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. Jimmy says:

    What kind of crap is this
    Nichols was not brought to replace Cook. Nichols is playing a profiler not a press liason like Cook is.
    So Nichols should stay on the cast and hell it wouldn’t even be fair to just fire her after they hired her 4 months ago.
    Nichols is a keeper

    • Kiane says:

      Please. Seaver is awful. She doesn’t hold a candle to the dynamics of JJ and Prentiss. Dump her. And keep Shemar and Thomas.

    • Ashley says:

      Maybe Nichols would be a keeper if they’d created a better character for her to play. The problem with the character of Seaver is that she ISN’T a profiler – she’s barely an FBI agent. Even if A.J. and/or Paget don’t return, Seaver should be replaced by a more experienced agent who’s actually a profiler.

      Nichols WAS brought on to replace A.J., no matter what their characters’ job descriptions are; it’s not a coincidence that a young female blonde came on the show a few episodes after another young female blonde left. And it’s hard to argue fairness since (1) it wasn’t fair for the showrunners and network to treat A.J. and Paget the way they did last year, and (2) if a character isn’t working out, they aren’t working out and Seaver isn’t working out. They wouldn’t even be thinking of bringing the other ladies back if she were.

    • Jak says:

      Wouldn’t be fair? You know this is CBS we are talking about, right? What wouldn’t be fair is to fire an actress who has been with the show since the beginning, was doing a great job, and was loved by almost all of the fans.

  2. Matt says:

    I don’t know man, I feel like they would only bring back AJ/Paget if they end up losing one of the guys… Sort of like they know one or both of them might not return so in an effort to not piss off EVERYONE, they re-hire the two ladies who left, to pretty much “ease the sting”. It would be great to have the team back together but at the same time, it wouldn’t make any sense for Prentiss. You can’t just fake your death and then come back and resume your life, especially as a federal agent in a highly elite division. They’re already stretching credibility by making a ‘just out of the academy” rookie part of the team (assuming that’s what they’re doing).

    Also, if AJ comes back then Rachel has to go because I have a hard enough time telling them apart as it is–there’s no way I could follow it if they were both together full time. WAAAY too similar!

  3. Ingrid says:

    Eee gods..a spark of sanity…? Could it be real???? Then the evil Doyle can return so he can chase Emily back to DC..they can discover she is alive…blow Doyle away…tearful reunion and the world sits back on its Axis and all is right… again… Oh and please..let Seaver disappear into the night…Criminal Behavior is written off as a bad dream and we all live happily ever after chasing Unsubs with QUALIFIED SEASONED INTELLIGENT EXPERIENCED Profilers…pretty please. Just for the record, I have nothing against the new girl, except her character…her storyline…the improbability of a group like the BAU bringing in a cadet to do what they do…having her graduate does NOT HELP thank you and NO i DO NOT think Prentiss would approve. Oh and the Father-daughter vibe you’ve thrown in for Seaver and Rossi? Creepy…just…creepy and I loathe it. L-O-A-T-H-E IT!

  4. ria says:

    YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!! We want our team back together again!! oh my god, i could do cartwheels right now…that is, if i could DO cartwheels!!! so happy!! *bounce!

  5. Denise says:


  6. umbrella says:

    Just as long as Spencer and Penelope are there I will be happy

  7. Romina says:

    Yay! Hope Aj wil be back! Anyway, the show isn’t the same for me without Paget, so it’s rare I watch it anymore, just read synopsis.
    I doub she will go back, but I hope for her retun as guest to give a close to the Doyle mess. I feel sorry for Rachel Nichols, her character is awfully written! she has angel but she doesn’t seem to fit there

  8. jennie says:

    Yey! I really hope both AJ & Paget comes back to Criminal Minds. Watching it without them is not the same. Rachel Nichol’s character is blah compared to Emily & JJ. Is there a petition we can sign? :p

  9. Billie says:

    I have never seen a comment board as united as this! I quit watching as soon as AJ left and then tuned in again for Brewster’s last episode. If they bring them back I will totally start watching again. I actually miss Criminal Minds.

