Robert Newman

One of Criminal Minds' dirtiest crimes yet is getting a good sudsing. Former Guiding Light icon Robert Newman — who played Josh to Kim Zimmer's Reva — guest stars Wednesday (9/8c, CBS) as a small-town Indiana sheriff who butts heads with the BAU team over the murder of three women and the abduction of a fourth.

"The victims are all strippers who vanish after work — it turns out they've been raped, killed and dumped in cornfields," reports Newman, hinting that his character — a hardnosed ex-Marine who still sports a buzz cut — "reveals some pretty surprising twists and turns." Especially when Hotch (Thomas Gibson) confronts the guy about a leak: Evidence suggests that someone in the sheriff's office is in league with the killers.

The grisly episode, which also features soap queen Melissa Claire Egan (the love-to-hate-her Annie on All My Children), seems to be a good omen for the East Coast-based Newman. The actor has given himself eight weeks to see if there's enough primetime interest in him in L.A. to warrant a move.

"It's an exploratory trip not only to see how I feel about the business but how I feel about moving back to my hometown," Newman says. "People assume that would be a great thing but, for me, a lot of emotional baggage comes with it." Does his popularity and notoriety on GL help him on auditions? "I never walk in any doors thinking people will say, 'Oh, my God! Josh Lewis! We want to hire you!'" says the 52-year-old star. "The truth is, nobody much cares about the soap. And that's a good thing. I've got age and experience but I'm considered a fresh commodity!"

Newman showed up in Hollywood looking rather bald — he'd just wrapped a stage stint as Daddy Warbucks in Annie — and so far it's working for him. "It's kind of made me a new type," he says. "The Criminal Minds people wanted me to cut it even shorter. It's good to have an excuse to do something extreme like this — otherwise people think you're going through a midlife crisis. Or dying."

The primetime gig has made him a hero with his daughter, Kendal. "She's a typical college female who is crazy in love with Matthew Gray Gubler [who plays genius special agent Spencer Reid]," says Newman, with a laugh. "I sent her some photos of the two of us on my iPhone, and Matthew sent her a pin he designed. My 28 years on Guiding Light didn't impress her. Now I'm suddenly cool!"

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