Criminal Minds Exclusive: A.J. Cook Poised to Return as Showrunner Ed Bernero Departs

Potential great news for Criminal Minds fans: A.J. Cook is in talks to return to the CBS crime drama next season as a full-time series regular. Meanwhile, executive producer Ed Bernero — who has run the series since the beginning — is leaving. Another Criminal Minds veteran, executive producer Erica Messer, is set to take over as sole showrunner.

Cook departed Criminal Minds at the end of last season when her option was not picked up, sparking a huge outcry among fans. She appeared in the first two episodes of this season to give closure to her character JJ, who was transferred from the BAU to a job at the Pentagon. Cook then returned briefly last month for costar Paget Brewster’s final episode.

Speaking of Brewster, she is filming a comedy pilot for NBC, My Life As an Experiment, and will continue with that project if it goes to series. But if it doesn’t, I hear CBS has an option on her for Criminal Minds and, if it exercises it as many expect, the network would bring the cast of the show back to the way it was at the end of last season.

The developments, especially Cook’s potential return to Criminal Minds, do not bode well for newly-minted regular Rachel Nichols, who was brought in to fill the void left by Cook’s departure.

While things look bright for the female portion of the Criminal Minds cast, things are still murky on the male side, with stars Thomas Gibson and Shemar Moore still not signed for next season. Talks are underway with the two actors whose deals are up at the end of this cycle.

As for Bernero, he informed the cast and crew of his departure on Tuesday night. There had been speculation that he would leave the series at the end of the season, especially after his script Partners got picked up to pilot at ABC in January.

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  1. Grace says:

    Awesome! I just might start watching CM again.

    • Nicole says:

      Agree 1000 percent!!

    • Ariella says:

      Same here! It’d be great if AJ/JJ returned, but the show would still be incomplete without Paget/Prentiss. Hope we can get them both back, but it’d be unbelievable if after this huge mess the show can manage a complete cast restoration. Still… *fingers crossed*

    • Renee says:

      Yep! If she comes back I will probably watch again.

    • Suncatcher says:

      Ed Bernero can’t leave soon enough. He is so screwed up this once great show starting with AJ Cook, then Paget Brewster – and now he may have lost Thomas Gibson and Shemar Moore.

      These are the folks who brought me to Criminal Minds by the second season. When they left, so did I.

      Don’t let the door hit you in the butt on the way out, Ed.

      PS – Fellow viewers, if you want to avoid the same emotional roller coaster again – DON’T get invested at all in Bernero’s new PARTNERS.

    • Liberty49 says:

      Get the team back !!! JJ was AWESOME (o:

  2. Erin says:

    This is great news. I haven’t been as invested in CM since JJ left. I am sure with her return many fans will return. Great News! :)

    • Kiane says:

      I know. She was my favorite female. And I stopped watching when they disregarded her and brought on this low scale, no acting character and make her into a JJ lookalike. For real.

    • Bethany says:

      Same same.

    • Bethany says:

      Same same. I still watch, but after JJ was gone and knowing Prentiss would be soon as well, it just hasn’t been the same for my broken heart. They can keep the new girl, I don’t mind her, but I’m not attached the way I was to JJ and Prentiss.

      HOWEVER: They need to seriously stop messing with the show, from cast to crew. This is getting ridiculous.

  3. Natalia says:

    If this happens, I might start watching the show again!

  4. Emme says:

    I lost interest in the show shortly after JJ left and the new girl came. If JJ and Prentiss return, and the new girl leaves, I’ll start watching again!

  5. Kelly says:

    Awesome!!!!!! I love JJ and missed her this season.

  6. Booger says:

    Good riddance. Having Cook and Brewster leave was dumb. He’s not completely to blame, but was obviously part of it. It was nice to see how mature JJ’s character was in Brewster’s last episode. Really refreshing to see a female character treated like she’s smart and tough and not just pretending (see EJ Barrett on NCIS).

    • pl says:

      EJ is a nightmare. Her stupid hair-flipping is so annoying. How the heck is she even a leader of a team? She doesn’t show any leadership qualities at all.

    • Elle says:

      Ed has NOTHING to do with JJ leaving, that was ALL on CBS. That’s why Ed and the writers of CM pretty much took as many digs at CBS as possible in the ep where JJ left. As for Paget, SHE decided to leave after CBS cut her screentime (can’t really blame her honestly), but again Ed and the other CM show runners and writers had NOTHING AT ALL to do with the situation. Every single bit of it was on CBS.