  10. Mia says:

    Jareau = IN; Seaver = OUT.

  11. Aiden says:

    Wow. Best news about Criminal Minds I’ve heard all year! Now, if only Paget Brewster also decides to come back, the show would be in tip-top shape again. Honestly, this is the only way they can correct the mistake of inexplicably letting go two of the show’s most important characters. The chemistry and dynamic of the cast wasn’t broken, they didn’t need to fix it.

  12. Chelsea says:

    The fact that no one at CBS cared about the huge number of fans (including myself) that were up in arms about the firing of the two main female actresses (yes, I do love Garcia, but I think her role was always slightly smaller) just shows how disconnected the suits are. Regardless of what critics think, the majority of fans are totally on board with Criminal Minds. That support does not extend to the network if they mess with the recipe.
    I don’t mind Rachel Nichols; I’m sure she’s very nice. Her character is too young to be in the BAU–I thought it was some sort of elite unit or something. I mean, everyone else has expertise in psychology, language, or everything–like Reid. Seaver just graduated. She needs more training. Given more time, and with Prentiss and JJ back, I could come to like Nichols’ character. It’s certainly possible that Nichols doesn’t see herself as “replacing” Paget Brewster and AJ Cook, but two female actresses are gone, and they need another one.
    If Cook refuses to come back, I wouldn’t blame her (the same with Brewster). They were both treated poorly. The show won’t be the same without them, and if they can be lured back, I will be thrilled. I love both Paget and AJ and I want them back on CM. Fingers crossed!

  13. Guy says:

    Awesome awesome awesome news. Extremely happy by this news. AJ should never have been shown the door in the first place. Glad to see CBS has come to their senses. Plus if Prentis doesn’t return then Rachel Nichols could stay with the show as in a way Prentis’s replacement.

  14. Amelia says:

    It would be a shame to lose Emily Prentiss… I think she is the most interesting female character.
    With a female Executive Producer I hope that the women on CM will get bigger roles in the plot next season!

    I always found AJ boring, but perhaps that was because she was usually such a minor part of the plot each episode & we didn’t get to know her well.

    Morgan, Spencer & the-guy-who’s-wife-was-killed have all featured heavily in the plot so far. We have met their families (numerous times) and have found out a lot about each of them. As for the women: we have never seen any of AJ’s or Penelope Garcia’s family (although Emily Prentiss’ mother was featured in one episode).

    We can’t really complain about any of the women being boring if they haven’t been featured fairly in the episode plots, and haven’t been well developed as interesting characters with a background. I love it when the FBI agents are personally involved in the plot lines (eg. when Spencer was kidnapped, when Morgan & Emily went undercover in a cult and were discovered, when Morgan was arrested and charged with murder, & when Spencer thought his Dad was a murderer).

    • Tam says:

      Actually, it was Spencer and Emily that went undercover at the cult compound but I get what you mean. That is one of my favorite episodes and I think the one where Spencer is kidnapped is the second best episode of the series (100 being the first.) I also liked the one about the teenage girls in the small town that were held captive and forced to hurt each other. It wasn’t the best story case wise but it gave us great insight into JJ and why she was on the team. Just think of all the cool backstory we can get into if JJ and Emily return!!!

  15. LDSK says:

    Great news…even better if Paget comes back. OK writers, here’s how it should go. Ian Doyle returns to the states. The team finds out about it and they go after him. Somewhere along the way they discover *surprise* Emily is still alive and hunting Doyle as well. JJ joins the group as they all go after him together. They confront him in a final showdown where Emily gets to kill him but not before he kills the new girl. Thus paving the way for everyone to come back.
    THE END.

  16. Jill says:

    I’d actually be really interested to see the dynamic between JJ, Emily, Garcia and Seaver (if AJ and Paget both come back). I think Seaver’s gotten such a bad rap because we all see her as the replacement, but I think she could be an interesting addition to the team if she wasn’t battling that perception (and if they actually use her background to influence her perspective, not just pull it out when it’s convenient for them). It’s always good to get some more women on cop shows, and she’s filling that “youngest child” role that Reid seems to have abandoned this season.

