AJ Cook’s JJ may be one of the original Criminal Minds characters, but she did not officially become a profiler until later on in the show.
Criminal Minds has been airing new episodes for over 15 years, and many different stars have been featured on the show over time.
This includes the talented AJ Cook, whose Jennifer “JJ” Jareau has been a core member of the B.A.U since the first season of the show, but who only became a full-fledged profiler upon her return to the show in season seven.
The Criminal Minds cast
CBS’s procedural show, Criminal Minds, was an instant hit with audiences and ended up lasting fifteen seasons before it was rebooted on the streaming service Paramount+.
The show follows a group of profilers from the FBI’s B.A.U (Behavioral Analysis Unit) as they investigate and hunt down serial killers all across the United States.
Stars like Mandy Patinkin, Thomas Gibson, Shemar Moore, Kirsten Vangsness, Paget Brewster, Joe Mantegna, AJ Cook, Adam Rodriguez and Aisha Tyler have all joined the show’s main cast at some point.
However, the show is also notorious for featuring other well-known faces, like Evan Peters, Mark Hamill, Elle Fanning, Aubrey Plaza, Mae Whitman, and even Tim Curry, as guest stars.
When JJ from Criminal Minds became a profiler
While it is true that Criminal Minds has become somewhat of a revolving door for celebrity guest stars over the years, all longtime Criminal Minds fans are sure to have a soft spot for what is now considered the show’s “original” cast.
This includes the fan-favorite character, Supervisory Special Agent Jennifer “JJ” Jareau, who is played by AJ Cook.
Although JJ has been an integral part of the B.A.U team, and the show’s core cast, since Criminal Minds’ first season, she was actually not technically a profiler until later on in the series.
In the beginning, JJ was simply the B.A.U’s press liaison, who functioned as the go-between for the B.A.U when they needed to coordinate with local law enforcement agencies or with the press.
JJ initially shrugged off the former Unit Chief, Aaron Hotchner's suggestion that she should brush up on her behavioral analysis skills to become a profiler, but it seems like she did eventually change her mind off-screen, possibly even before she left the unit is season six, to work at the Pentagon.
And, when JJ finally returned to the B.A.U in season seven’s premiere episode, “It Takes a Village”, JJ had already completed all the necessary training to become a full-time profiler and field agent.
Why did AJ Cook leave Criminal Minds in season 6?
The rather complicated narrative given to explain JJ leaving the B.A.U in the sixth season of the show was that she was forced into accepting a promotion at the Pentagon.
This was actually all just part of a big cover-up for JJ joining a special task force in the Middle East, and it only really gave half of the story of Cook’s exit from the series.
In actuality, Cook was let go from the show in a controversial move by the Criminal Minds team to try and cut production costs. Sadly, the same thing happened to Paget Brewster (who plays Emily Prentiss in the series) just a short while later.
AJ Cook returned in season 7 with an unusual request
Cook eventually returned to the Criminal Minds cast for the seventh season and onwards.
However, while most actors who return to the main cast of a show might feel like they have something to prove, Cook only had one rather unusual goal in mind.
Cook shared with TVGuide.com in a 2011 interview that she “volunteered to get beat up” upon her return and that she wanted “get into a really bad fight” in her first year back.
Of course, we now know that Cook got her wish in the 200th episode of the series, where JJ is abducted under mysterious circumstances.
Is AJ Cook’s JJ in the Criminal Minds reboot?
Many fans were overjoyed to hear that Criminal Minds would not be ending after 15 seasons, but would rather be rebooted in the form of Paramount+’s Criminal Minds: Evolution.
However, this joy was somewhat suppressed by the news that not all of the show’s cast members would be reprising their original roles.
Fortunately, Cook’s JJ did join the cast of the reboot in 2022. And, since this reboot has placed so much more focus on the B.A.U’s personal lives, fans can look forward to seeing much of JJ, her relationship with her husband, Will LaMontagne Jr. and her sons Henry and Michael (portrayed by Cook’s real-life sons, Mekhai and Phoenix), as the show continues.