Interview: Criminal Minds’ AJ Cook Talks Season 8 & Serial Killers

Growing up in Whitby, Ontario, AJ Cook never dreamed that one day she would be sitting in a luxury hotel in downtown Toronto discussing the in’s and out’s of seriel killers. After playing  Jennifer JJ Jareau on Criminal Minds for the past seven years, the petite blonde has become somewhat of an expert on the dark side of humanity. Real Style Network caught up with AJ while she was back home in Canada to talk about  her character’s place in the 8th season, her triumphant return and the spookier side of Criminal Minds.

Real Style: So without giving too much away, can you give us any hints to what’s coming up for this season of Criminal Minds?

AJ Cook: We just started episode 5 and to be honest with you, I am not sure really what is coming up. The first couple of episodes will be focused on our new cast member Jean Tripplehorn and introducing this new character to the show. But there is something kind of interesting coming up about halfway through where we are once again going to see JJ do something that we’ve never seen her do before. She’s going to get in a sort of sticky situation perhaps. I am really excited about it because any time I get to do something that I haven’t done before on the show I am like a kid in a candy store.

Criminal Minds has been on the air for seven seasons with very few changes to the main cast. Are you all like a family now after this long?

We are. We are a big dysfunctional family. I love going to work with these people. It’s an honour and a privilege getting to go to work with them every day. I hope the show goes on for many more years.

In 2010, your contract was not picked up and you had to leave the show for one season. Fans of the show actually petitioned for your return. Was it hard to be at home watching this unfold?

Oh my gosh yeah! I keep saying that I wouldn’t change anything for the world. Everything that came from that has been so positive and uplifting and beautiful. In a way I am grateful for all of it. I am so blown away by how supportive the fans were. I didn’t have to say anything because they said it all for me. They were so supportive. It was great. It was a pleasant surprise how it all played out. I’m still kind of shocked about the whole thing.

Did you expect something like that?

Oh, no. nothing like that! The whole thing blew me away. It was really sweet and I am happy to be back and I am happy that people are happy. The whole thing was just really bizarre.

I know you only signed on for two seasons when you returned. Will this be your last season?

Everyone’s contract is up at the end of this year except for Matthew [Gray Gubler]. Matthew just signed a deal so he’s got this year and the year after that. I think the show definitely has a few more years left in it. The numbers are always good and it’s such a huge hit internationally. We’ll see.

JJ is an interesting character on Criminal Minds because she is so different than the rest of the FBI team. She is a mother and a wife. How do you think JJ fits in with the BAU?

I think she’s the nurturer. She is the glue. She’s the one that makes sure that everyone is ok and fine and everything is kosher. That’s her role in that family. I think that is how she fits in. She has changed a lot since I’ve come back to the show, just like I’ve changed a lot. She’s matured as a person. We’ve literally seen JJ grow up on the show. I look back at the first episode and the first scene I ever did on the show and think ‘oh my god that is like a 12 year old.’ I was so young. The character was so different and so naïve and innocent, which was a beautiful thing. That was her purpose. The thing I love about the show is that we have been able to constantly change and grow as we do as people. Especially coming back after leaving. JJ’s a strong, strong person. I think after having a kid that really changes someone. It’s like ‘don’t mess with Mama Bear because the claws will come out.’ It’s been really beautiful to watch her grow up and become who she is now.

When you came back, was it important for you to let JJ grow?

Absolutely. That is what I said to them. I’m like ‘I am only going to come back if we can take this character and going to use her properly and find a home for her in the show.’ It was great. Everyone was 100 percent on board. We have tried a lot of cool things with her and everything has turned out really well. We have this really well rounded person. It’s fun.

Do you have to prepare for the episodes and research your role in the FBI?

Now that we are in season 8, we kind of know. It’s important to keep fresh with all that stuff. We have been doing it for so long know that I know things that I never ever wanted to know about the human psyche and why people are the way they are. I’ve learned terms that I should have never learned otherwise. I’ve learned a lot.

Have you ever gotten a script that actually shocked you?

All of the time. We’ve been doing it for so long, yet I am always sort of blown away. I’m like really we are doing this this week. We are doing this to a person? It’s fascinating to me, completely fascinating to me. There are a lot of sickos out there. And there will always be sickos and we will always find new ways to kill people. There are endless stories… Oh yeah, I get very disturbed by the ones that deal with kids. Those are always hard for me to swallow. Even in the read-throughs. Sometimes I leave those read-throughs a little nauseous. It’s hard. Just when you think you’ve heard it all.

Is it weird to do interviews and talk about the FBI and serial killers every day?

It is. It’s a really strange thing that I know these things. Not JJ, as AJ I know a lot of things about serial killers and crazy people. I know that there is an enucleator. An enucleator is a killer that takes people’s eyes. The fact that there is even a term for that means that there is more than one. It’s insane and crazy that I know these things.

Watch the Criminal Minds premiere in Canada Sept 25 at 10 pm on CTV.

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