    • Ginger says:

      Amen to the Barrett comment!! WHY was this woman brought in?? She is just as bad as Seaver, and that’s saying a lot!! Why mess with perfection, anyway? Both of these shows are all I watch regularly. And they took a drastic downturn this season. Ditch Seaver and Barret; bring back JJ and Emily (tho not sure how they will write Em back in-death is a little harder to overcome than a job transfer)

  7. Alrisha says:

    Great new! I missing so much and the new characther (I don’t know her name, sorry but your haven’t been important enough for me to do care).
    I wish PB the best but I don’t mind is she is back :D

  8. Tiva4Life says:

    Will watch once JJ is back!

  9. Raechel says:

    I’ll be super glad if either or both girls come back but the show is still a good show without them. I feel bad for the new girl Rachel because she really isn’t JJ replacement and everyone is so hard on her for something she had no control over and she is doing a good job. I hope they don’t get rid of her completely if they bring JJ & Prentis back.

  10. Brett says:

    It would be great to have them both back but the show is still awesome. I don’t understand how you people watch shows just for one character or actor, it’s always about the whole or most of the cast to me.

    • DarkEmy says:

      for me it’s also about the whole cast but they ruined the team dynamics by ditching two most important female characters on the show and then bringing in an implausible 2D character as their replacement.
      I really hope they’re both back, but I miss prentiss a lot more than JJ.

    • Renee says:

      I watched CM for the ensemble. When you remove two characters it changes all the team dynamics so I lost all interest. Plus how they handled it made me mad.

      • sashay says:

        Totally agree. I’m beginning to wonder if this was all a negotiating ploy, and the network was surprised by the viewer outcry. I hope that they don’t try to cut the salaries of either woman if they’re re-signed, and that they’re not trying to play hardball with Shemar and Thomas. I love the entire team, their chemistry was a good part of why I became so hooked on the show. Huge mistake to believe the cast was that expendable, like a Law and Order show.
        So my fervent hope is that Paget & AJ return, and all of the cast re-sign their contracts. They could also kill off Seaver. A good, slow death scene would give Nichols a chance to show off some acting skills (if indeed she has any, haven’t seen any evidence of it yet).

        • Chickie says:

          I totally agree. Although Nichols is the third person to fill that position, I am wondering what is up with that. And if they can Shemar or Thomas, I can’t watch anymore. I live for when Shemar calls Garcia, “Baby Girl”. It was hard enough to keep watching after Mandy Patinkin left. Although I will say that Joe Mantegna has done a good job.

          • Chrissy says:

            I agree. If they get rid of Shemar Moore or Thomas Gibson, I am completely done. I also loved Mandy Patinkin, and I really miss him and I don’t want to see more good characters leave. We lost Elle, Gideon, JJ, and Prentiss. I loved all of them. (Mostly Gideon haha) Though the replacement of Elle, which was Prentiss, was a great idea. I love Prentiss. But now Prentiss is gone too. And I do like Rossi. And the girl who replace JJ, Ashley Seaver, she’s not that bad. I mean, I love JJ way more but Ashley really isn’t that bad. She’s pretty good.

    • christy says:

      Me too!! Sure it would be nice to have J.J. and Prentiss back, but this season will be worth watching. ;)

  11. Mikaylah says:

    Yay! I would love if A.J. and Paget were both back next season. That way, Seaver wouldn’t bug me nearly as much.

  12. nicoltate says:

    I am so glad she is returning, it is not the same without her at all. The new girl can stay an apprentice or something.

  13. Ingmar says:

    Great news ofcourse, I love JJ :) Now I can just hope it is realy gonna happen ; and that Paget will return. And that the 2 boys sign on ofcourse, but truth is I wouldn’t realy miss Thomas Gibson. Shemar Moore I would miss.

    I do have question marks what this means for the CM spin-off thought..

  14. Mykey716 says:

    Best news today, so far!!
    Should never have let her go….and hopefully Paget Brewster will be back, too!! Sorry, but Rachel Nichols has been an absolute BORE!!
    With the exception of the episode that introduced her character, she’s been just a space-filler…
    I’m sure Gibson & Moore will be re-signed as well.

    On a side note – shame that Ed Bernero is leaving…he’s done a great job all these years and kept this show hot but I’m sure Erica (yay, a woman!) will keep it going.

    And how come we haven’t heard much about the horrible spin-off CM:Suspect Behavior?? I really hope this show is either cancelled (my 1st choice – sorry Forrest Whitaker!) or completely revamped (and bye-bye to Janeane Garafolo (what where they thinking???))

    • Bear says:

      Agree with all your comments. Especially about bye-bye to Janeane Garafolo. Why did they ever hire her?? I do hope Gibson & Moore get their contracts worked out – won’t watch if Gibson is gone.

