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By Malcom Venable

It’s a brutal, historically hot day in Los Angeles when Wilmer Valderrama sits down for a talk—so hot that merely walking from the car to the pristine sushi spot he’s chosen would make most of us lose our composure. Yet when Valderrama glides in, wearing a hip AllSaints T-shirt and a cap pulled low over his eyes, he is the very definition of cool and collected—even greeting the server, who remembers him, with the warmth and sincerity of an old childhood friend. It makes sense that he’s so calm and even-keeled, though; with all that’s on his plate, he has to be. As the actor, producer, and media mogul reveals all that’s on his mind, heart, and very busy calendar these days, it’s clear Valderrama is working to realize a vision—a vision he has of a brand-new world. And when you’re basically functioning as a real-life alchemist, as he is, nothing can rattle you—not even the feeling that you’re walking through fire.

“I think I have found the groove in how to be as ambitious as I am, with all I have to do,” he says while nibbling on impeccably carved tuna and salmon—the kind of clean, high-protein dish he uses to fuel 15-hour or more workdays. “I’m running a lot of things. Your brain has to be firing on all cylinders.”


Watch NCIS on Mondays at 9 PM, ET/PT on CBS and streaming on Paramount+.

Star Supertasker

A triptych of Valderrama wearing a patterned burnt sienna suit with a black turtleneck.

ERDEM suit, Canali turtleneck

Photo credit: David Needleman/CBS

It’s been seven years since Valderrama became NCIS Special Agent Nicholas Torres, a role that at the time marked a significant shift from what the public thought they knew of him. In his biggest previous role—foreign exchange student Fez on That ’70s Show—Valderrama charmed millions from 1998 to 2006 as a goofy and inappropriately randy misfit with an intentionally ambiguous ethnic background.

Fez was not meant to be taken seriously, but behind the scenes Valderrama was much more focused and determined than viewers might’ve known. Born in Miami, he mostly grew up in Venezuela and Colombia before returning to the U.S. at age 13. His experience as an immigrant had a profound impact on him: It still shapes his fierce devotion to family, the lens through which he views his experience as an American, the projects he chooses, everything. Now, heading into NCIS' historic 20th season, the 42-year-old has emerged as one of the franchise’s new-school elder statesmen—and a multi-hyphenate ready to unleash the unique power he’s cultivated over the decades with a dizzying slate of projects and development initiatives meant to transform Hollywood and the world at large. Most of all, he wants to transform the world his daughter, Nakano Oceana, who’ll be 2 in February, inherits.

“I feel like I’m in a very unique position,” he says. “I’m the first one in my family to have the audacity to be what I am now. I get emotional talking about it. It’s not just about self-achievement. It’s about what you’re leaving behind.”

Collaborative Spirit

Valderrama reclines while wearing a black suit with a navy blue pocket square and white shirt.

Dolce and Gabbana suit and shoes, Canali shirt, Tom Ford pocket square, Falke socks

Photo credit: David Needleman/CBS

He turned down NCIS when first approached. “I was like, ‘It’s number one. They don’t need me. I’d rather go to a place where they really could use me.’” Fortunately for fans, he took a meeting with persistent producers who, like him, were looking to collaborate rather than fit him into a rigid preexisting role. That synergetic spirit was nonnegotiable for Valderrama; after leaving That ’70s Show, where he was asked for his input and ideas, he worked on projects where he was expected to just read lines. The experience made him unhappy, and he knew he couldn’t go backward.

Particularly in a landscape where Latinos are still vastly underrepresented (despite being 18.5% of the population, Latinos had only 6.3% of broadcast roles in the 2019–20 season according to a 2021 UCLA study), Valderrama was uncompromising in his need for agency behind the camera. “When I first got on set, I had a big sobering conversation about what we’re going to do and not—what [Torres] is not going to sound like. In my experience, a lot of writers and directors need it so that authenticity in storytelling doesn’t fall apart and the story gets to the audience in a way it needs to be told.”

Complex Character

Valderrama stands in profile while wearing a black suit with a navy blue pocket square and white shirt.

Dolce and Gabbana suit and shoes, Canali shirt, Tom Ford pocket square, Falke socks

Photo credit: David Needleman/CBS

Everyone was receptive to his input, he says, thus beginning a more than 120-episode journey that has seen Torres blossom into one of the most complex and compelling characters across the franchise. “I love the character I’m playing,” he says. “I love the freedom the writers have given me to collaborate. That collaboration keeps me coming back—and my cast. At NCIS, they understand the importance of evolving.”

