09/25/2012 04:43 pm ET

Jeanne Tripplehorn On 'Criminal Minds,' 'New Girl' And More

Jeanne Tripplehorn is best known for her leading role as sister wife Barb on HBO's "Big Love," but the actress is dipping her toes in something entirely different from polygamy these days.

Tripplehorn is portraying Alex Blake, a linguistics expert who joins the Behavioral Analysis Unit on the upcoming eighth season of CBS' police procedural "Criminal Minds" (premieres Wed., Sept. 26 at 9 p.m. ET). And despite an aversion to crime and never having heard of the show before her audition, she's the first to admit how happy she is to be part of the cast.

Tripplehorn spoke with HuffPost TV via phone to discuss her new role on "Criminal Minds," "Big Love," her two-episode arc on "New Girl" and more.

What made you say yes to joining "Criminal Minds" as your first series regular role since "Big Love"?
I had two criteria. What I like to call "Criminal Minds" is the right job for right now. My first responsibility is to my family and being here ... I have a 10-year-old boy. There are very few shows filmed Los Angeles, and I didn't want to be away from home. It's really heaven-sent. So close to my house, my son's school ... it's beautiful.

The second is that Alex Blake is a 180 from warm, earth mother Barb on "Big Love." It's so nice. It's an overused word, but it is refreshing to come in every day and play a character that's completely different in every way, shape and form.

What else appealed to you about Alex Blake and her character?
In doing the research to be in the mindset this woman is in -- she's a linguistics expert for the FBI. When I was younger, I used to love reading about serial killers. I read "Zodiac," so it kind of appealed to that side of me. I've always found the human mind and crime, that mix, to be incredibly interesting. To get into the mindset of somebody who has to face these kinds of events is endlessly fascinating. It makes it easy to work, because I'm not bored.

Have you had a favorite case so far?
No. I don't watch these shows. Every now and then I'll dip into some "True Crime" or "Dateline," but I'm not a fan of these type of shows, and [the producers] know that. I'd never heard of "Criminal Minds" until it came my way.

Did you ever envision yourself on a police procedural?
I'm an actor. This is a great role. It's very "of its time." Right now these types of shows are so wildly popular -- crime, the CSI ... they have spinoff after spinoff. There's a real fascination. It's kind of where America is right now. I feel like as an actor I'm current, this is what people are watching. It may not necessarily be what I watch, but I have to tell you ... my family and friends came out of the woodwork. I didn't even know they watched it. They got so excited. I tend toward more character-driven comedies, something on the lighter side. As dark as "Big Love" was, in moments it definitely had a lighter side to it. This is straight up crime.

"Criminal Minds" has a very established fan base. Were you intimidated by that?
Nope. I wasn't aware ... I went to Comic-Con, and they love this show. I have a great deal of respect for that. I always find those people interesting. It's the sci-fi fans. It's a very cerebral show, not your typical crime drama. I believe it's the only one out there that actually looks at behavior. We don't go and pick up evidence; this is more Sherlock Holmes-esque. There's an intellectual side to it.

Mandy Patinkin recently came out and said that "Criminal Minds" was his biggest public mistake. Were you concerned at all about the violent nature of the show?
Not when I turn on the news in the morning. It's really a part of our world. It's probably safer to work it out on a show like this. I was actually attracted to the show because it's run by women. You'd be surprised how many women ... [writers] Erica Messer and Janine Barrois ... they're incredibly intelligent women. When I decided to do the show I had reservations about the violence, and also about the fact that it wasn't a show I would necessarily watch. We have just as many women behind the camera as in front of the camera, dead or living. So I had a lot of female reasons for doing it.

I feel like that has something to do with the "Sherlock Holmes" aspect of it -- getting into the minds of the characters.
Well, women and mysteries ... there's always that connection. I have a lot of women friends, and they all watch this show. Nobody talks about it, but they watch it. As far as the violence, I can't turn on the television at home at all because of it. That's a whole political discussion with gun laws, serial killers ... When I first took the job, I went to sit in with the writers, and they would introduce serial killers and go through the history and their crime. My final question was always, "Is this person still alive? Are they still in jail?"

As for the upcoming season, can you give me any hints?
There's a serial killer who has their eye on the BAU. It's kind of a story thread that runs throw the series.

What about "New Girl"? You were on it for a couple episodes...
They haven't called [about Season 2]. I figured it would just be a two-episode arc. I had a great time, I love the show. Sometimes when you really, really like something, it's best to watch it from afar, but I let it be known that I loved that show and they called me.

I assume you would return if given the chance?
Absolutely! No question. It's a great set, and they've got a really good thing going on over there. I was just relieved that I had such a great time, because I can still watch the show.

"Criminal Minds" Season 8 premieres Wed., Sept. 26 at 9 p.m. ET on CBS.

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