  15. Erin says:

    Love the thought of them coming back. I do not like the new girl at all. It felt like she was a replacement for JJ even though they do different aspects of the job. She was forced on us and too quickly. Felt like a slap in the face—“You can’t have JJ but here’s another blonde to watch.” Not. Cool.

  16. shann says:

    CM hasnt been the same with our two girls

  17. hru says:

    I loved Criminal minds and stopped when they started hacking the women. If they return so do I .

  18. csmith says:

    im so happy aj is coming back she and all the cast memebers need to stay in place please sign hotch and derek on the show they make the show a success in my opinion

  19. Jenna says:

    Yessssss!!! Bring JJ back! AJ Cook is an amazing actress & brought so much to the show. I was devestated over her departure and although I did continue watching nothing has been the same. When she came for Emily’s “final” episode I was squeeing and jumping up & down and so excited! Please bring her back!

  20. Melanie says:

    Yay! This is the best news I have heard all day!!!! You just made my day :D

  21. SnazzyO says:


  22. Debaloo says:

    This is great news! I lost interest after AJ was gone. Her character brought something different, the compassionate side, of the BAU. With her gone, the team was lacking something and I lost interest. I just may start watching Criminal Minds again.

  23. Julie says:

    Wonderful…bring back the original and get the clone, who sounds like she’s reading her lines off a piece of paper off. Thank you!

  24. Linderella49 says:

    This is awesome news. JJ has been missed. I’d love to see Prentiss come back as well but I understand her desire to try something different. The new girl may not have been intended to replace JJ but it sure did feel like she was the token female profiler on the team. As for the new CM – it is like one big hot mess. I don’t know if it’s the cast or the scripts but the show is unwatchable. They either need to do a L&O type retooling or scrap the whole thing.

  25. Cinda says:

    So happy to see this news! Not sure if the departing Bernero was behind the “cuts” this year, but thanks for also naming his next project for me to not support. Hope Thomas Gibson and Shemar Moore re-sign too. Maybe this was news they were waiting on to make their decision.

  26. mike says:

    They should still keep Rachel Nichols if this happens

  27. Vader says:

    I’d love to see JJ back but I’m glad Prentiss is gone. Keep Rachel Nichols’ character and forget about Prentiss.

  28. Dominique says:

    EEEEKS! This is the best news is months!!

  29. hello says:

    Wonder if it’s because Suspect Behaviour failed

  30. Linda says:

    Mixed feelings about this news. I love JJ, but I was hoping AJ Cook would get her own show. Her talent is wasted on Criminal Minds. Same goes for Paget. Hope her pilot will be a success. It sounds like a great role for her and Criminal Minds has jumped the shark anyway.

  31. lxm says:

    I am so happy to hear this! Firing her was a huge mistake and the team has been pretty lost without her. Hopefully Paget Brewster will also return, then the show can return to the chemistry that made it so successful in the first place.

  32. teniba says:

    I hope Nichols will stay, i like her rookie eyes on those crimes

  33. KevinG says:

    Very good news indeed, would be great to see either or both return!!

  34. Brock says:

    I like Rachel too, and hope she can stay! I enjoy the fresh approach, as the others were all established in the job!

    • teniba says:

      and if really they let Nichols go as a conequence of getting Cook Back, i would find that very bad to put those two actresses in a public competition like that… the only competition between actors should happen between cloed doors i.e. auditions! And we the public should not even have to know about it…

      • sashay says:

        They should let Nichols go just because her character is badly written and she doesn’t seem to be very good at her craft. It’s nothing to do with competition. If the producers could afford to retain both of them and get back Paget, I still would like to see Nichols gone. I think she is a waste of space. In Paget’s last episode, I felt that AJ was woefully underused, the writers spent way too much time on this boring Seaver character. I was actually rooting for her character to be killed by Ian.

  35. Ashley says:

    Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, YES, YES, YES, YES, YES!!!!!!! I needed some good news today and this is it! Please, oh please, let her return! Let her return, Paget return, Thomas and Shemar stay, and the new girl leave – we can pretend this whole misbegotten season never happened.

    Seriously, I feel sorry for Rachel Nichols and everything but her character was a very poor substitute for AJ and not doing anything to fill the Paget-void either. Let Rachel move on to a project that’s the right fit for her and let the ousted CM women come back to bring the show back to its former glory.

  36. Bear says:

    Hope we get our old CM back. What’s wrong with CBS anyway? They had a good thing going. Why would you try to fix something that isn’t broken.