Torres helped usher in a decided tonal shift for the series—a subtle shift, but a change nonetheless. Torres came to the team with baggage: abandonment issues from his father, difficulty trusting women as romantic partners, an aversion to even being on a team in the first place. He says that he and Mark Harmon, whom he misses greatly, worked hard to give Torres and Harmon’s Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs complementary inner lives—to make it so that both the characters and the audience would see their similar instincts and ways they needed each other. “We ramped up the action, too,” says Valderrama, who hits the gym in his home nearly every day, from 4:30 a.m. to 6 a.m. on days he has to get to set. “But the biggest factor we changed was tonal. With Torres, it became way more personal. It wasn’t about the case of the week; it was about the people solving the case. We went deeper, and the show evolved into something more grounded and more real.”

Mentorship Role

Valderrama poses in an oversized jacket and ribbed tank top with beige khakis.

Brunello Cucinelli coat, Hanes tank top, Hugo Boss trousers

Photo credit: David Needleman/CBS

He’s evolved, too, a process that’s now accelerating at double speed. Among the initiatives on his roster: his film and television production company, WV Entertainment, founded in 2006; a management company, Allied Management Group, launched in 2022, which focuses on amplifying Latino voices across traditional and digital media; a new partnership with iHeartMedia to cultivate intellectual property in the podcast space; an apparel line designed to benefit veterans; and a book project he’s mum about for now.

“When I realized that there were not enough destinations in this industry to develop, to empower, to cultivate, and to mentor the next generation of leaders, it became, ‘How can we build a well-rounded ecosystem that can answer the right questions but also create solutions?’ So my production company started doing that. Allied will be a company that bridges the gap for Latin American talent, and we’re only going to represent people behind the scenes: writers, directors, producers, and showrunners.”

Becoming Zorro

Valderrama smiles and looks down while wearing a light pink button-down shirt.

Richard James shirt

Photo credit: David Needleman/CBS

Then there’s the game changer on the horizon: He’ll be portraying the swashbuckling masked hero Zorro in a live-action series for Disney. It’s a massive role for many reasons, not least for its physical demands. The action and stunts are so intense, he’s in pre-pre-pre-training at the moment—conditioning to stabilize his muscles and joints before moving on to “building a foundation and a frame that can get beaten up.” After that it’s shredding and sculpting (“I’m gonna get a little beefy,” he promises), and then of course a ton of mixed martial arts, sword fighting, and stunts—even flamenco dancing and singing.

More exciting for him, though, is what the show has to show the world and what it has to say. Zorro will be set in 1800s Spanish California, allowing all who watch to get a glimpse into the rich blend of Mexican and Spanish cultures that thrived in the same place he now lives and works. It will mark a kind of full-circle moment for Valderrama: an apex of all the acting, stunt work, producing, and storytelling he’s honed over decades, and the representation of Latin culture he’s passionate about.

“We had so few images of Latin people growing up,” he says. “The only one that made me feel this was possible was Desi Arnaz. I used to watch him in Venezuela, and I thought, ‘Maybe I can do that, too.’” He cites Antonio Banderas as another inspiration—someone who made him feel “like I didn’t have to change myself in order to do what I loved.”

Family Man

Valderrama kneels in jeans while wearing a light brown shirt.

Buck Mason shirt, Brunello Cucinelli jeans, Waldan watch

Photo credit: David Needleman/CBS

The most important project of all is his growing family. He and fiancée Amanda Pacheco welcomed their daughter in February of 2021, and she quickly became the center of his world. “When my daughter was born,” he says, “I realized that one day she won’t be conscious of the fight that it took for her to see herself. If I and my colleagues do what we can, one day she will be a teen who realizes she can be any version of whatever she wants to be: an astronaut, a pilot, an athlete. Because once people see themselves, it can’t be taken back. We have to dream ourselves into things we’ve never been before.”

Family has always been the primary driver of Valderrama’s life and work; as an immigrant, family is everything. And there may be no greater example of his ability to hold a vision and create it than the space he’s created for his family—the three-acre compound where he lives with Pacheco, their daughter, and his parents, who split ages ago but are on good terms. In the media, the arrangement is often described as “unconventional,” but for Valderrama it’s a sort of utopia (free on-site babysitters!) that is a reflection of his wise decision-making, his commitment to caring for his family, and his ability to imagine a future and create it. The estate began with one property—it famously belonged to Chuck Norris—purchased in 2005 with money from That ’70s Show and then grew. “I was like, ‘I don’t know when I will ever make this money again,’ so I bought it.”

