Fall TV Preview

The Women of Criminal Minds Celebrate: The Band Is Back Together!

What’s old is new — and improved — on CBS’ Criminal Minds, which on Sept. 21 will enter its seventh season armed for bear, with both A.J. Cook and Paget Brewster restored as series regulars.

At a Television Critics Association soirée last week, I huddled with Brewster and Kirsten Vangsness (aka Prentiss and Garcia) to cheer on Minds‘ fan-facilitated reunion, when before you knew it Cook (who plays JJ) joined in the revelry as well [see photo]. You kinda had to be there to feel the love going ’round, and that’s what I hope this transcript of our festive four-way delivers.

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TVLINE | Kirsten, did you even get a chance to miss Paget?
KIRSTEN VANGSNESS |
Yes. Hell yes. I got the chance to miss her in a big, huge way. I was already grateful and appreciative for both her and A.J. I didn’t need to be more so!

TVLINE | What is the feeling like on the set going into the new season — is it as if you “got the band back together”?
PAGET BREWSTER |
It felt like the band’s back together, yeah!
VANGSNESS | For me, having been there, it was sort of like, “Well, that was totally unnecessary.” It was what it was, and it was great to have Rachel Nichols there… [but] now [Paget and A.J.] are back because they need to be back. They’re a huge part of the show.

TVLINE | Joe Mantegna and I spoke about how the fans’ voices have been heard, which is nice to have happen once in a while.
BREWSTER |
And from what I can tell, for maybe the second or third time ever, as far as actually getting a network to change its mind about what it was doing. It’s certainly nice being on the good end of that! [Laughs] But yeah, unfortunately a mistake was made when A.J. and I were let go. Rachel [Nichols] did a great job, and then when we were brought back she was let go. So frankly, it was a lot of unnecessary firing, which is a shame, but… Rachel is going to be in huge movies [including Conan the Barbarian, opening Aug.19], she’s on the cover of Maxim, she’s totally hot….
VANGSNESS | What’s really cool is that [BAU Agent] Ashley Seaver was named after a woman who was dying that loved Criminal Minds, and that Joe befriended. Rachel has the legacy of being that character, which is important.

[A.J. Cook suddenly joins us, and the ladies clink glasses. As Cook introduces herself to me and smiles, I admittedly lose some coherency. See photo.]

TVLINE | Paget, where do we first see Prentiss this season? Is she still in France?
BREWSTER |
The first episode is a story about how I have to come back, and people are surprised by that. I mean, JJ and Hotch knew [about the faked death], but….

TVLINE | Are those who weren’t in on the ruse a bit peeved?
VANGSNESS |
Some of the gang is peeved, but I’m like, “Whee!” Garcia’s just happy.
A.J. COOK | [Overdramatically] Relationships will fall apart!
BREWSTER | It’s true. Relationships will unravel.
COOK | You’ve got to make it dramatic.
BREWSTER | You can’t go pretendin’ to be dead and mess your friends up and not get a little yelled at!

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TVLINE | One silver lining to all of this is that Prentiss got a helluva story out of it.
BREWSTER |
It was a great [exit] story, and fun to do.
COOK | [To Paget] You were so badass. I was so glad they gave you that story.
VANGSNESS | Listen, we have a totally new JJ, Emily has gone through this journey…. That is a testament to those two and their talent. They’re alchemists, coming back with, like, 10 new facets.

TVLINE | Yeahhh, JJ was one cool cucumber as she was slowly revealed in the season finale.
COOK |
With the legs, you mean? [Laughs] It was like Mrs. Robinson. Yeah, JJ’s come a long way, and that has been fun for me. Wow, you really are a fan of our show! You know what’s going on more than I sometimes do.

TVLINE | Will Timothy Murphy be back as Ian Doyle?
BREWSTER |
He’s back, yeah. Everybody loves Timothy Murphy!

TVLINE | And where do things stand with Hotch (played by Thomas Gibson)? The finale seemed to set up that maybe he’s moving on….
COOK |
It’s funny where we pick up everything…. You kind of see where everybody’s been for the last 3-1/2 months.
BREWSTER | No, it’s six months later — isn’t it?
VANGSNESS | It goes back-and-forth, remember?
BREWSTER | Oh yeah…. There is a passage of time, and the first episode is not linear. It’s a series of flash-forwards and rewinds to get us to where we are. It’s amazing.
COOK | It is a really well-written episode, yeah…. It’s so, so good.