Garcia better watch out — Morgan's got a new baby girl in his life.
On Wednesday's Criminal Minds (9/8c, CBS), viewers will meet Morgan's (Shemar Moore) secret girlfriend Savannah (Rochelle Aytes). Her arrival shouldn't be too much of a shock to keen fans: Morgan casually mentioned that he had to cancel a date with his neighbor after a case came up in the season premiere.
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"I love that they put that line in the premiere," Moore tells TVGuide.com. "It sounds like a throwaway line and you might forget about it, but now, weeks later, it has significance."
Though Morgan briefly dated Tamara (Salli Richardson-Whitfield
) in Season 5, that story line was eventually dropped to keep the focus on the BAU and the weekly cases, which in turn also kept the Morgan-Garcia (Kristen Vangsness
) fans happy. But with the shift in recent seasons to explore the team's personal lives, Moore felt it was time to peel back another layer in the BAU resident tough guy's life.
"I joke on set, like, Derek's the most sexually repressed character on TV," Moore says. "Even Reid [Matthew Gray Gubler
] got a girlfriend last year! But it wasn't about the hanky-panky. What was important to me is showing other dimensions because if we're not careful, Derek can come off as one-note. I did not want to be the stereotypical tough guy who kicks down doors. In nine years, if you've been a faithful fan, you've learned a lot about his family and childhood. But you never saw not even the romantic side of him, but the off-the-clock side, where he lets his hair down, dates, has drinks and has somebody in his life.
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"Not that all of that is in the scene [with Aytes] — it's short and sweet — but it's implied that this guy has another side to him," he continues. "It's a nice little anecdote to throw in there, and I think it's necessary. It's about time!"
The actor wasn't the only one who felt this way. CBS and ABC Studios, which produces the procedural, were also very much on-board with giving Morgan a significant other, according to showrunner and executive producer Erica Messer
"Everybody said, 'Look, it's been a long time and we've never really explored this side of Morgan. It might be fun to do that,'" she says. "Sometimes you hear [networks] not want love interests, but this was the opposite. I think it's comforting to believe that he's got someone at home when he's not flying all over the country catching unsubs. It's a nice relationship. You learn about her through him. They've been together for a little while."
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The choice to have Morgan and Savannah already dating, as opposed to showing their meet-cute, was a "great call," Moore believes. "It would've been cheesy, like, oh, Morgan sees a girl and I go and try to woo her, like, 'Hey, baby, what's your sign? Can I get your number?'" he says. "I didn't want Derek to come off as a playboy, like he's got it all figured out with the ladies. I wanted it to be a little more complex. Relationships are not easy. They're adults and they try to make things work."
Case in point: Morgan was left scratching his head (and walking Savannah's dog) after Savannah, a doctor, was called to work in the middle of the night, he reveals to Garcia in the sneak peek below.
It's Garcia's encouragement of the relationship that gives Moore and Messer hope that fans will be receptive to Savannah. "I hope fans like her," Moore says. "But I want to point out that they were OK with [Garcia] having boyfriends, but I was never allowed to have girlfriends! As long as nothing comes between the 'baby girl' banter, I think the fans will be alright."
With Aytes starring on Mistresses
, she's currently slated to appear in one more episode this season. But as is the case with most personal story lines on the show, the goal is to keep the relationship percolating in the background. "She can be out there in the world and she can be somebody he refers to from time to time," Messer says. "That will go a long way."
And fear not, Morgan-Garcia fans — Garcia will still be the only one he calls "baby girl."
"[Savannah] doesn't have a nickname yet. I think I just called her, 'babe,'" Moore says. "I have a slew of pet names in real life, just messing around, like 'baby cakes' or 'sweet thang' or 'sexy mama,' but I think I kept it simple. When she comes back, I'm going to have something. Don't worry, it won't be 'baby girl.'"Criminal Minds
airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on CBS.
(Full disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by CBS.)