said. "It's a great cast. Everybody has a great sense of humor. We spend more time laughing than crying."

Gilford said that with all of the characters he plays -- even the villains -- he tries to get the audience to like him because it confuses the audience a bit.

"Last season, you saw me with my family and being a good dad and wanting to be a good husband and kind of getting lost in that and [then you realize]: 'Wait! He's a monster!'" he added.

"It kind of makes the audience torn. To me, it kind of makes the character more complex than just some bad-guy psycho-killer who does a bunch of bad stuff."


Rodriguez, who plays BAU member Luke, said what makes Voit so scary is that he looks so normal.

"Clearly, he loves his family and we get a chance to see that that is his vulnerable spot," he said.

"He makes you like him enough that you can forget momentarily all of the darkness that this character does," Rodriguez added. "There's so much meat there for the audience to sink their teeth into and take that ride, seeing him as a human on one level and a monster on another."

Even members of the BAU team get charmed by Voit as they are consulting him on their case.

"We are literally in this deal with the devil. There are moments where we might forget who we are dealing with," Rodriguez said.

"He's got a way of just lulling you into seeing some side of him that is a human. No matter how much he's pretending."

Gilford said he didn't get much screen time with the rest of the cast in Season 1 because they were spending all their time trying to catch him, so he is happy to actually share scenes with them this time around.

"They all made an effort to get to know me," the actor recalled. "Adam directed me, so that was cool and I got to know him a bit and Kirsten brought me cookies my first week of work, but this season I actually get to interact with a lot of them."


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