Will Derek Morgan Be Back for the Last Season of 'Criminal Minds'?

Shemar Moore left in 2016 after 11 years with the show.

ABC Studio's "Criminal Minds" - Season Ten
(Image credit: Cliff Lipson)

Oh, Derek Morgan, how we've missed you! Any fan of Criminal Minds, even if only for a few seasons, has a soft spot for Morgan—the loyal, flirtatious, jaw-droppingly handsome star played by Shemar Moore. Morgan left in season 11 to keep his wife and kid safe (classic Morgan!), though the episode ended with a long, lingering gaze at his former team while they worked on the next case. So, the big question: Will Morgan return to Criminal Minds for its 15th and final season?

Showrunner Debra Messer, speaking to Deadline, said she was broadly optimistic about bringing back old Criminal Minds stars. "I am very hopeful that we can honor all of those characters who have been beloved and with this team, with the audience for years, but I don’t know what that’s going to look like," she said in January.

Messer wasn't specific, but there are only a handful of long-term Criminal Minds stars who don't remain on the show—Shemar Moore, for one, as well as Mandy Patinkin, who left after season two, and Thomas Gibson, who left a season after Moore under particularly ugly circumstances.

Where Moore differs from past stars Patinkin and Gibson is that he hasn't publicly butted heads with the show and its network. Both Patinkin and Gibson have had spats with the show—Gibson most notoriously, thanks to a much-debated kick that got him kicked off the show and that he denies was a kick at all, but Patinkin, too, thanks to critical comments he made after leaving the show to New York Magazine.

The biggest public mistake I ever made was that I chose to do Criminal Minds in the first place...I thought it was something very different. I never thought they were going to kill and rape all these women every night, every day, week after week, year after year. It was very destructive to my soul and my personality. After that, I didn’t think I would get to work in television again.


Criminal Minds

(Image credit: CBS Photo Archive)

Oof. Moore, by comparison, has said that he left the show for a far more amicable reason—he thought there was no more character development. "I left Criminal Minds because I felt like I’d done all I can do with the character for Derek Morgan," he told The Undefeated. In an interview with TV Guide after he left, he made clear that he was still on good terms with the show and with its showrunner, Messer:

Erica Messer refused to kill Derek Morgan. Those elevator doors closed. Am I going to sign a long-term contract? Probably not. But if they ask me to come back and dance, yes, I would be willing to do that. [But] not right away. ... I wanted to see what the next chapter of my acting career is and also have a little balance so I could pursue other avenues of my life. I want to get married, I want to have kids, I want to travel. 

Perhaps most tellingly, he added: "I'm going to spend the next month just saying, "Thank you, thank you, thank you," because I'm really proud of [Criminal Minds] and what we did together."

As he predicted, in the years after he left the show, Moore returned to the show briefly a couple times. He stopped by for a guest spot in seasons 12 and 13—unlike Gibson, for example, who appeared to have been written out permanently (in spite of his character, Aaron Hotcher, still being theoretically alive).

Criminal Minds

(Image credit: CBS Photo Archive)

So, here's what we know: Not only is Moore open to returning to the show—so much so that he already has returned, twice—but he's maintained a good relationship with Criminal Minds, unlike his former costars who...may not be asked back.

The only fly in the ointment may be S.W.A.T., the show Moore swapped for Criminal Minds, and where he plays the lead, Daniel "Hondo" Harrelson. Given that he's currently starring on S.W.A.T., it's likely that his new (ish) show is his priority—so if there are scheduling conflicts, it's possible that might block Moore from making a comeback.

What I wouldn't give to hear that voice say "Baby girl" again, amiright?

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Criminal Minds

(Image credit: CBS Photo Archive)
Jenny Hollander
Digital Director

Jenny is the Digital Director at Marie Claire. A graduate of Leeds University, and a native of London, she moved to New York in 2012 to attend the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She was the first intern at Bustle when it launched in 2013, and spent five years building out its news and politics department. In 2018 she joined Marie Claire, where she held the roles of Deputy Digital Editor and Director of Content Strategy before becoming Digital Director. Working closely with Marie Claire's exceptional editorial, audience, commercial, and e-commerce teams, Jenny oversees the brand's digital arm, with an emphasis on driving readership. When she isn't editing or knee-deep in Google Analytics, you can find Jenny writing about television, celebrities, her lifelong hate of umbrellas, or (most likely) her dog, Captain. In her spare time, she also writes fiction: her first novel, the thriller EVERYONE WHO CAN FORGIVE ME IS DEAD, was published with Minotaur Books (UK) and Little, Brown (US) in February 2024 and became a USA Today bestseller. She has also written extensively about developmental coordination disorder, or dyspraxia, which she was diagnosed with when she was nine. She is currently working on her second novel.