Thomas Gibson did a 180 when he took the role of a hardened FBI behavioral analyst in the CBS drama Criminal Minds. His somber character Aaron Hotchner couldn’t be more different from preppy newlywed Greg Montgomery in Dharma & Greg, which ran from 1997 to 2002. Gibson, 49, is OK with Hotchner’s dark side on the show, now in season 7. He’s been a fan of crime stories since he was a kid growing up on Charleston, S.C., with a leaning toward “quirkier’’ detective shows, like Columbo, Kojak and The Rockford Files. He admits that Criminal Minds, which focuses on what make killers tick, is heavier fare. But alluring nonetheless. “I am always fascinated reading about these kinds of cases, serial crimes, when I come across them. It’s always interesting to me to see what happened to this [person] that took them from one place that was more functional to this place of severe dysfunction. Maybe there was a little bit of that brain chemistry that was different, but they started out essentially the same as you and me.’’ As if Hotchner’s career weren’t depressing enough. Twists and turns in the scripts that followed had him facing unthinkable tragedy in his personal life: the crumbling of his marriage and ultimately the death of his wife. No worries; things may lighten up soon. “We’re exploring colors that are potentially available to him,’’ he explains.
“We’re introducing a possible relationship, which is nice and gives us another challenge. Maybe we’ll see him get a little of the relief that he probably needs and maybe the audience needs too.’’ Gibson is happily surprised that the show has endured. “Who would have thought? We figured we’d be in for a few and out in the first season,’’ admits Gibson, who also costarred on Chicago Hope.
“Actors are pretty fatalistic anyway, but by the end of the first season we had found our niche.’’ Going against Lost was a hurdle. “One of the great things was that expectations were low,’’ he says. laughing. “CBS put us up against this juggernaut. We’ve sort of flown under the radar, and I think people have found us on their own.’’ Syndication has helped boost viewers. “After that, when the show started running a lot, not only did it make my mom happy, but a lot of other people have found it.’’
Awww, nice to know a grown man still cares about his mother’s opinion. Gibson is quite the family man. So much so that he refuses to do the Hollywood thing and is raising his kids in San Antonio, Texas, where his wife’s family is. Splitting his time between the West Coast and Lone Star State isn’t the easiest thing. “I’ve been doing this commute for seven years. It’s intense,’’ he says. “I feel like I could fly the plane.’’ It was all part of a divine plan. “We talked about relocating here when after a couple of years we said, ‘Let’s make the move.’ We put our house on the market in L.A and got an offer right away. Well, wouldn’t you know? That’s the easiest way to get a job in L.A.’’