Future Shaper

Valderrama wears an oversized jacket and knit cardigan in this black and white image on a street in Los Angeles.

Brunello Cucinelli jacket and cardigan, Hanes tank top

Photo credit: David Needleman/CBS

The house needed repair—he chuckles at memories of its dated, padded wallpaper—but, glimpsing into a life decades down the road, the young actor saw something his 40-something self couldn’t yet. “When I walked in, I saw my kids running around. I had no plans for kids at the time. But I could see my kids and my family here.” Almost 20 years later, the dream was realized—a strong indicator that all the work he’s doing now in front of and behind the camera will create the world he envisions, too.

“I feel responsible not just for my daughter. I feel responsible to leave the door open a little bit wider for everyone.”

Photography: David Needleman, Styling: Evan Simonitsch, Groomer: Kat Thompson

Watch NCIS on Mondays at 9 PM, ET/PT on CBS and streaming on Paramount+.

By Sarah Deming

’Tis the season for cozy celebration, and if anyone knows how to make merry, it’s the Reagans. Blue Bloods heroic police family has been keeping the streets of New York safe for 13 years in their hit CBS police procedural. And after every homicide arrest, drug bust, and foiled terrorist plot, they debrief back in Bay Ridge over the Sunday roast.

Tom Selleck heads the table as formidable Police Commissioner Frank Reagan, but everyone gets their say, from Grandpa Henry (Len Cariou) to his wisecracking great grandkids. Fiery Detective Danny (Donnie Wahlberg) always has a hot take. Assistant District Attorney Erin (Bridget Moynahan) and younger brother Jamie (Will Estes) play devil’s advocate as the Reagans debate serious moral issues and eat serious amounts of meatballs.

Here are some morsels of wisdom from the Reagans to savor over the holidays.

Watch Blue Bloods Fridays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CBS and streaming on Paramount+.

Don’t Isolate: Celebrate!

Frank sits on a sofa with his arm around Erin as both hold bottles of beer.

Erin ( Bridget Moynahan) and Frank (Tom Selleck) in a scene from Season 1, Episode 7, “Brothers”

Photo: Craig Blankenhorn/CBS ©2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

If holidays make you blue, why not gather some friends and be blue together? In the Season’ 1 episode “My Funny Valentine,” all the single Reagans get together for Peking duck and “a meeting of the lonely hearts club.” Nicky (Sami Gayle) presents her mother with a single red rose, and Henry and Jamie propose a toast, “To better luck next year.”

Focus On What’s Important

Henry sits at a table set for Thanksgiving dinner in a hospital dining room surrounded by his grandchildren and other family members.

Sean (Andrew Terraciano), Jack (Tony Terraciano), Nicky (Sami Gayle), and Linda (Amy Carlson) gather around Henry (Len Cariou) at the Reagan family Thanksgiving dinner in Season 2, Episode 8, “Thanksgiving.”

Photo: John P. Filo/CBS ©2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Sometimes life gets in the way of a picture-perfect holiday. When Grandpa Henry has a heart attack, the holidays threaten to turn tragic. But he is made of sterner stuff and so are the Reagans. The second season’s “Thanksgiving” sees the clan set up a festive family dinner in the hospital. Henry leads grace, “For all those less fortunate in this season of giving and for those who open their door to them.”

Remember Your Family Recipes

Danny sits at the dining room table wearing a plaid shirt and holding out a plate of sliced beef.

Danny (Donnie Wahlberg) during a Reagan family dinner

Photo: Jojo Whilden ©2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc.

Food satisfies more than just physical hunger, and including a traditional recipe in your holiday meal is a great way to honor your roots. In the Season 2 episode “Mother’s Day,” the Reagans feel sentimental as they remember their late mother and grandmother. At dinner, the men wait on the women for a change, and Frank dishes out his “World Famous Mother’s Day Mash.” It’s a little lumpy, just the way Grandma liked it.

Practice Gratitude

A smiling bespectacled Henry wears a plaid shirt under a brown sweater vest with an extra pair of glasses tucked into it.

