You’re Re-Hired! A.J. Cook Talks Candidly About What Brought Her Back into the Fold and What Fans Can Expect From JJ During CRIMINAL MINDS Season 7

If J.J. Jareau is caught smiling a little more than usual during tonight’s CRIMINAL MINDS, it’s for good reason. Her portrayer A. J. Cook — who fans need not be reminded was unceremoniously fired from the show a little over a year ago — is back. What’s more, she’s been promoted to profiler. So just how does it feel to return to the series that turned her into a trending topic on Twitter and what’s in store for fans of the actress as CRIMINAL MINDS kicks off its much-anticipated seventh season tonight? We recently had the pleasure of talking to the fellow Canadian to find out just that. See for yourself, after the jump.

Since we feel like the story of your initial exit has been already covered, we wanted to ask what your first reaction was to getting the phone call that CRIMINAL MINDS wanted you back. Is it safe to assume that you took some serious time to ponder your decision having already been so callously let go a little over a year ago?
A.J. Cook: It wasn’t an automatic yes. It was sort of this long process of a lot of thinking, a lot of talking about storylines and will this make sense, because of course my first response was “No thank you, I’m good, I’ve been through enough!” I had moved on, I got to work on some other cool projects and sort of remembered why I became an actor in the first place which was great. There’s nothing worse than getting comfortable and that was a lesson I had to learn. I sort of got back into this is why I’m an actor, putting on different hats, trying on different roles, it was exciting. But then when we started talking about what could we do with JJ to make this make sense for me, they really came up with some great ideas and it just sort of just became this organic process and the rest is history. In the end it was the best decision for both families, my CRIMINAL MINDS family and my real life family. I love everyone over there, Paget’s [Brewster] back, and it just seems to make sense. We’ve got two more years and I could do this for two more years. The whole show feels new, recharged and there’s just this really great energy there. I keep calling the premiere episode the pilot because that’s what it felt like, it felt like we were shooting a pilot and everyone was really excited about it.

What specifically did the writers tell you in terms of story that go you so excited to return to CRIMINAL MINDS?
JJ was sort of let go because someone thought she wasn’t needed there, so I obviously wasn’t going to go back to a role that someone thought wasn’t important. So when we started talking about where JJ has been, what has she been doing, she’s been out working with the State Department, she’s been doing this whole cover operation with Prentiss [Paget Brewster] there was just this sense of maturity and JJ just felt like a new woman and we decided it would be sort of natural progression of things to make her a profiler. She would have this unique fresh take on it because she is new at profiling but at the same time she has this unfair advantage because she has been working with these guys for so long and in a way she has always been a profile, she’s had to profile cases, she’s the one who picks cases to bring to the team, she profiles the case, brings it to these guys to profile the killer. So it’s fun, I’m having fun with it, it just make sense that we don’t need to come up with a reason or excuse to put JJ in a scene, she’s there because she should be there and no one can question that. She’s still JJ, she’s still the nurturer, the mother, she still has these beautiful relationships with each of the characters, it’s just that she’s a profiler now too. I’m loving it and I hope people are accepting to it because I know a lot of times people don’t like change — Yes, in season 2 JJ did say she didn’t want to be a profiler — but a lot has changed!

Will an expanded role allow for more time to delve into JJ’s personal life?
Yes actually we’re in the middle of shooting an episode right now, episode seven of the season where Will [JJ's husband] and Henry [JJ's son] come back so that’s exciting. We see inside of J.J’s house for the first time and we see outside of the BAU, how she’s dealing with being a profiler, being back out in the field and the toll that takes on her and her family. It’s great, we just shot scenes with Will and Henry the other day and was great to see that family together again so we’re going to see a lot of little thing about JJ that we didn’t know before.

Earlier in the interview you mentioned that you had signed onto CRIMINAL MINDS for 2 more seasons. Have the Producers put set an end date for the show?
I don’t know. I guess time will tell but I mean it’s also the type of show that could go on and easily have another five years in it, you just don’t know. But I think right now that’s sort of we’ve got our eye on that 2 year end game. Of course, if the numbers keep up and people want more CRIMINAL MINDS I’m sure they’ll make more of them, but most of us only have 2 more years on our contract.

Not that you ever root for fellow actors to fail, but was there a sense of vindication following last season’s lower ratings, not to mention the failed CRIMINAL MINDS spin-off that was SUSPECT BEHAVIOR?
Absoutely. I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t because it’s something that we feel like our CRIMINAL MINDS has always felt. That’s why our show is a success, people love these characters, how they mesh and how they work together. For some reason, the 7 of us just work. We don’t know why, it’s just this thing that happens to work and there was something very satisfying about realizing that. Obviously I don’t wish failure on anyone, that’s not the case at all, but because I was in such a weird situation, the spinoff, I was fired, there was someone replacing me, it was just like all of this, it was just nice to know that you know I’m not crazy, we’re not crazy, this works for a reason, we don’t know, why it just does.

CRIMINAL MINDS airs Wednesday at 9PM on CBS (CTV 2 in Canada) and stars Thomas Gibson, Shemar Moore, Joe Mantegna, Matthew Gray Gubler, Kersten Vangsness, Paget Brewster and A.J. Cook. Catch up on past episodes you may have missed for free online at clicktowatch.tv