It's safe to say that no one was happy when "Criminal Minds" bosses announced that series vet Paget Brewster's episode order would be significantly reduced in Season 6. Fans raged, and even Brewster herself was quite vocal about her displeasure with the decision.
Still, when push came to shove, she had one final request as a series regular cast member: she wanted co-star Matthew Gray Gubler to direct her exit episode.
It marks the second time Gubler has directed an episode of the series, and he tells Zap2it that when Brewster asked him to give it another go for her, it was not only an honor, but a bit of a relief. "The first time I directed the show there was a bit of a fear involved," he admits. "I'd spent the majority of my life focused on directing. I went to school to learn how to direct, and then I ended up acting on the show, so I was worried people wouldn't really understand that my heart was in it. That first one I was a little concerned about proving myself, and letting people know that I am a director. When it was well-received, it was a relief."
It was important to everyone involved that Brewster's final episode be directed by a member of the "Criminal Minds" family. As can be expected with such a highly anticipated hour, "Lauren" is an intense episode with even more action shots than the show normally has. Gubler admits that he had to put up a bit of a fight to be the man with the reigns for this particular episode.
Because of the high-stakes nature of the episode, both on and off screen, Gubler's directing experience this time around was a little bit different. "The fact that it's Paget's last episode puts a little bit more excitement and joy into the project for sure," he says. "I felt incredibly honored to be able to do this one. I was so incredibly thankful that I got to be the one to tell this particular story. I don't know if it was pressure, necessarily, just more good fortune that I got to do it."
Gubler was, unsurprisingly, incredibly humbled by Brewster's request. "That Paget wanted only to work with me on her final episode was a great vote of confidence, an honor. I think she's the greatest, so the love is mutual."
While there are obvious perks when it comes to directing an episode of his own series -- who knows the show better? -- Gubler says that his greatest challenge as a director is balancing his directorial duties with his acting obligations.
"The only way I know how to act is to sort of truly believe what's happening in the moment," he explains. "So your brain is trying to believe what's happening to the character, but you're also trying to oversee the whole thing, and it becomes a schizophrenic mind game."
Speaking of schizophrenic mind games (see what we did there?), Gubler's character, Dr. Spencer Reid, has been plagued by migraine headaches this season, which cause him particular concern because of his family history with schizophrenia.
Gubler is careful not to reveal too much about his character's condition, but he expects that fans will get some answers before the end of the season. If, indeed, Reid does have a mental illness, Gubler welcomes the challenge with open arms.
"To me, it kind of looks like I'm going schizophrenic," he says, "but I have a history of predicting the wrong outcome when it comes to this show. It would add a definite layer, something new to the character that I haven't really done for six years, so I'd probably really enjoy it. I don't know what's going to happen with that."
When we bring up the possibility of introducing a love interest for Reid, Gubler laughs. "I would hope!" he says. "I know in this world of procedurals they don't really tend to focus on like, teen romance."
What kind of girl is Dr. Spencer Reid's type, anyway? "Reid's romance would be a funny one," Gubler says. "Maybe a librarian, I would think. Or some kind of spiritual buddhist teacher lady, yoga instructor type. I don't know. Maybe he'd fall in love with a serial killer."
The "Criminal Minds" crew still has four episodes left to film before the end of the season, and Gubler confesses that the vibe has been a little different on set since Brewster's exit. "It's incredibly sad, if you work with anyone for six years and then all of a sudden they're not around anymore. Luckily we remain best friends in real life, so I still get to see her. Who knows what the future of the show holds, but we're all hoping she'll be back next season," he says.
Before Season 7 is even a factor, Gubler looks forward to working on a few different projects after Season 6 wraps. In addition to continuing to pursue his painting, much of which you can see at his official website, he'll be putting the finishing touches on "Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked." It's the third film in which he's voiced Simon the Chipmunk.
"One of my friends from film school is making a really cool horror movie that i'm going to be in," he adds. "I'm gonna keep on keeping on, I guess. It's what I do best."
Don't miss "Lauren," Gubler's episode of "Criminal Minds," on Wednesday, March 16 at 9 p.m. EST.
Photo/Video credit: CBS