The actress has gone from ''Friends'' to ''Criminal Minds''

By Ken Tucker
November 17, 2006 at 05:00 AM EST

She’s the girl Joey and Chandler fought over on the fourth season of Friends (remember when Joey shut Chandler in a wooden box for romancin’ his gal?). She’s the woman who took no guff on Huff (Hank Azaria). She helped Andy Richter control the universe until his sitcom was shamefully canceled in 2003. She’s Paget Brewster, who just joined CBS’ Criminal Minds (Wednesdays at 9 p.m.) as a profiler and who will, we suspect, inject her tangy sense of humor into a show that’s been beating Lost in the ratings but could use a few grins amid its grimness. Brewster’s scissory sleekness serves her well in both drama (she can do severity with serrated sharpness) and comedy (her punchlines slide like a shiv into your tickled ribs).

Playing Criminal Minds‘ Emily Prentiss took training. ”I went to the shooting range with some SWAT guys…and a 12-gauge shotgun. I never realized how much I wanted to shoot nine rounds in a row — bam-bam-bam-bam-bam!” Brewster admits. ”Anyway, I saw Pamela Anderson scratch her head with her gun on V.I.P., so I was never that bad.” But she was criminal-mindful before the series. ”I had a stalker problem in San Francisco about 11 years ago. I read everything about stalking, sexual sadism, and serial killers. It can make me a little paranoid, but it’s fascinating.”

Also fascinating: working with Criminal‘s famously melodic but mercurial Mandy Patinkin. ”I heard he was delicate — like, you have to tiptoe around the gorilla. But it’s the exact opposite. Mandy couldn’t be more wonderful.” Good thing, since she says she’s signed to Minds ”until 2012.” Awfully optimistic, isn’t it? And isn’t that, like, slavery? ”No! Are you kidding? I haven’t been on a successful show since Friends, and I was a guest star and that was a decade ago.”

Her Surprising Passions

Writing About Sex
She used to write the sex-advice column for Femme Fatales, a pinup fan mag. ”I wrote about how The Rules is monstrous, manipulative garbage, and some heavy-duty sex ones, like [a piece about] a porn store that sold a blow-up doll of a grandmother. Eww. But then part of me supports that — it’s not ageist. At least someone can be attracted to an older woman in Hollywood!”

Being Super
”I was Ms. Indestructible in [2000’s] The Specials. I go to all the Comic-Cons. I have a geek side.”

Taking Nudie Pix
She’s a photographer for the naughty website. Her subjects? ”Rockabilly chicks [who] have tattoos and piercings…. When you’re a woman shooting a woman, and she feels happy and sexy and cute, there’s something about it that’s joyful. It may sound corny, but they own their sexuality.”

Hanging With Andy Richter
She’s still chums with her old costar Richter. ”I went to Andy’s birthday party and got there late; it was 1 a.m. [His wife] opens the door and says, ‘What are you doing here?’ ‘Can I help you clean up?’ ‘No, Paget, we did the dishes.’ Andy sent an e-mail saying I had given him the best birthday present of all: my guilt.”