JJ’s Back in Action – AJ Cook talks CRIMINAL MINDS

Tonight on CBS, CRIMINAL MINDS is getting the band back together! After a weird year that saw both AJ Cook and Paget Brewster’s characters kicked to the curb, the two are back. Not only are they back, they’re once again full-on series regulars. In anticipation of the premiere that focuses on what happens when the ladies return and that small matter of Emily’s faked death, I spent some time talking with AJ Cook about what is on tap for this refreshing new season with the gang all back in one place, where, if you ask me, they belonged all along!

I’ve been a fan of the show for years.  Looking forward so much to the new season.  The gang’s back together!
Yeah, the gang is back together [laughs].  After a long, hard fight.

Exactly, after a long hard fight from just about everybody.  Fans, the cast, you were all dumbfounded about what happened.  I’d imagine it’s bittersweet to be back together, you know, with Rachel (Nichols) having to leave, but it’s good to have the team back together.
Yeah, it just feels right.  And we are all thrilled to be back together.  There’s this new energy that’s really great.  Everyone is excited to be there, and it just makes sense again.

I can imagine with JJ and Prentiss coming back – Prentiss, you know, faked her death, to get out of some sticky situations.  How does the return on screen affect the rest of the team?
That’s going to sort of give a whole other layer of drama to the show.  There’s going to be a little bit of turmoil within the team.  It’s sort of this tricky situation because everyone understands why Hotch and JJ didn’t share this information, but at the same time, they’re a little like, “What, I can’t keep a secret?” type of thing.  Or “I thought we were closer than that.”  There is going to be a little drama within the team, which is always great.  We all can’t get along all the time.  I think it’s great because it’s real.  It’s true to life and this whole thing with us going away and coming back. We’re not going to try to sweep it under the rug.  We’re not going to try to pretend it never happened.  We’re going to take a couple of episodes to talk about it.  You know, without beating a dead horse [laughs].  It’s like, I think we owe that to theaudience and to the fans who fought so hard to get it back to normal, I guess. Some drama will ensue [laughs].

What can you tease about the first couple of episodes – what are some things well see right off the bat?
Well!  The first episode, they do such a good job of explaining everything. All of these changes.  We kind of jump around in time a little bit, but there was no other way to do it. We kind of wrote to real life, a little bit.  Which is nice, I think the fans will get that.  We’re going to see a little more into everyone’s personal lives these year, which I think the fans are going to love.  This is Season 7.  We really want to make the show that the fans want to see.  That’s what we’re trying to do.  You’re going to see these relationships between the team, within the team, the things that make this show work.  It just feels very satisfying to be able to do that.

You say that the show is coming back with a whole new energy.  I bet it’s a bit freeing to be in a 7th season, and you’ve established so much with the characters that something new can happen, you can explore their personal lives because you’ve built the trust of the audience.
Absolutely!  And especially, with Season 6.  We’ve been through so much turmoil, and now, it’s like, the team’s back together again, and it’s so great.  We’re reloaded, and refreshed, and recharged.  It’s really exciting, and the fans are really excited.  And that’s a hard thing.  It’s Season 7. We’ve been around a while now.  I feel like we’ve been given this gift [laughs].  You know, that whole silver lining to all of this, is that it feels fresh and new again, even though it’s the original team.  And it’s great.  It feels so great on set.  To be there, and make these shows for everyone.

And personal lives – Josh Stewart is coming back, so it sounds like we’ll be seeing Will for a bit (JJ’s baby-daddy)?
Yeah, we’re shooting that episode right now.  It’s 707, and we see JJ’s personal life a little bit. Yeah, Josh is back, and my son Henry is back, who is actually being played by my real life son, funny enough.  It’s been great.  That’s what’s so fun about S7 is that we get to see what goes on when they leave the BAU.  I’ve always loved those moments. I always love learning more about these characters, and what they do when they leave.  It’s fun, it’s a lot of fun for me and for everyone.  We’re going to see Rossi’s ex-wife.  It’s stuff like that, like “oh wow, we knew he had an ex-wife and now we get to see her”.

How would you say that JJ has changed, what’s different for her from the beginning?
I think she’s just sort of come into her own.  She’s matured.  She’s gone away, she’s seen some things, and now she’s back.  She’s more of a fighter now.  I think she’s a little stronger.  I think people, I think I made a joke that JJ’s like, the new female Morgan.  Joking!  JJ could never be Morgan [laughs].  She’s a profiler now, and she brings a fresh, some fresh eyes to it.  But at the same time, she sort of has this unfair advantage that she’s worked with these guys for so long.  She knows the lingo, she knows what they’re talking about, and she has seen some things, and she’s been dealt some things in her life.  It all just sort of works for her.  It felt like a really organic, natural transition to make her a profile.  And also, just, she’s just a little more, gosh, she’s just more mature.  Don’t mess with her.  She holds her own now.  Kind of like me.  Don’t mess with me now ha!  I think, in all honesty, I’ve changed a lot in the last year or so, and I’ve brought that to the character.  She’s still JJ everyone loves.  She’s still the nurturer, and she has these really beautiful relationships with everyone, and she’s the mother, and she’s just more mature.  That’s just the best way I can think to describe.

I like that you mention that you’ve changed.   Has this whole experience changed the way you approach the role?  Or approach different things, or just in general, you’ve changed?
Of course, this whole thing has changed me.  It was  a lesson I needed to have.  It’s the business.  It is what it is.  I’ve learned some very valuable lessons along the way.  It’s helped me immensely, and it’s all good.  It’s the silver lining to all of it.  It’s going to happen eventually, so I’m glad it happened now.  It was such a unique situation where it all sort of fixed itself, and here we are.  We’re back at it.

My last question – a big thing that came up when I put a call out for questions – a lot of responses were – are we going to see more Action!JJ?
Morgan!JJ? [laughs].  Yes, we are, actually, and you get a pretty strong dose of that in the first episode.  Which, I love that stuff.  I’m athletic and I love to do stuff like that, and that’s not a side of JJ that we’ve ever been allowed to see.  She wasn’t out in the field much.  But now, it’s super fun.  Any time I get to put on that FBI vest and hold a gun, I’m pretty happy.  I put in the request that I want to get beat up this year, because everyone else has gotten beaten up, so it’s JJ’s turn.  [laughs]  I need to get into an all out fight.  I don’t know if it’s going to happen or not, but one can only dream.

I’ll be definitely watching, and hoping that dream does come true for you!
Haha, right?

I wish you continued success and we’re so happy you’re back!
Thank you so much!