Kirsten Vangsness, the wildly popular out actor who plays Penelope Garcia on CBS' Criminal Minds, may not be back for a ninth season of the crime drama, reports Deadline. The studio reportedly issued final offers to the show's four lead stars, but female actors Vangsness and A.J. Cook say they're unwilling to accept a salary that's reportedly less than half that of their male costars.
"I hear fan favorite Vangsness and Cook have turned down the offers," writes Deadline's Nellie Andreeva. "I hear the duo, who are negotiating together, have decided to take a stand on the treatment of female cast members on the the show as the two have consistently been paid less than half of what all of their male counterparts — not just stars [Thomas] Gibson and [Joe] Mantegna — are making. With the new offers again positioning them well below all them cast members, I hear Vangsness and Cook are willing to walk if they don't get some parity."
This isn't the first time Criminal Minds has come under fire for sexist employment practices. In 2010, Criminal Minds severely cut former costar Paget Brewster’s and Cook’s roles, with the intent of fazing them out. That left Vangsness as the sole female regular on the show until they hired an A.J. Cook look-a-like. But due to fan outrage and a petition that Vangsness spearheaded, producers rehired both Brewster and Cook for full seasons. Brewster subsequently left the show at the end of the following season.
Vangsness is an original cast member of the show, on the air since 2005, where she plays the fun-loving technical analyst for the show's fictional FBI office. Just last month, Vangsness was voted "most appealing" TV actor among religious audiences, proving that her acting chops trump even the most ardent bigotry. Vangsness is an out lesbian, who announced plans to marry her longtime girlfriend in 2009.