‘Criminal Minds’ Writer Erica Messer Reveals The Pain Of Losing Hotch But Isn’t Allowed To Talk About Thomas Gibson

Thomas Gibson’s dismissal from Criminal Minds was not only painful but extremely difficult for Erica Messer. Now that Erica’s life was #MissingHotch and Gibson, it became her responsibility to find a way to write Hotch out of the plot, without Gibson being present. Perhaps worst of all she is not allowed to talk about Gibson’s departure at all, Erica told TV Line.

“I don’t know how much I can say, [for legal reasons.] But personally, I was really sad writing the episode where I had to say goodbye [to Hotch] because I knew that no matter what you do, it’s never going to be perfect. You’re not going to please everyone, especially when you don’t have the face there to say goodbye to.”

Criminal Minds writer Erica Messer let TV Line know she has to watch what she says. That is likely true of all the cast and crew. In the interview, Erica Messer makes it clear she can only speak of Hotch and writing Criminal Minds episodes, not Thomas Gibson and firing.

“Given what was in front of us — I wrote that [Hotch’s Departure] and Matthew [Gray Gubler, who plays Spencer Reid] directed it — it was done with such love and care for the history of the show and that character and the hero that he is and will continue to be, in the eyes of the team and most importantly the eyes of his son. He gave up being an American hero to be a hero to Jack, and I do feel proud of that.”

Criminal Minds writer Erica Messer also informed TV Guide that she could not discuss Thomas Gibson’s dismissal, and other issues surrounding that with anyone. Messer seems to be measuring her words carefully.

“I really had a hard time with that [explaining Hotch’s departure.] This was a character I’ve known and loved for 12 seasons. I really wanted to be able to send him off in a way that felt believable for that character. I think for all of us who love Hotch, we would say he was an amazing team leader, but he was also an amazing father.”

With Thomas Gibson now completely off the set, Erica Messer was faced with the aftermath of ABC and CBS corporate decisions she had no control over. This meant doing a task she dreaded, writing Thomas Gibson’s Hotch out of Criminal Minds. Messer decided that Hotch’s son Jack was his number one priority and that Hotch would first and foremost protect Jack.

Criminal Minds writer Erica Messer then speaks for the entire cast and crew, as she explained in the only way left to her, how much they all miss Thomas Gibson as Hotch. Since Messer is only allowed to speak of Hotch and not Thomas Gibson directly, she speaks of the character.

“It was sad for all of us for who know and love that character to have to say goodbye.”

Thomas Gibson’s character was allowed to remain alive, in Criminal Minds plotline, for the sake of all involved, even though as Erica Messer said, it would have been far more realistic to have explained that he had suddenly died in a car crash. Erica Messer explained she had lost people in real life that way, never getting to see them again. Still, when one has a choice, well she could not bring herself to kill Hotch.

Thomas Gibson of Criminal Minds

Since Thomas Gibson’s departure from Criminal Minds was out of her hands, it has been much nicer thinking of Hotch as spending time with Jack than having the beloved character die. No one, not cast, crew or fans wanted to see Hotch die.

Erica Messer told TV Guide, there has been “no discussion” of bringing Thomas Gibson back to Criminal Minds. When asked if Thomas Gibson might return to Criminal Minds at some point in the future, Erica Messer indicated she has little hope for the immediate future, but perhaps some day.

“It’s hard to do those kinds of things. I think you saw that with Mandy [Patinkin] and we were never able to see him again. If the show goes on 10 more years, who the heck knows? But there’s nothing I can think about right now because it’s not in the immediate future.”

The loss of Thomas Gibson as Hotch on Criminal Minds is something Erica Messer feels very deeply as well. When asked about #NoHotchNoWatch she was quick to say she understood their cause and appreciated their passion.

“I’ve heard about that movement and I understand their passion. I’m a fan of this show [Criminal Minds] and other shows as well and I understand when a favorite character moves on why you would be upset about that. I think also when Shemar [Moore] left, it was on his own accord, and the fans rallied around him and kept watching. We have an amazing fan base and they’re very passionate.”

Among the Criminal Minds’ writers’ many disappointments and frustrations related to Thomas Gibson’s departure was the desired return of Ed Asner. Since the legendary actor Ed Asner, plays Hotch’s father in law, Erica Messer and the other writers had hoped to bring in Asner in Season 12.

Thomas Gibson’s departure from Criminal Minds is one of the many reasons Jane Lynch is back. Some of the ideas they had for Ed Asner and Thomas Gibson, dealing with Alzheimer’s, for example, will be played out between Jane Lynch and Matthew Gray Gubler as Spencer Reid.

Thomas Gibson and Matthew Gray Gubler of Criminal Minds

Erica Messer feels very fortunate to have been able to get an actress as in demand as Jane Lynch for three episodes. Criminal Minds writers have wanted Jane Lynch to return for years but were told it was just impossible with her schedule, but fortunately, Jane had a little time this year. It was quite an unexpected blessing, and those three episodes will no doubt be amazing.

Criminal Minds veterans Matthew Gray Gubler, Kirsten Vangsness, A.J. Cook, Paget Brewster and Joe Mantegna, have little recourse but to go on with the show. They are actors hired to do a job, and they are all well paid, although all make less than Thomas Gibson was making.

Criminal Minds writers, cast, and production team had no choice in the casting changes. Both the firing of Thomas Gibson and the Hiring of Damon Gupton were network decisions, and out of Erica Messer’s hands. Orders came from above, and apparently, the writers, cast, and crew are very limited in what they are allowed to say on the matter.

Erica Messer confided to TV Guide that it was absolutely “imperative” to bring Paget Brewster back as Emily Prentice this season. With Thomas Gibson and Shemar Moore departing Criminal Minds it was the only remaining course of action. They had to bring in some familiar faces.

Criminal Minds casting, hiring, and firing is way above Erica Messer’s paygrade apparently. Hiring Damon Gupton, however, is a less touchy subject than firing Thomas Gibson. Erica Messer was able to elaborate a bit on TV Line about Damon Gupton’s inclusion into Criminal Minds.

“That [Hiring Damon Gupton] was really a decision that the network made. They are part of our ‘village’ — the leaders of our village, in fact — so I embraced it after hearing their reasoning.”

Criminal Minds writers had their work cut out for them in Season 12. On the heels of writing out Shemar Moore as Derek Morgan, then welcoming Aisha Tyler as Dr. Tara Lewis, and Adam Rodriguez as Luke Alvez, Erica Messer, and the other writers had to change plots already written and reinvent the storyline to account for Thomas Gibson’s absence. Now as they welcome Damon Gupton as Stephen Walker, there are strong rumors that even more new cast coming.


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Thomas Gibson is gone from Criminal Minds, and there has been no discussion from CBS or ABC of bringing him back, according to Erica Messer despite public outcry and the #NoHotchNoWatch movement. There is no reason, apart from the original accusation that Thomas Gibson kicked Virgil Williams, which has been disputed by Gibson, as a reason for the firing.

#NoHotchNoWatch continues with their growing Twitter movement to restore Thomas Gibson’s reputation and allow Thomas to return to Criminal Minds if he would still like to. #NoHotchNoWatch has been clear that they are in this for the duration. According to Erica Messer, CBS and ABC have been clear that they are not reconsidering their stand either.

Criminal Minds writer Erica Messer says maybe in 10 years Thomas Gibson could return, “who knows,” but #NoHotchNoWatch will be faithfully waiting.

[Featured Image by Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images]