A smiling Henry (Len Cariou) at home

Photo: John P. Filo ©2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc.

Research shows that practicing gratitude can reduce anxiety levels. In the Season 9 episode “Authority Figures,” Jamie’s fiancée Eddie (Vanessa Ray) confesses to feeling Christmas stress. Henry suggests gratitude as an antidote. He and Frank recount the story of the famous “Christmas truce” of 1914, in which French and British soldiers climbed out of the trenches to play soccer with their German foes.

Make A To-Do List

Jamie and Will sit facing each other over breakfast at a table in a diner with green and red holiday decals on the window.

Jamie (Will Estes) and Eddie (Vanessa Ray)

Photo: Patrick Harbron/CBS ©2019CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

If you’re tackling an ambitious menu, take a cue from professional chefs: Make a prep list to keep your kitchen organized. But be careful. When Eddie gives Jamie a list of pre-Christmas tasks, it sparks a tiff about marital roles. The newlyweds eventually make up, and Jamie gives Eddie a “Honey Do List” of his own: 1. Have better days. 2. Hug each other more. 3. Explore kama sutra. 4. Snuggle more. 5. Spend more time together.

If You Can’t Be There In Person, Send A Gift

Joe Hill stands in the Reagan house wearing a black zip-up jacket over a gray striped T shirt and looking somber.

Will Hochman as Joe Hill

Photo: Patrick Harbron/CBS ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

In Season 11, prodigal grandson Joe Hill struggles with his newly revealed Reagan identity. He shows up to the family poker game with fresh bruises, bemoaning the pressure of being a “Kennedy of cops.” The family expects him at their pre-Christmas dinner, but he doesn’t show. At least he stopped by the day before with an offering of fresh mozzarella, prosciutto, and—of course—meatballs. The takeaway here? Honor the spirit of the “giving” season.

Take Time To Toast

Danny faces Jamie and Eddie as all three raise their glasses in a toast at the Reagan dinner table.

Danny Reagan, Jamie, and Eddie during a toast at dinner

Photo: John Paul Filo/CBS. ©2022 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

the Season 12 episode “Guilt” marked the 250th installment of Blue Bloods. The St. Patrick’s Day special concluded with a traditional Irish toast that made viewers tear up: “May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face. May the rains fall soft upon your fields. ‘Till we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.”

Whether you’re pouring Irish whiskey, California wine, or local apple cider, be sure to clink glasses with your dining companions, wish them well, and savor your time together.

Put Your Smartphone In the Slammer

The Reagan family sits at a table laden with sausage, casserole, rolls, antipasto, meatballs, and other tasty dishes.

Dinner with the Reagans

Photo: John Paul Filo/CBS ©2022 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

In the Season 12 finale, the Reagans dine with Erin’s investigator, Anthony (Steve Schirripa). For his benefit, they recite the house rules: No eating before saying grace. No language “that would make Sister Margaret Mary blush.” No subject is taboo, as long as the discussion stays civil. And our absolute favorite: No electronics at the table. It’s no wonder the Reagans are always present for each other. Now more than ever, attention is the greatest gift we can give each other.

Watch Blue Bloods Fridays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CBS and streaming on Paramount+.

By Lisa Kennedy

In the CBS dramatic series East New York, Brooklyn’s fictional 7-4 Precinct has a new kind of boss in Deputy Inspector Regina Haywood. And the police procedural has a new kind of star in Amanda Warren, who plays the straightforward reformer who believes the most effective police work begins in community. Far from making Regina a softie, this objective suggests she’s both savvy and right on time.

It’s not a stretch to liken Regina’s ascendancy to Warren’s own arrival at the top of a network show’s call sheet. Best known for her roles as Mayor Lucy Warburton in The Leftovers and the seamstress Betty in the fleetly amusing series Dickinson, Warren has made her way up through the ranks of episodic television to this vaunted gig.

In a video chat, Warren recalls her first audition for a pilot—it was with Don Johnson. “He emailed me when the network at the time had passed, and he explained that he had done a number before he landed Miami Vice and to just hang in there,” she said. Prescient advice, it turned out. “To have it happen where I’m at the pole position is just crazy.”

Photography by David Needleman.

Styled by Andrew Gelwicks.

Watch East New York Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT and catch it streaming on Paramount+.



Life Lessons

Amanda Warren wears a dark purple suit agains a lighter purple backdrop.

