Here's Why Emily Prentiss Was MIA for Four Seasons on 'Criminal Minds'

Allison Cacich - Author

Mar. 18 2021, Updated 2:00 p.m. ET

Emily Prentiss
Source: CBS

The hit CBS police procedural Criminal Minds may have ended its 15-year run in February, but thanks to Ion Television reruns and Netflix, fans can rewatch the series pretty much any time they want. 

Throughout its 324 episodes, the show experienced a few cast shake-ups, including the four-season absence of special agent Emily Prentiss (played by actress Paget Brewster). The character had been a main fixture on the drama since Season 2, so her lengthy hiatus was kind of hard to miss.

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What happened to Emily on 'Criminal Minds'?

After six years on the series, Paget admitted that she was ready to pursue new opportunities. The brunette beauty made the most of her time away from the procedural, appearing on light-hearted TV shows such as Modern Family, Key and Peele, Kroll Show, and Community.

paget brewster grandfathered
Source: Fox
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In 2015, Paget landed the lead female role on the Fox sitcom Grandfathered, which co-starred John Stamos. Unfortunately, the project lasted just one season, but the timing proved to be serendipitous. 

Two episodes in to filming Season 12 of Criminal Minds, showrunners fired Thomas Gibson (Unit Chief Aaron Hotchner) following an on-set altercation, leaving a gap in the cast lineup. Paget agreed to return after Grandfathered's cancellation. 

"Criminal Minds contacted me and said, 'Would you come back?'" she recalled in a 2016 interview with The 51-year-old’s new contract allowed her to occasionally accept other roles while juggling the crime drama’s shooting schedule. 

"I love that I've been able to do other stuff," she shared. "I'm able to do Another Period and Drunk History." Paget also noted that she really wanted to work with Aisha Tyler, who joined the series full-time in Season 12 as forensic psychologist Dr. Tara Lewis after recurring the previous year. 

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criminal minds cast
Source: CBS

"The fact of the matter is, there really aren't that many shows that I love as much as Criminal Minds," the Friends alum explained. "I left at the right time for the right reason, but I love those guys. We've never stopped being friends. It's such a great group there."

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SPOILER: Paget is grateful Emily Prentiss was never killed off the series.

When the Massachusetts native first left Criminal Minds in 2012, the writers decided to give her character a job at Interpol's London office so that she could periodically make guest appearances. 

"I came back whenever it was possible," she told TV Guide. "I never, ever [wrote] it off like, 'Oh, I'll never do that again.' It's the best situation I've ever been in."

paget brewster emily prentiss
Source: CBS
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When Emily returns to the BAU, she temporarily takes over as unit chief before being asked to step into the role permanently once it becomes clear that Hotchner is out for good. The character ends the series as head of the team, though she comes close to becoming the first female director of the FBI.

In an interview with the Boston Globe earlier this year, Paget said she had mixed feelings about saying goodbye to the drama. "It’s bittersweet. We had a great time but it’s also a grueling day," she confessed. 

"The days are really long and you don’t sort of have a life outside of it," she added. "So it feels good to come out of the bunker and see the sky and see what’s going on out in the world and see your friends and family. But we do miss each other and we know that we had the best possible environment."

At least there'll always be reruns.

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