Criminal Minds will air its 300th episode tonight at 10:00 PM ET/PT on CBS. Erica Messer has been with the show since 2005 and has served as the program’s executive producer since 2010. Tonight’s season 14 premiere was also written by Messer and will pick up where episode 299 left off with fan favorites Reid and Garcia facing one of their greatest challenges yet.
CBS Local’s Matt Weiss spoke to Messer ahead of tonight’s premier to discuss her most rewarding moments, serving double duty and what to expect from season 14.
MW- Hi Erica, how are you?
EM- Hi Matt! Doing well how are you?
MW- I’m great, Criminal Minds is back! And tonight we will see the series’ 300th episode, which is a major accomplishment of course, what’s been the most rewarding part of working on this show?
EM- That’s a great question, I think all of the relationships I’ve made behind the scenes. I think if you asked the cast and crew the same thing it would be that we’ve got this second family of people we’ve been honored to work with for as long as we have. There’s something that’s unparalleled, I don’t think any of us have worked on a series this long.
For some people this is the first show they’ve ever worked on and some people are going to retire from this show. We really run the gamut and I think it’s a remarkable thing because this doesn’t come along very often. To have it happen during a career is a pretty amazing thing.
MW- You also had the honor of writing this 300th episode. Is it easier for you to produce an episode when you wrote it as well or does that open up a whole new set of challenges for you?
EM- It’s easier in a way because I can answer the questions that might come up from production without asking anyone else what they think [laughs]. It all lands on my shoulders. But when I’m producing somebody else’s episode and a question comes to me I want to collaborate with that writer. So the collaboration part can go away because it’s just me answering. I think it’s probably just more efficient that way.
MW- Is writing something you really enjoy? You’ve written a few episodes of Criminal Minds but how much do you enjoy being able to express yourself creatively in that way?
EM- Yea, I love it. I started as a writer and then when you work your way up the WGA (Writer’s Guild of America) ladder you get more responsibilities and producing skills. I love to do all of it but writing, and especially writing for this show, for such a big milestone is a pleasure, it really is.
MW- What can you tell us about what we’re going to see in tonight’s milestone 300th episode?
EM- The viewers can expect a little surprise in that you get to see how some of our heroes started on the show, which is truly a little gift and a reminder to all of us working on the show about how long we’ve been doing this. As far as the story goes we’ll give you a little recap in case you missed 299 and then we’ll dive right in about five minutes from where we left off.
We decided to do it that way because the stand off was such a huge cliffhanger and it felt like coming back to that exact moment might not be as exciting as being able to ask, ‘where are they, are they ok?’ Reid and Garcia are indeed in jeopardy as they were at the end of 299 and they are for most of 300. That was definitely a choice that we all made as the writing staff because those are two people – Reid has definitely been in jeopardy before, he’s been captured before – but Garcia hasn’t been in this kind of jeopardy. She’s been taken by the bad guys, they’re asking her to help them – obviously there’s a threat to her life if she doesn’t or a threat to Reid’s life if she doesn’t.
There’s hard choices that character has to make and the challenge for her in this episode is she’s grown so much while having to make some choices and decisions that seem unexpected for her. That’s always a fun story to tell.
MW- In terms of the rest of the season after 300, understanding you can’t say too much, but what are the themes for this new season?
EM- Well we’ve made a choice this season to go home with one of the characters in every episode for the first eight or nine episodes. I would say the first one is a little tricky because its all hands on deck figuring out what happened to Reid and Garcia but then episodes two through nine, they are direct reflections of what’s happening in our heroes lives and what the case is.
That’s been something different, it’s something we try to do every year but this year we decided we want it on the board, whose episode is which, what’s the journey at home or their struggle their bringing into work whatever it is. It’s been a really fun exercise to do and it feels like everybody gets that episode that belongs to their character.
MW- Spreading the love around.
EM- Yea, exactly!
MW- Well that’s all I’ve got for you Erica! It’s been a pleasure talking to you today and good luck with the new season!
EM- You too! Thank you so much!
Criminal Minds returns tonight at 10:00 PM ET/PT, only on CBS. Check your local listings for more information.