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A.J. Cook Nearly Walked Away From Criminal Minds: Evolution At News Of Matthew Gray Gubler's Absence

Ever since the original "Criminal Minds" series was canceled in 2020, fans have been wishing for the show to return. Thanks to Paramount+, fans are getting exactly what they asked for with "Criminal Minds: Evolution." And even longtime fans of the original series might be quick to admit the series is leaner, meaner, and bloodier than ever as the BAU team is now tasked with taking down an entire network of murderous unsubs. 

As many longtime fans have lamented, the beloved series did indeed make its return sans one of its best-loved stars, Matthew Gray Gubler, who portrayed fan favorite Dr. Spencer Reid in all 15 seasons of "Criminal Minds." Reid was, of course, also one-half of the original series' most frequently shipped duo, the other half being A.J. Cook's Special Agent Jennifer Jareau. Though the official coupling never came to be, Cook told Buzzfeed about building that beloved onscreen relationship alongside Gubler, noting, "It was wonderful. I mean, Matthew is one of the most charismatic, larger-than-life, yet very real, people I've ever met."

Given her clear affection for her co-star, Cook admitted she was initially quite thrown by the news Gubler wouldn't be returning for "Criminal Minds: Evolution." So much so that it seems she even briefly considered walking away from the project herself. 

Cook wasn't entirely sure how she could play JJ without Spence

A.J. Cook further elaborated on her initial reticence towards returning for "Criminal Minds: Evolution" without her longtime scene partner Matthew Gray Gubler in the very same Buzzfeed interview. In doing so, she indeed admitted she almost passed on the revival because she just couldn't see doing the show without him. "It was actually really, really difficult for me when I found out he [Gubler] wasn't gonna be able to come back," Cook said, continuing, "I considered not [returning]. I was like, 'I don't know how to do this without him.' I kind of struggled with that at first."

Struggles aside, Cook noted her mind began to change when she started seeing scripts for "Evolution," stating, "it's just such a strong storyline that it made me feel a lot better when I saw where it was all going." And as far as the "Criminal Minds" universe forging ahead without Gubler, Cook confirmed the new series is hardly closing the door on the return of BAU boy genius Dr. Spencer Reid. "We're definitely setting some things up," Cook claimed, later adding, "I can't really give anything away ... we just want to make sure that they can come back at any time."

As for why Gubler didn't return for "Evolution," it seems the actor and children's author was merely too busy to meet the revival's tight shooting window (per Deadline). But with co-stars like A.J. Cook propping the door open for his return, "Criminal Minds" fans should clearly be hoping for a second season of streaming madness.