Virgil Williams, a writer for the CBS drama Criminal Minds who was recently involved in a physical altercation with actor Thomas Gibson, is encouraging high school teens to take a stand for what they believe in.
During a recent visit to Ghetto Film School Los Angeles, where he hosted an interactive workshop for students aspiring to work in the entertainment industry, the writer-producer spoke candidly about the importance of telling your story.
“There’s a certain cycle that needs to be broken,” Williams tells PEOPLE. “One of these kids came up and asked me, ‘I’m doing a full report on the diversity problem in Hollywood and how do you think you fix that?’ The first thing that came to my mind was ‘You guys. You guys are the way that we fix that. You guys are here right now. You’re fixing it right now because you’re spending time and you’re studying and you’re working on your craft and you’re trying to tell your stories. You have to be the change that you want to see.’ ”
After being asked by a student how difficult it is to write off a major character on a TV show, Williams immediately referred to Gibson’s departure — and admitted it was not easy.
“It hasn’t been smooth,” Williams tells PEOPLE about writing off Gibson’s character, who only appeared on the first two episodes of the current season. “It was very abrupt. But we tried to do it seamlessly and move on. We’re going to keep moving forward and we’re going to keep telling great stories.”
As for the altercation that ultimately resulted in Gibson’s departure from the hit show in August, Williams says it stemmed from a professional disagreement.
“He came to me with a line change that he wanted. Because of this particular episode, the change that he wanted hurt the story,” Williams said. “I offered him a fix. He didn’t accept the fix. He said, ‘Fix it so I’m happy’ and then walked off.”
Shortly after a second heated conversation between him and Gibson, the writer — who was in search of the showrunner to explain the situation at hand — said that Gibson kicked him in the shin as he walked by him.
However, according to Gibson, the situation unfolded a little differently.
“He came into that room and started coming towards me,” Gibson, 54, previously told PEOPLE. “As he brushed past me, my foot came up and tapped him on the leg. If I hadn’t moved, he would have run into me. We had some choice words, for which I apologized the next day, and that was it. It was over. We shot the scene, I went home – and I never got to go back.”
After what was supposed to be a two-week suspension, Gibson was informed that he was “dismissed” from the show. Since his departure, the CBS drama has seen a decrease in ratings and a twitter campaign using the hashtag #NoHotchNoWatch has been launched in attempt to get his character, special agent Aaron “Hotch” Hotchner, back on the show.
Williams — who admits he himself was once suspended from set for raising his voice — believes Gibson created a “hostile work environment,” but reveals he will, in fact, miss his character.
“[The fans] got to watch him, but I got to write him,” says Williams.
Though he doesn’t foresee working with Gibson in the future, Williams wishes him the best.
“I pray for him,” he says. “I hope that he’s getting time with his family. I hope the best for the guy.”