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The Criminal Minds Cast Made It Easy For A.J. Cook When She Joined In Season 1

"Criminal Minds" began its epic 15-year CBS run back in 2005, but one key cast member did not appear in the very first episode. "Final Destination 2" actress A.J. Cook had just finished a run on the cult-favorite FOX series "Tru Calling" before joining "Criminal Minds" in Episode 2. Despite leaving the show in Season 5, she returned during Season 6 and stayed with the series until it ended in 2020. She returned in 2022 for the Paramount+ reboot, "Criminal Minds: Evolution."

In the popular procedural series, Cook plays Jennifer "J.J." Jareau, a Supervisory Special Agent in the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit, who joins the team as a Communications Liaison. She is best friends with Dr. Spencer Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler), who she later confesses having had feelings for since the very beginning in a moment fans had some strong feelings about. Upon the character's full-time return in Season 7, she became a profiler, despite insisting in earlier seasons that she had no interest in assuming that role. She is first introduced in the second episode of Season 1, "Compulsion," in which the BAU is on the hunt for the Footpath Killer (Lukas Haas). Cook addressed what it felt like to be the new kid in school when she joined the cast after the ensemble had already shot the pilot.

The actors were fans of each other's work, so joining the cast was easy for Cook

In an interview with Collider, "Criminal Minds" actress A.J. Cook described what it was like to join the show after the pilot had already been shot. She said, "That can always be a little nerve-wracking, but I remember Shemar Moore, who I grew up watching on 'The Young and the Restless,' was just super-sweet. He gave me a big hug and made me feel really welcome." Besides Moore, she received another warm welcome from Matthew Gray Gubler, who played Spencer Reid.

Gubler was a huge fan of Sofia Coppola's "The Virgin Suicides," a film in which Cook appeared. As a result, he was thrilled to meet someone from that movie's cast. "So, both Matthew and Shemar made me feel very welcome," she said. "They were lovely." Cook then compared joining "Criminal Minds" in 2005 and returning in 2022 for "Criminal Minds: Evolution" — without Moore and Gubler. Moore departed after Season 14, and Gubler opted to not appear in the reboot despite co-starring in the entire original run.

Cook said, "Flash forward to now and neither of them were there this time. Instead of feeling like the new kid, it felt very different. It's like a family reunion, getting the family back together again, and now we're making our new people feel welcome." Cook said she is very grateful for her time on "Criminal Minds" and for her character, but she actually took a break from acting in 2020. So, aside from her guest appearance in an episode of "9-1-1," "Criminal Minds: Evolution" marks her return to her craft.