As a Star Trek-quoting power dweeb, Criminal Minds' Dr. Spencer Reid is not your typical sex symbol. Then again, real-life alter ego Matthew Gray Gubler isn't exactly typical, either. He never wears matching socks because he thinks it's bad luck. "The one day I wore them, I sprained my ankle," he says. He's a neat freak: "I mopped my floor for two hours today." And he frequently thinks he has toothpaste on the side of his mouth. "I will literally stop in the middle of scenes to check," he says, laughing.
Call it, "Revenge of the Nerd." But based on the barrage of fan mail and marriage proposals Gubler receives — not to mention major buzz in chat rooms and blogs — Dr. Reid's quickly gaining ground on the hunky likes of McSteamy and Sawyer. "It's pretty bizarre because I was stupendously awkward-looking up until about 10th grade," says Gubler, 26. "I looked like a flapper from the 1920s, with the body of a troll."
Gubler's looks aren't the only thing earning raves. As FBI profiler Reid, he's bringing a quirky new energy to the often-tired crime genre. Says Minds exec producer Mark Gordon, "When he came in to read for the pilot, we just fell in love with him. He's an original."
This week Gubler gets to flex his formidable — albeit slender — acting pecs, delving deep into Reid's inner demons. Ever since that bone-chilling post-Super Bowl two-parter, when a psycho killer played by James Van Der Beek pumped him full of Dilaudid (a prescription drug similar to heroin), Reid just can't say no to drugs.
"He's wondering whether he can even still function at his job," Gubler says. A chance meeting with an old archrival forces him to confront his addiction — with startling consequences. "I usually try to make Reid lovable, so this is killing me," he says. "I think fans are going to hate him, but [the addiction] makes him human."
Gubler has an inhuman knack for making the most out of any situation. When he was 6 years old, his parents got him a private magic tutor, and by the time he was 11, he was performing as "Matt the Hat" at parties all over his hometown of Las Vegas. While attending NYU film school, he was stopped outside a drugstore by a model scout — a serendipitous encounter that led him to strike poses for the likes of Tommy Hilfiger, Marc Jacobs and American Eagle. "It was during a time when there were really emaciated weirdos modeling," he says with trademark self-deprecation. "It wasn't like they were looking for Fabio."
Shortly afterward, he scored an internship with director Wes Anderson, who asked him to play an intern in his movie The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, despite the fact that Gubler had never acted professionally. That eventually led to an exploratory visit to Hollywood, where, on a whim, he tried out for Criminal Minds — and the rest is prime-time history. "I've been ridiculously blessed," Gubler admits.
So what other tricks does he have up his sleeve? Gubler plans on writing and illustrating a kids' book, working on his satirical YouTube video series "Matthew Gray Gubler: The Unauthorized Documentary" and spending more time with "romantic interest" Kat Dennings (Catherine Keener's goth daughter in The 40 Year Old Virgin). And Matt hasn't hung up his hat: "I dream of taking a hiatus, getting a pseudonym like Mr. Baldini, wearing a fake mustache and going to a seedy hotel in Vegas to do magic tricks," he says. Now that's criminal.
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