‘Criminal Minds: Evolution’: Zach Gilford Breaks Down This First Surprise Twist (Exclusive)

By Philiana Ng‍, ETOnline.com.

Spoiler alert! Do not continue if you have not watched the first two episodes of “Criminal Minds: Evolution”.

“Criminal Minds: Evolution” is finally here! The Paramount+ update saw members of the BAU come together for an intense new case involving an unconventional killer, Elliot Voit (Zach Gilford), using a social network – ironically, secured by Garcia – to prep his victims. With the investigation of their latest enemy just beginning, Rossi, Prentiss and the rest of the team have their hands full as they attempt to catch him before others are harmed.

But Elliot, it turns out, isn’t a typical suspect. In the final minutes of the second episode, which dropped on Thanksgiving Day, it’s revealed that he’s not just a ruthless, cold-hearted killer with revenge in mind. He is actually married to a beautiful wife and father of two young children, living in an expensive and comfortable house. Elliot’s wife, Bridget, is played by none other than Gilford’s real-life wife of 10 years, Kiele Sanchez. This surprising twist, if you want to call it that, will complicate the BAU’s mission to catch Elliot once and for all.

As Gilford explains, he was aware of some of Elliot’s backstory when he signed on to play the villain in ‘Criminal Minds: Evolution’, sharing that he got a bigger glimpse of which will soon be revealed about his character as the season unfolds.

“They gave me the arc, they explained the concept to me and they gave me an idea of ​​what my origin story was. They told me what they thought was going happen with my home life. And then I got the third script pretty quickly and there we get into his personal life a lot more,” the actor told ET. “I think in those three scripts, that’s been really helpful. With a TV show, it takes two or three episodes to really understand who the character is. Then whatever scene they throw at you, it’s like, “Cool.” I know how this guy would do that’, and luckily they’re so collaborative on the show.

READ MORE: ‘Criminal Minds: Evolution’ Cast on Adding a Dark Twist to the Beloved Franchise for Paramount Plus (Exclusive)

Gilford acknowledges that his claim to fame in Hollywood has been to play the lovable, unassuming good guy. But he credits one of his most recent roles, “Midnight Mass,” with being able to expand people’s perception of what he can do on camera.

“I think that’s part of why they wanted me to do it. Recently with “Midnight Mass”, which was not a good guy; he had a checkerboard path and he was a dark character. And I know the writers, most of them saw it and loved it,” Gilford says. “And I think they were like, ‘Oh okay, I can see him playing this twisted character. But we also want someone who can fool the world, the audience, but also the world that he lives in, to that he loves her. And so we need someone who in his real life, which is actually technically his fake life, is likable and sympathetic.

“The crew sometimes said to me, ‘Oh my god, I feel so bad for you. Then I remember you just murdered someone. And I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s exactly what I hope will happen,’” he recalls. “He’s a bad guy, but it’s something I always say, everyone was a little boy or a little girl once. None of us were born bad. Things have happened to us that have affected us. brought in. And I think that would just bring up the point that he didn’t start bad, but in the wrong situation, he can become very bad.

Gilford noted that the revelation at the end of Episode 2 that Elliot is leading a double life is “perfectly placed”. Although it is particularly illuminating that he refers to this as his “false life”.

“Especially since it’s the first two episodes, we’re here together and I think it’s a ‘WTF’ moment that’s really going to appeal to people, not just because they want to see what the story and the case, but to be like, ‘What is this? Wait, what?'” he explains. “And the next episode goes a lot into that aspect of my life. I think that’s where you’re going to start to be very confusing because you see the character is a really loving father doing his best as a husband he has a job and living a whole fantasy what’s going on and that’s where you go tell you, “Oh my god, my next neighbor could be a serial killer” and you would never know.

READ MORE: ‘Criminal Minds: Evolution’ Trailer Reunites BAU, Features Vicious ‘Serial-Killing’ Unsub

The way Sanchez entered the fray was “a happy surprise,” Gilford said.

“I was on my way to work one day and I literally kissed her goodbye and she picked up her phone, it was like, ‘I just got an offer to play your wife on ‘Criminal Minds’. And I was like, ‘What? This is great.’ And then I went to work. I was like, ‘I heard you were proposing to her. [a role]. Will she do it? I hope so,” he shares. “It was so much fun. But there are days at work where you have dark, heavy scenes with your fake wife, but when it’s your real wife, it’s heavy.

“We’ll both come home at the end of the day and we’ll both be like, ‘That was really disgusting’, have a drink and shake it up. We are not people who take our work home with us. It’s one thing when you do these scenes with an actress and imagine, ‘Well, that doesn’t mean my life with my wife.’ But then when you actually have these interactions with your wife, but you’re in this imaginary experience, it almost feels like bad therapy role play,” admits Gilford. “We’ve worked together before, but we’ve never had that relationship between the characters, so it was fun working together and doing stuff with each other. I think she’s such a good actress and to be able to have him as a stage partner [is wonderful]. But it’s just like, it hurts sometimes.

“CRIMINAL MINDS” – Joe Mantegna as David Rossi
— Photo: Monty Brinton / Paramount+

The 40-year-old actor hinted that the reveal at the end of the two-episode premiere raises many questions as the season progresses.

“This double life, the problem is, it’s going to get complicated,” Gilford hinted. “I literally just last night got the final script and I haven’t had a chance to read it yet. I’m going to do it today. And I can’t wait to see how it ends. But I don’t want to. I’ve heard a lot of possibilities of what’s going on and I’m nervous to read it.

READ MORE: New ‘Criminal Minds’ series ‘Evolution’ sets premiere date on Paramount Plus

That moment wasn’t the only development to be revealed at the premiere. Throughout both episodes, powerful BAU leader David Rossi (Joe Mantegna) didn’t act like himself and clearly went through something monumental over the years amid the pandemic. Well, in the episodes, it’s revealed that his wife, Krystall, whom he married in the series finale “Criminal Minds”, was sick with an undisclosed illness and died.

“It surprised me because I didn’t expect it,” Mantegna said of Rossi’s heartbreaking loss. “I didn’t know where they were going to go once we knew we were going to bring the show back. And I had this first script, and I was like, ‘Oh.’ To think that maybe it was going to go in a totally opposite direction, which we haven’t done much in 15 years, seeing the lighter, happy domestic side of David Rossi. I mean any fan of the show knows it’s no secret that I haven’t been the best candidate for a love life so I think that’s all that follows is accurate has the form. Like, ‘Yeah. No, Dave. It won’t work either.

“But it’s okay,” he continues. “It’s like the caveman, ‘Why not?’ Things happen and we can’t control them, and we can only control what we can in life. And if those are the cards I’m dealt, so be it. Then I’ll play them. But We’ll see. We’ll see where it takes us. But I’ll just give a fair warning to any characters who want to date Rossi in the future! I can’t promise anything here.

New episodes of “Criminal Minds: Evolution” drop Thursdays on Paramount+.

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