Tuesday, June 22, 2010


BY: Lori Queirolo

It wasn’t until I started watching CRIMINAL MINDS a few years ago that I realized that I’ve been a fan of AJ Cook’s for quite awhile now.

Years earlier, my older sister had pretty much forced me to watch a show called HIGHER GROUND with Joe Lando in it. It’s really not my kind of show, but the Shelby Merrick character was so wonderfully screwed up, that I couldn’t stop tear my eyes away from the screen. There was an arc on the show where Shelby was forced to go home and face up to her abusive step-father. To this day, that remains one of the most intriguing and compelling things that I have ever seen on TV. And what made it work? The acting of a very young woman named AJ Cook. She played Shelby as tough and angry, but vulnerable and looking for love. It showed acting chops far above the typical talents of one so young. It promised great things for AJ.

A few years later, my sister once again pushed me into watching a show – this one called TRU CALLING, which starred Eliza Dushku. AJ played the sassy best friend. Her character Lindsey was spontaneous and fun – the complete opposite of Shelby. When season 1 ended with Lindsey leaving the chair, a great deal of my interest went with her. The show never saw a second year and I’ll be honest, I didn’t mind near as much as I’d thought I would.

Before I reacquainted with AJ in CM, I’d seen her in a few horror movies – most notably FINAL DESTINATION 2, in which she clearly showed that she could carry a cast.

And then came JJ.

JJ could be such a paper doll if not for AJ’s fantastic work. She plays JJ so compassionate, but tough. On a show built on logic, she’s the emotional heart of the cast. Really, think of some of the most loved eps of the show – REVELATIONS, PENELOPE, MOSLEY LANE – what scenes do you remember? Chances are you remember JJ and Reid’s hug or maybe JJ and Em’s hand-hold? What about JJ fighting to take on a case because she believed in it and the people affected by it. And really, who didn’t cheer when the tired team came home to see JJ in the BAU Room with little Henry in her arms?

A few months ago, I had the pleasure to get to meet AJ on set. As Kris had already notated, she was friendly, outgoing and kind – she went out of her way to engage, which let’s be blunt here - she didn’t have to do. We always like it when our favorite actors are good people, but it’s not a requirement. It is, however, quite the plus.

While on set and watching the filming of SLAVE OF DUTY, I was trying to stay out of the way and she made the effort to say hello and to hold an coversation that actually had some depth to it. The one thing that really stuck in my head, however, was a comment she made a comment about how this show would be entirely different if any of the cast was lost – she couldn’t be more right.

Without AJ – and Paget for that matter – this show is going to be something completely alien. Completely wrong.

AJ Cook is more than just a name on a call sheet. She’s certainly more than an actress who can be easily replaced – she’s a vital and integral part of this show. She brings humanity to the darkness- she reminds everyone that there can be a sunny smile at the end of a hard day.

I’ve been a fan of AJ Cook’s for years – I’ll be a fan for as long as she chooses to act. I desperately hope that includes a few more years on CRIMINAL MINDS, but if it doesn’t, that won’t change the fortune I’ve had in getting to watch her wonderful career.