What Happened To AJ Cook, And Why Did She Leave 'Criminal Minds'? – TheThings

Criminal Minds is a show that many of us drooled over, following for season after season. With more drama than Keeping Up With The Kardashians and better writing than many of the other crime shows out there, Criminal Minds kept us coming back for more, week after week. If you’re like us, you probably latched onto certain characters in the show as well. Identifying with characters on TV is no surprise. Just think of how invested we get in 90 Day Fiancé couples. They’re not made up, but we could definitely classify them as characters in their own right. And don’t even get us started on the other reality shows! Characters abound. Out of all the characters out there, though, none of them had more of an impact on us than AJ Cook’s character on Criminal Minds. She disappeared off the show one day, and we were disappointed. Not to mention a little less invested in Criminal Minds afterwards! No shade against the show, but AJ Cook was really one of the outstanding parts of it. So, whatever happened to her? Did she go the way of so many other once-TV-famous celebrities? Or did she jump ship in order to sail towards greener pastures? Let’s find out, and see what she’s up to now.

aj cook looking cute on set


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She Didn’t Want To Go

First off, let’s talk about why she decided to leave. It comes as no shock to anyone that it wasn’t exactly her decision at all. Her co-stars were interviewed about it, and they assert, “it sucks when they fire your friends. I don’t know who made that decision, but I know that us as a family — the family that [executive producer] Ed Bernero made of us — are crushed and it’s awful. It makes you very aware that it’s a job and if they need you, they keep you, and if they don’t, they fire you. Not that she’s not necessary! But, someone made a decision that she was not necessary and that’s a bad decision — in my opinion.” In our opinion as well! But the executives don’t seem to take the blame. One of them defends themselves, “I still don’t understand what the studio wanted there, don’t understand some of the things I had to do, like with Paget and AJ. Like they called me one day and said, ‘We need you to get rid of X Y and Z,’ and I was like, ‘WHY?’ and I fought them, but the cast doesn’t work for the show, the cast works for the network.” So, looks like the network is to blame. Whether it was a decision based on cost, ratings, or creativity is unknown. All that seems to be clear is that AJ Cook had to leave.

aj cook flashing peace sign on set


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She Did Well For Herself

After a ton of backlash from fans, they did bring her character back. The fans spoke up, and AJ Cook was grateful. “Their outpouring of support really blew me away. That’s definitely the silver lining to being let go… The fans really let me know how they felt, and I guess they really let CBS know too.” They sure did. Letters, social media call outs, and a number of lower viewer ratings made it loud and clear to CBS that they messed up by letting AJ Cook go. This is why she was brought back.

criminal minds cast photo season 15


She didn’t do too shabby in the interim, though. Between booking some smaller gigs in shows and movies and flexing her own creative muscles, AJ Cook has proved that she’s not just a great actor, she’s a persevering worker as well. She doesn’t rest, and doesn’t take no for an answer. Until she decides to, of course. That’s really what it seems like she got up to during her stint away from Criminal Minds. Taking time to unplug and sit with her family was big for her, and really helped her overcome some of the trauma surrounding leaving Criminal Minds. She likens it to feeling “like a breakup with a guy. It happened out of nowhere. And it was an ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ sort of thing. You think, ‘What did I do?’ It’s been a rollercoaster ride, but I just had to put one foot forward and keep moving.” Now that’s the JJ we know and love!

RELATED: Why Has Criminal Minds Star Shemar Moore Never Been Married?

It’s rare to find actors who are similar to their characters. AJ Cook and JJ are one and the same, though, which is why nobody could replace her. They tried to take her off the show, but she managed to prove how integral she was and didn’t let them keep her out forever. Between having her character come back and directing for an episode of Criminal Minds, AJ Cook had never been more involved than after getting fired. The fans were the big deciding factor as to why the network brought AJ Cook back, and Cook is grateful to them. With great power comes great responsibility, and we’re glad that AJ Cook uses her responsibility for putting away the bad guys.

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