Paget Brewster on Moving From 'Criminal Minds' to 'Law & Order: SVU': 'I Wanted To Be Excited Again'

Showrunner Warren Leight says there's a potential for the actress to return beyond her guest role in Wednesday's two-hour Season 14 premiere.
NBC; Getty Images
"Law & Order: SVU's" Dann Florek and Paget Brewster

Paget Brewster is changing the channel on her career. 

The former star of CBS' Criminal Minds will jump from one procedural to another when she guest stars during the 14th season premiere of NBC's Law & Order: SVU with a potentially recurring role.

Brewster, who played FBI specialist Emily Prentiss on Criminal Minds, departed the crime drama for good in February after 125 episodes (and a brief departure during season six) with the long-running series.

In July, just two months before her final Criminal Minds episode, the actress booked a guest-turn on rival procedural Law & Order: SVU, where she'll play Paula Foster, the head of the Public Integrity Unit at the District Attorney's Office. She'll be tasked with handling the case against Captain Cragen (Dann Florek), who is under suspicion of murder after waking up beside a dead women in the season 13 finale.

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Ultimately, the actress said it was time to move on from Criminal Minds after what she deemed were "unnecessary cast changes" on the veteran series.

"I really didn't feel challenged anymore and I wanted to learn something and be excited again," the actress told reporters during a recent conference call. "Being on a show for a long time … I was getting cranky on Criminal Minds and we'd gone through some unnecessary cast changes -- if that is as diplomatic as I can be about it -- and I never got over it."

"I didn't appreciate the job to the degree that I should. Someone's lucky enough to have that job so I knew I needed for me to leave and do something else and let someone else have that job," she told THR

Although the actress still hopes to pursue comedy in the near future, Brewster said she couldn't pass up the SVU gig. "You just don't say no to SVU. Who would? It's pretty much the only cop show that I would do."

While her run on Criminal Minds  -- which also now will go head-to-head with SVU -- has ended, there may, however, be room in the NBC procedural's ranks for the fan favorite to stretch beyond her guest turn in the two-hour season opener.

"There's a potential for [Paget to return beyond the season premiere], but it would be intricate. I'll put it that way," showrunner Warren Leight told reporters, noting Brewster's complex role. "The character that we are asking her to play is not just an exposition carrier; there are a lot of layers.

STORY: Paget Brewster to Guest on 'Law & Order: SVU' Season 14 Premiere (Exclusive)

"They're both extremely different shows and different behind the scenes as well," Brewster noted. "Playing Prentiss for six and a half years on Criminal Minds, at a certain point you're so familiar with the rhythms that you can reach a point where you get lazy. I'm afraid I did that. On SVU, it was actually absolutely terrifying. I felt that the bar was higher." 

"[SVU] is intimidating and I think that's what I wanted; it was great to be challenged, excited and nervous and asking for help," she said. "It was a personal and professional experience that I will never be able to thank these guys enough for."

Behind the scenes, Brewster noted she enjoyed filming SVU and working with lead Mariska Hargitay. "I honestly think Mariska is one of the funniest women I have ever met. I really look up to her immensely and I just think she's a powerhouse and I enjoy her very much. I have been and will always be a big Mariska fan. I can't say enough good things about her," Brewster said.

Law & Order: SVU's two-hour season premiere airs Wednesday at 9 p.m. on NBC. Hit the comments with what you're looking forward to seeing.