A.J. Cook on returning to 'Criminal Minds': 'Feels like coming home'


Image Credit: Danny Feld/CBS

She’s finally back! EW checked in with A.J. Cook, the beloved ex-co-star of Criminal Minds who will re-join the CBS series (full time!) this fall. Was it all your cards and letters that made CBS change its mind? Or was it that the dark and dreary drama never felt the same once the gentle JJ left the crime scene? Let the actress explain while she helps to promote the show’s May 18 finale.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How many episodes did you appear in this season?
Including the finale, it will be four.

Will the finale involve a cliffhanger?
In all honesty, we have so many balls in the air, we’re trying to figure that out. We just shot it [last] Thursday. It was my first day back with everyone. It definitely set everything up. It’s very ominous. What’s Criminal Minds without a crazy cliffhanger? I’m guessing there might be one or two.

How surreal is it that you’re back full time?
People were fighting for me since day one. The whole thing took so many people by surprise. It just didn’t make sense to a lot of people from the get-go. I think when I came back for Paget’s [goodbye] episode, they started to come up with story ideas, and storylines that would make sense to utilize JJ, what she could become on the show. There were whispers for quite some time. I was trying to have closure and until I had a proper offer, I couldn’t speak about it! I did go on auditions. A lot of really great opportunities came up,  but I have a family and I would have had to move my family out of the country or out of the state. I was in a position where I didn’t need to run out and grab the next thing that came my way, so I had a nice little vacation.

The uproar from fans must have felt so great.
In all honesty, that’s what really helped me hold my head up high. I wasn’t just another blonde chick, another actor. I meant something to them. That’s not to say the network didn’t think that. They are entitled to do whatever the heck they want. It’s their show. But it’s overwhelming how fans all loved JJ and how they really felt like the heart of the show was ripped out.

Why do fans love JJ so much?
Because it’s a dark show and it’s packed with a lot of testosterone. JJ was different from everyone.  She was the mother, she was the nurturer and she had a special relationship with each character on a personal level. People connected to that, they needed the compassion from JJ to make the show feel not so heavy. They can’t be gloomy and doomy all the time.

So why was the character eliminated in the first place?
Money had nothing to do it. They decided to go in a different creative decision. I was never given a full explanation. Now they decided to do something creative and that’s why they brought me back. They came up with story lines for JJ to use her properly. So I’m back in full force! It feels like coming home again. I was never able to get full closure on it and this is why. Because it wasn’t over. I was meant to come back for some reason.

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  • Dale

    Aj is right JJ was the heart of the show and this season was by far the worst without her. Welcome back

    • Charlie

      JJ is hardly the heart of the show. That’s Reid hands down. He is the only character whose loss would kill the show. He’s the ‘hero’

      • Rex

        JJ is the heart of the team. As the article mentioned she is the “mother” of the group and the person who keeps everyone together and grounded. Her presence was definitely missed.

      • April

        Actually Charlie everyone on the team is a hero. Reid has a unique talent and is pretty d*mn smart but I don’t see how he is any more heroic than any of the others.

    • Alex

      It’s great to see A.J. Cook back in the show, The show really wasn’t the same without her.

  • Andrew

    It’s really nice to have her back. She was such a great character on the show and it wasn’t right to let her go.

  • Michael

    Ok she back so now what do they do with her she can’t just go back to her old job

    • Fido

      Exactly, cos Garcia is basically doing JJs old job, her computer stuff and iiuc also working over with the ‘other’ Team.

      • JJFan

        Garcia is doing *some* of JJ’s job. There was an entire episode devoted to Garcia’s attempt to do the work that JJ was doing and having a hard time. Hotch and Morgan are also taking on some of the workload. I’m not insulting Garcia here, it’s just the fact of the show and why on earth would they want to keep her doing the work of TWO people. Garcia already has a job and I’m sure would be glad to give up her other duties.

    • aughra

      She can, and she has, but now with bigger, better DOD contacts that can be mined. Garcia did JJ’s job for 2 eps, then quit. She realized she needed to stay with her strengths.

