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?
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”?
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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?
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….
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.