    I think if AJ comes back, Thomas and Shemar will sign with no issues. Not to say they’d leave if she didn’t, but I think it will make negotiations last that much longer.

    • BT says:

      Please. All the behind-the-scenes drama may have been a factor, but the main reason Seaver has such a bad rep is because she’s a bad character. Characters on TV shows are replaced all the time (Gideon with Rossi, Elle with Emily, Kate with Ziva on “NCIS”, Sharona with Natalie on “Monk”, Blake, Trapper, and Frank with Potter, BJ, and Charles on “MASH”, Aiden and Stella with Lindsay and Jo on “CSI:NY” – I could go on) and what ultimately makes or breaks the replacement is how good their character is. The only things Seaver brings to the table are being female and being the youngest – she’s not interesting, experienced, talented, or even believably a part of the team. The show doesn’t need a character to be the token female agent or “youngest child” if that’s ALL the character has to offer.

      • Blue Sunflower says:

        Seaver’s not even technically the youngest. The actress is older than MGG. Age 30 is a more accurate Academy graduate age, although I agree Rachel plays her half the time like she’s 12. And if Seaver is written to be around 22-23 (Reid’s age when he joined the BAU), then she really does have no business being around. She’s no Reid.

  17. Joe says:

    I’ve watched CM from the beginning and stil watch. The show has been through changes, some good and some bad, but I will not stop watching this show. Somewhere along the way, we the fans, need to remember that the actors that stay with the show need our support too.And all this talk about how bad Rachel Nichols/Ashley Seaver is, I just don’t get it. I think the show did good bringing her in as a “leavel 1” and having her grow with the team…I like her character. And it could have been so much worse,they could have brought her in as some “know it all” like CSI has done with Laurance Fishburn.

    • Max says:

      And I think what you need to remember it that people enjoy shows for different reasons. Some enjoy the story, some enjoy the characters and yes…some even watch because they really like a particular character/actor. I wasn’t particularly interested in CM in the beginning (didn’t hate it. Just wasn’t really interested)but I started watching because I am a fan of Paget Brewster. Once she left I started losing interest in the show. People have different taste and to say a fan is “obligated” to watch to support anyone is just rediculous. If you like the show keep watching, if you don’t then stop. End of story.

      • Joe says:

        Max, you totally missed my point. I never said anyone was “obligated” to watch any show. I’m just saying that this show has been through a lot of changes and, to me, it’s not just one person that makes it all work…well except for Thomas Gibson. I loved Paget and hated to see her go, and I even more hated what CBS did to A.J. Cook, but there are four actors that have been with this show since the beginning and need the support of the fans as well.
        And BT you’re right, the BAU is no place for a “level 1”, but I just liked the idea that the chance was given to her. Now it most likely won’t work out, but who knows. I’ve just made up my mind to stay with show for the long haul and support it any way I can.

    • BT says:

      The problem with Ashley Seaver is that the BAU isn’t a place for “level 1” employees. It’s an elite squad in the FBI, and it’s been stated on the show before that it’s a specialization and an agent needs to work in the field first before being they can be considered to join it. They made an exception for Reid because he’s, well, exceptional, but there’s absolutely nothing about Seaver that warrants special treatment. There’s a middle ground between inexperienced greenhorn and know-it-all, and a new character on CM needs to fall somewhere in there.

  18. Ember says:

    It JJ returns *and* the new girl leaves I will start watching again.
    If Prentiss returns I will do cartwheels down the hall, sing the Hallelujah chorus and start watching again.
    If JJ and Prentiss both return and the new girl leaves I will get out my checkbook. Seriously, who do I make the check out to???

  19. Tuzo says:

    When is Gideon coming back? ;)

  20. Lil Jo says:

    You all do realize this is a TV show and characters do come and go. It’s part of a long running series. Oh and in the real world people do leave jobs, for other jobs or promotions, etc. You get that right???

    That said JJ’s character needs to be brought back, the show is lacking the “sensitive” side in dealing with the other agencies and families that she brought.