    • Suncatcher says:

      Don’t blame just CBS – it’s more Exec. Producer, Ed Bernero’s greedy fault. Had to have a spin off. Had to pay them. Had to dump AJ and Paget to do so. Oops! Spin off not working! Bring back Paget! Bring back AJ!

      I am so DONE with this emotional roller coaster.

      • phil says:

        sounds like you are either 1. A former writer who was let go by Ed or 2. Mandy Patinkin in disguise. Contact CBS and ask them if Ed Bernero contacted them before season 6 to discuss making cast changes. You’ll get the real answer. The answer is NO. Ed had nothing to do with the shakeup over at CM this year. The orgins of these changes start at CBS. Suncatcher, get your facts straight before you throw Ed under the bus.

      • CM Employee says:

        Your and idiot!

        1 shows budget as ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with another shows budget.

        Ed is the BEST show runner I have EVER worked for. You have NO IDEA what goes in to making a Television show.

  37. Jen says:

    Maybe I’ll have to start watching again when AJ returns. I’d pretty much given up on the show after Paget left. I only watched for them and Garcia as most of the male characters on the show get on my last nerve.

  38. Tiffany says:

    YES!!!!! This news just made my day!! I’ve been missing JJ like crazy this season, and it’s an even more pronounced void since Prentiss’ “death”. I need AJ back and Thomas and Shemar re-signed immediately! I’d love to have Paget back, too, but I also know she wants her new pilot to do well. Either way she goes I’ll be fine.

  39. Cas says:

    Happy to see AJ may comeback but I will not watch CM without Thomas Gibson. No Hotch, no CM!

  40. D says:

    LET SHEMAR GO AND NEVER BRING HIM BACK AGAIN! I hated how more of the second half of season 5 and the cliffhanger to season 6 revolved around Morgan. I just CAN’T stand Morgan ruining all the moments that matter the most. When Hotch was beating up Foyet, Morgan stopped him. When Emily was impaled, Morgan was the one who stood there holding her hand and telling her it would all be OK.
    As for Thomas Gibson, there is no CM without Hotch. He is the capitain of the boat. Without him, the whole team would fall apart.
    Having AJ and Paget back would be a dream come true. They should have never been fired! But we all know how CBS is like, so, I’m not bringing that up again.

    • denise says:

      This is great news if it happens. Having JJ back would make it almost like having the entire cast back together in the event Paget doesn’t return. But of course it doesn’t matter if Thomas Gibson doesn’t return. Hotch is the boss who keeps the team focused and together. Without him there is no CM. Please CBS. Please. Please. PLEASE resign him and Shemar, and dump the character of Ashley Seaver.

  41. beth says:

    Woo I can finally start watching Criminal Minds again, once AJ comes back, hopefully the writing will return to normal if the behind the scene shenanigans get sorted out properly. Hope Gibson stays too :)

  42. Mai says:

    This is fabulous news about AJ. CM hasn’t been the same without her. If Paget also chooses to come back, if TPTB at CBS do everything they can to ensure Thomas Gibson and Shemar Moore return next season and if they get rid of the awful Seaver character then I might tune in for S7. Having the old team of Reid, Hotch, Morgan, JJ, Prentiss, Rossi and Garcia back together again would make this fan extremely happy.

  43. Fan1 says:

    What Great News. So Glad that AJ Cook may come back. Now lets get Paget back and get the old team back together in its entirety.

  44. Tonya says:

    SO AWESOME!!!! YAY!!!

  45. Jennifer says:

    If A.J. Cook comes back I’ll probably actually start watching the show again. I stopped when they got rid of her character. If Paget Brewster comes back too then I’ll DEFINITELY start watching again. However, if her show gets picked up then I won’t hold that against Criminal Minds.

  46. Rosemary says:

    I hope JJ returns. The show hasn’t been the same since she left. But, Prentiss needs to return too and all the guys! As far as Seaver, she is useless and annoying, so hope we see the last of her after this season.

    • Kayla says:

      I KNOW!!! I hope Seaver leaves too she is annoying and just because Shes blonde dies not mean she ccan replace jj!!

  47. Stefi says:

    Both Cook and Brewster have to come back. The show’s not the same without them :(

  48. Mayra says:

    Now that’s great news!
    Rachel doesn’t need to leave, but she’ll disappear with AJ and Paget on the show.

  49. Mandy says:

    I love this show, but I have missed JJ. I liked her much more than the new addition of Rachel. She is a good actor, but I don’t love the character. I am okay with Paget staying away a while, but her coming back eventually will be interesting.

  50. Kayla says:

    I rly hope jj and prentiss come back but if Thomas and shemar leave I will officially have to stop watching the show as much. But I am so releived that Matthew or Spencer are still in the show. If he leaves I’ll die.