    • Luca

      She still has the liaison and media stuff.

      Personally I think this return was always in the cards. They knew from day one that they were going to ‘kill’ Emily and they needed someone for that little cafe moment, which was why JJ had to go to the DOD. Then they would need to fill the hole and of course Erin “Mine is better than yours” Strauss wouldn’t want just anyone. But JJ is an experienced profiler etc.
      The producers just didn’t want all that getting out thus why they didn’t put JJ on a starring contract for the one season etc.

      • Tim

        Actually, JJ is NOT a profiler. That’s was the problem. They had a hard time coming up with stuff for her to do since she wasn’t involved in the profiling of the killers. (Although she’s been around the team long enough that she could probably give it a good try.)

  • Tanya

    Welcome back AJ! You were definitely missed!

  • den

    Am thrilled that JJ is back … Criminal Minds needs her.

  • jj6


  • Marie

    Yes JJ is back. She is my favorite.

  • Aiden

    Regardless of the reason why AJ Cook’s coming back, I’m just very glad both for her and for the show. Criminal Minds wasn’t completely horrible this season (although I honestly didn’t watch every episode), but it was obvious that the heart was lacking after JJ’s departure. I’m just happy CBS is righting the wrong. Now, let’s just get Paget Brewster back and everything will be peachy.

    • Lau

      Amen to this!

    • Cheery

      You said it! While I’m so glad to have AJ/JJ back, the work is only half done. JJ could become a full profiler to help fill the gap, but CM still needs it’s kickass, tough-girl Prentiss!

    • Charlie

      I have to disagree. I found there to be no real difference with JJ gone. Perhaps because it always seemed like they had no idea where they wanted to go with her character. They would change JJ to suit the need of the moment. First she’s not a full profiler and doesn’t want to be, then she is, then she isn’t, then she’s talking about leaving to raise her son (in contrast to Hotch who can’t seem to leave for any reason including his son), then she is pissed about being forced out.

      Hopefully now they have a clue what they want from her. Even if for the moment it is just her struggling with the knowledge that Emily isn’t dead while everyone else is grieving etc

      • Fatima

        maybe thats why they brought her back, because she knows about Emily.

  • Satan

    I’m glad she’s back, but they need to give her character stuff to do that’s worth watching.

  • Rho

    Not a big fan of the show but a huge fan of AJ since her days on Higher Ground. I’m glad things worked out for her.

    • Chelsea

      OMG i LOOVE higher ground!!!!!! She was amazing as Shelby and now she is amazing as JJ and Miranda and Dawn and every other character that she has played! I’m so glad she’s back as a profiler and so glad that Emily is back too! The team is back as a family again and thats what the fans really love :)

    • richard

      i like what you said about her
      she is so sexy and the show is great
      it was not the same with out her
      she is the best on the show thanks

  • Lau

    Thrilled to have AJ (JJ) back! Now if we could just get Paget back, it would be perfect!

  • Kevin

    Love to see two blonde actress working together: AJ Cook and Rachel Nichols.

    • julia

      Ugh Rachel Nichols! Get rid of that silly b. I want Emily back!

      • julia

        So happy AJ is coming back! They re-played the episode “JJ” last night and I cried through the whole thing!

    • sofia

      The BAU team is now formed by 3 blondes, JJ, Seaver and Garcia, and 4 men, Hotch, Rossi, Morgan and Reid.
      3 Blondes and 4 Men!
      This could be a movie title…

  • mattieG

    Glad to have AJ back; however CM will not be complete without Paget. She’s my second favorite to Hotch.

    And CBS, what’s the deal with not having Thomas Gibson and Shemar Moore signed to new contracts already?

    Please get rid of Seaver. I can’t take another season of this dreadful character. And I don’t want to be wondering if I’m looking at JJ or Seaver, that’s too annoying for words.

  • anita

    Thank goodness JJ will be back. I never understood her character leaving in the first place, and it looks like CBS will correct its’ wrong and bring her back.

  • KLD

    In a word: Ecstatic!!

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