    Prentiss can stay away as far as I’m concerned, she was good but not important enough to be missed. I still like the first girl, you know the one Paget, replaced after they were killed. Oh that’s right many of us were upset about that one too.

    • Dav says:

      I don’t give a **** what happens in the real world. As you so emphatically said, this is a TV show. It’s for entertainment purposes not a documentary. Nobody complained about JJ leaving because it was “unrealistic”. They complained because they loved her character and wanted to continue seeing her in action. You know what else happens in the realworld… fans get attached to characters and get upset when they leave. Now please, no more lectures about something being “just” a TV show from someone who hangs out on a site dedicated to TV SHOWS!!!!!

  21. Kisha says:

    I would be glad to see the return of characters JJ and Prentice. I don’t mind the new girl at all…she is like a fish out of water and I think that’s how her character is supposed to be. Last night’s episode of CM,(4/13), actually seemed really interesting. So far this season…the rational behind the unsubs’ behavior has seemed too far fetched…like they are really reaching to make sense of the profile. I actually miss Gideon although his replacement is doing a fine job. I wish that they would get back to the team cohesion and storyline content that built this show to where it is today.

  22. Lindsey says:

    Glad AJ Cook will be back… hope that maybe Paget returns as well.

    But still, CM would not be CM without Thomas Gibson and Shemar Moore. I’m sure I’d still watch, but it just wouldn’t be the same. CM has such a great cast that are really great together… it would be sad to see any more of them leave the show.

  23. shannonkay says:

    Thrilled to pieces at the thought of AJ returning. I’ve really missed her. And I hope Paget’s sitcom is a success if that’s what she wants to do. Otherwise, I would welcome her back to CM as well. As for the men, no way can I watch without Thomas Gibson and Shamar Moore. Just…no. Note to the producers, you made a HUGE mistake getting rid of JJ and the fans let you know that. We’re not entirely happy about Prentiss leaving. Don’t make a totally bonehead move and chance losing Aaron and Derek. You have a successful show on your hands. Don’t cut off your noses to spite your faces. Be happy that the fans are enjoying the series, rake in the advertising bucks you’re already getting and quit screwing around with success. Don’t make me change the channel at 9:00.

  24. Magickster says:

    How hilarious if the two actresses came back?? What a waste of bloody time all of this would have been. I guess though, everyone needs a break to recharge batteries. I only hope the two ladies end up where they want.

  25. Kathy says:

    It would be great if they bring back both JJ and Prentis. I used to watch faithfully every week but I can’t say that I do that anymore. When the show broke up the team it also broke up the chemistry of the show. If the stars wanted to leave it would of be onething but to know that they were asked back and then they tried to replace them(not cool).

  26. elle says:

    yay i cant wait! criminal minds is just not the same without prentiss and jj… since they r bringing jj back.. this is great newsss! criminal minds will be back to being watchable again!

  27. sophie says:

    SHE’S BACK! For the season finale and the next 2 years! How great is that?
    Thank you so much!

  28. Phyllis S. says:

    Please bring JJ & EP back! Don’t take away any main characters, that will DESTROY the show. CM is one of the best shows on tv to date. LEAVE IT ALONE!!

  29. Kris says:

    Hey, now that Bernero is leaving maybe Mandy Patinkin will come back..Heh, that would be awesome, having Gideon & Rossi working together…And of course, Hotch & Morgan have to come back as well, then the family will be complete once again ;)

  30. Paul Z. says:

    Very glad JJ is back, I consider JJ, Reid, Morgan and Hotch main characters……… We like Rossi too, and Garcia in her computer role, but I can’t imagine the show without the first 4 characters mentioned.

  31. Diana says:

    They should keep Thomas & shemar! Bring back paget & aj! And fire that new girl! They don’t need her she’s just in the way for everyone!

  32. Lylah Donaldson says:

    Soooo glad JJ is coming back. Wish tje whole team would stay together. Makrs for a GREAT show

  33. Phillygirl says:

    The JJ character is an insipid waste of space. She has no depth to her whatsoever for this kind of show. I’m glad she’s gone and hope she stays that way.