Christopher John Rogers suit, Celeste Starre ring

Photo credit: David Needleman/CBS

Warren has been acting nearly all her life and appears to have leveraged every experience. In first grade, she learned how important it was to show up prepared after she forgot her lines because she’d been too obsessed with the wrongness of her costume. (Shouldn’t Dorothy Gale’s dress be gingham?)

As a member of a youth gospel choir, she embraced the power of melding voices. And the Manhattan native learned—a little against her teenage will—that her time as a student at the Professional Performing Arts School would emphasize her studies over auditioning professionally.

Lessons picked up at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts were deepened at Yale Drama School. Reviewers’ praise for her work in several plays and movies suggests she took those lessons and discipline to heart.

Now Warren has donned the crisp blues of Regina’s NYPD uniform. She also gets to wear her character’s coolly stylish ensembles.

Speaking of ensembles, the creators of East New York have assembled a first-rate cast that has Warren’s back, including Ruben Santiago-Hudson and Richard Kind as veterans of the 7-4, and Elizabeth Rodriguez and Kevin Rankin as detectives. Jimmy Smits—who knows his way around a precinct set—is Regina’s boss and mentor, Chief John Suarez.

In Good Company

Warren wears an orange plaid skirt and matching short blazer with purple high heels.

Alberta Ferretti skirt and blazer, Akaila Reid earrings

Photo credit: David Needleman/CBS

You’re in such great company. What an ensemble.

That’s so funny that you said that. The title of my personal statement for Yale and NYU grad was “In Good Company,” because that’s all I’ve ever wanted to be in, and that’s what it is now, and that’s what it’s always been. But in this position, it’s very nice to be in great company.

It’s a pinnacle, heading a show. Can you explain how it happened?

I was filming Gossip Girl last February, and my agent calls saying, “I know that you’re not interested in pursuing pilot season, but here’s something that I think might be a little different. It really might spark something in you.” So I read it and it was very different, talking about the relationships between community and trying to bridge a gap. I was really interested in the resistance that she was met with in the script. Eight days later, I had a Gossip Girl script in my hand and had already gotten my call time for very early morning, and my agent called along with my New York agent and said, “They would like to offer you this role.”

Nice.

I was like, “Oh, I got a test offer, okay.” No, they are offering. “Oh, they want to meet with me.” No, they’re making an offer! It was fantastic. And I was juggling Gossip Girl, and I was also juggling an Amazon feature with Jamie Foxx, playing his wife.

Playing the Gray

Warren poses in a faux fur jacket and leather pants with metallic boots.

MICHAEL Michael Kors jacket, Wrangler pants, Belt Be belt, Franco Sarto boots

Photo credit: David Needleman/CBS

Is that The Burial, based on the New Yorker story?

Yes. The last week of the pilot, I wrapped on a Monday, flew the next morning to New Orleans for The
Burial
for two days, then flew back to New York for a scene for Gossip Girl. I know that sounds chaotic—that kind of schedule—but it reminded me of the training that I had at Yale Drama. It was nonstop. Actors don’t get sick. You work through it. You work for it. You earn it. And you earn every moment that you play on that stage. And now it’s every moment
that I do on screen.

There’s been a crucial conversation about how police shows may contribute to bad policing. Is there any special responsibility you feel as an actor to address those issues?

Well, it all starts on the page. What’s been really great with our creative team, our writers’ room, is that they want to explore the gray, and I want to play the gray.

You’re a New Yorker. Had you ever been to East New York?

Once or twice, probably visiting family, for a birthday party of some sort. So it’s been a while, but it feels good. And to get that heartbeat of the people and of their spirit has just been really informative, and we’re all kind of absorbing that and taking it in and really making sure that that’s portrayed. This community is so great.

A Supportive Family

Warren poses in a white tee and jeans.

“Actors don’t get sick. You work through it.”

Photo credit: David Needleman/CBS

You’ve said that your mom tapped the brakes on your high school acting ambitions.

The rule was that if it was part of school activities, she was all for it. I met that with some resistance because I was so used to seeing my peers performing professionally. That was kind of the regular day in, day out of my high school. The whole Glee thing. I felt a little left out. But in hindsight, my mother was protecting me. I’ve worked with some amazing children, and their parents are the absolute foundation to their getting through this tricky industry. I think my mother knew that it wouldn’t be possible for her to sleep at night without my being under her care in that professional world. And I thank her every single time because I’m not exhausted with show business.

