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  (opens in new tab)Criminal Minds (opens in new tab) 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. (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab). (opens in new tab)

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.

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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  (opens in new tab)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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Jenny Hollander
Jenny Hollander

Jenny is the Director of Content Strategy at Marie Claire. Originally from London, she moved to New York in 2012 to attend the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and never left. Prior to Marie Claire, she spent five years at Bustle building out its news and politics coverage. She loves, in order: her dog, goldfish crackers, and arguing about why umbrellas are fundamentally useless.