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Criminal Minds' A.J. Cook Appreciates The Realism Of The Storylines

Jennifer 'J.J.' Jareau (A.J. Cook) was one of the "Criminal Minds" cast members to return for the 2022 continuation titled "Criminal Minds: Evolution." The new iteration of the series gives it the benefit of a streaming home (Paramount+), so they can get away with going even darker and playing it looser with language and themes than they ever could on CBS.

Even within the parameters of CBS' classic procedural format, "Criminal Minds" still managed to be fairly dark and push buttons. This is mainly because the show's antagonists are all serial killers, some of whom are based on real-life figures and events. In "Criminal Minds: Evolution," the FBI team led by David Rossi (Joe Mantegna) find themselves investigating a serial killer network stretching across the country. The storyline worked on some level as Paramount+ is already bringing us "Criminal Minds: Evolution" Season 2.

In an interview promoting the revived series, Cook cited "Criminal Minds" striving for realism as one of the aspects that appeal to her most, specifically the story arc for the first season of "Criminal Minds: Evolution." It turns out the serial killer network present in the series was partially born out of research into a real-life murderer.

The story of Criminal Minds: Evolution emerged during COVID

A.J. Cook told Collider while promoting "Criminal Minds: Evolution" that the story of a serial killer creating a network of murderers came out of the COVID-19 quarantine and heaped heavy praise onto showrunner Erica Messer.

"Erica Messer is a genius. She came up with this idea in the middle of quarantine because that's how our brains work. What did the serial killers do during quarantine, when they were locked down? How did they get through the day? I think it's such a compelling storyline," she said. According to Messer, the leader of the fictional serial killer network, Elias Voit (Zach Gilford), was based on a real serial killer named Israel Keyes whose official body count is not known.

"I don't think they ever found out how many people he killed. But one of the things he did was bury 'kill kits' all over the U.S. He would fly into town, drive for hundreds of miles, and then dig up a kill kit and kill some unsuspecting person or people," Messer told Cheat Sheet in an interview. Keyes was arrested in 2012 during an investigation into a young woman's disappearance, according to CBS News

Pulling inspiration from real life isn't always so dark for "Criminal Minds" though. Cook told Collider the personal lives of characters often mirror those of the actors playing them, including giving  Jareau two kids just like Cook when the cameras stop rolling.