So you grew up in Midtown Manhattan?

Yes, Kips Bay. There’s one line about it in Hamilton. [Laughs.] At dance parties in high school, where bad boys were always shouting out “the Bronx!” and “Harlem!” and “Brooklyn!,” there was never “Kips Bay!” or “Midtown!”

What about your folks?

I’m a first-generation New Yorker. My father’s from Georgia. My mother is from North Carolina. My father is a retired hospital worker. My mother was all about motherhood, so she was a temporary worker often because she didn’t want to miss the school trips or the PTA meetings and things like that. She ended up in the New York City Health Department
and went on from there. It’s just been parents working like they do, working hard for their kid. I’m an only child, and they’ve given me their everything. So I’m just making sure that I give it back, telling good stories and taking care of my folks.

Character Study

Warren wears a White shirt and a red leather trench coat.

Magda Butrym jacket

Photo credit: David Needleman/CBS

Let’s talk about Regina Haywood.

She’s a strong cup of coffee.

In a series, the character is “on the page” but also grows in the actor over time, right?

It definitely grows in me. One of the things from the pilot that really struck a note with me—and I was able to find that overlap between Amanda and Regina—was that she says, “I’ve had all kinds of ideas of what I could do in this position, and now I get to see if some of those ideas actually work.” It’s the same thing in my being at the top of the call sheet, knowing what works and what might be interesting to do, but always leading like Regina, leading with kindness, professionalism, and respect.

Recipe for Success

Warren wears a herringbone trench coat and many-buckled boots with salmon colored gloves.

J.W. Anderson jacket, Lacrasia gloves, and Marc Jacobs boots

Photo credit: David Needleman/CBS

I don’t think we’ve seen a character quite like the deputy inspector.

Yeah, the show’s nice and nuanced in that way. I keep saying there’s nothing microwavable about this show. It is cooked low and slow in a Dutch oven. At the end of the season, at the end of every season, I want this Dutch oven to come out, and when the top comes off just be something braised and beautiful, tender and nourishing—and delicious.

That’s a nice description of a season.

Like I said, when you cook there are so many elements, so many ingredients, but they all need time to come together, right? And that’s what television is, and that’s what makes it different from a feature film. We are also doing something unconventionally in a conventional space.

It’s a timely undertaking.

We’re going to challenge you to think and come to your own conclusions because we believe that you have the capacity to do that as a human being. Every 44 minutes that we’re on the screen, we’re going to give it to you like that.

Hairstylist: Jennifer Hargrove

Makeup Artist: Michael Chua


Watch East New York Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT and catch it streaming on Paramount+.

By Laurie Ulster

Criminal Minds ran for 15 seasons on CBS (2005–2020), terrifying viewers with its even-creepier-than-the-last killers and thrilling us with rescues by the BAU (Behavioral Analysis Unit), who won us over with their courage, keen insight, and compassion. Fans will be thrilled to hear the show is coming back!

Criminal Minds: Evolution will stream exclusively on Paramount+, with two episodes premiering on November 24th. CBS will also air a special broadcast of the first episode at 10 p.m. ET/PT on the 24th. New episodes drop weekly on Thursdays exclusively on Paramount+, with a mid-season finale on December 15th. The season returns on January 12th with all-new episodes dropping weekly through the finale on February 9th.

The 10-episode new season helmed by longtime CM showrunner Erica Messer will bring the team out of “retirement” to catch the greatest threat the unit has ever faced: a new UnSub (BAU-speak for the unknown or unidentified subject of an investigation) who amassed a network of serial killers during lockdown. Now, as the world reopens, his deadly network goes active, and the BAU must hunt them down before it’s too late.

Here’s your guide to who’s returning, who’s new, and what wildcards we’re holding out hope for.

Need a refresher before diving into the new season? Stream past episodes of Criminal Minds on Paramount+.

The Familiar Faces

Kristen Vangsness as Penelope Garcia stands in the doorway of a conference room looking at five of her team members seated around a table.

(L-R) Aisha Tyler as Dr. Tara Lewis, A.J. Cook as Jennifer ‘JJ’ Jareau, Adam Rodriguez as Luke Alvez, Kristen Vangsness as Penelope Garcia, Paget Brewster as Emily Prentiss, and Joe Mantegna as David Rossi in Season 16, Episode 2 (“Sicarius”)

Photo credit: Michael Yarish /Paramount+

Fan favorites we’ll see again include:

Technical Analyst Penelope Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness)

She’s the best friend who drops everything for you—unless she’s busy saving lives with the BAU. A tech whiz, Garcia can hack into any system, so BAU Chief Hotch offered her a job when she was arrested for hacking the FBI. She makes the world safer—and nicer—for all who come into her orbit.

BAU Unit Chief Emily Prentiss (Paget Brewster)

A brilliant agent fluent in Russian and Arabic, Prentiss survived torture and brainwashing. She also faked her own death, returned to protect the team from charges against them, left again, then came back to take the reins as the BAU Chief, leading the team through some of their trickiest cases in Season 15. And she plays a mean game of chess.

Supervisory Special Agent Jennifer “JJ” Jareau (A.J. Cook)

JJ started as the liaison between the BAU, the police, and the media, but determination and moral fiber drove her to do more. She became a profiler, shining in the field and the office. She is the one Prentiss would tap to replace her to head the team. JJ is empathic and cool under pressure, but when she unleashes her fury (like when her husband and son needed rescuing from vicious killers), watch out.

Supervisory Special Agent/Unit Senior Agent David Rossi (Joe Mantegna)

One of the founders of the BAU, the legendary Rossi came out of retirement to rejoin the team after the departure of Jason Gideon (Mandy Patinkin). A bestselling author and expert cook as well as a brilliant agent, he faces his demons head-on, provides stability to the group—and hosts their best parties in his backyard.

Forensic Psychologist Tara Lewis (Aisha Tyler)

Tara Lewis joins the BAU after coming in for a job interview and helping them catch their UnSub on the fly. She is a gifted therapist able to find a connection with anyone and a top-notch profiler. She’s also an expert on old cars, to Rossi’s delight.

Supervisory Special Agent Luke Alvaz (Adam Rodriguez)

Alvaz’s biggest challenge wasn’t catching serial killers. It was winning over Penelope Garcia, who called him “Newbie” when he replaced her bestie, Derek Morgan. But he proved himself as an expert tracker, clear thinker, and paragon of bravery, much like his predecessor. In the Season 15 finale, he asked Garcia out for dinner—and she said yes!

The New Guy

A closeup of Zach Gilford wearing a blue plaid shirt.

Zach Gilford will star as Elias Jasper Voit in the upcoming Season 16.

Photo credit: Michael Yarish/Paramount+

Cybersecurity Analyst Elias Voit (Zach Gilford)

Joining the cast for Evolution is Friday Night Lights and Midnight Mass vet Zach Gilford as Elias Voit. No, he’s not a member of the BAU. He plays the season’s villain, billed as their “greatest threat yet,” a criminal mastermind with his own network of fellow serial killers.

We don’t know much more, except that he’s a cyber-security expert “who has a dark side and an obsession with death.” On this show, who doesn’t?

The Wild Cards

Matthew Gray Gubler sitting on a graffiti sidewalk with a stuffed bunny puppet.

Matthew Gray Gubler Of Criminal Minds

Photo credit: John Michael Fulton/The Licensing Project. Exclusive to CBS.com.

There are two former members of the BAU we hope to see in Evolution, though nothing has been announced.

Supervisory Special Agent Spencer Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler)

That’s DOCTOR Spencer Reid, to you. He has three PhDs, an eidetic memory, can read 20,000 words per minute, and has an IQ of 187. Over 15 seasons, Reid evolved from an inexperienced prodigy to one of the most valued and fearless members of the team.

Gubler is a director, author, and artist who’s been pursuing his own creative projects. He hasn’t signed up for Evolution, but fans are still rooting for this longtime favorite to pop by for a guest appearance.

Supervisory Special Agent Derek Morgan (Shemar Moore)

Morgan was the guy who made you feel safe and stood up for what was right no matter what. During his time with the BAU, he evolved from a ladies man to one of the most trusted, serious members of the team … even if he kept calling Penelope “Baby Girl.”

Moore is busy starring on S.W.A.T. (Catch the new season on CBS starting Oct. 7 at 8 p.m.; stream past seasons on Paramount+) But fans hope he’ll help out if the team needs him. Hey, he’s done it before.

The Official Trailer ...

Paramount+ recently dropped this trailer, giving fans a glimpse of the spine-chilling season ahead.

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