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'Criminal Minds' Star Thomas Gibson on Losing A.J. Cook and the Future of the Show

by Piet Levy, posted Oct 13th 2010 2:00PM
Thomas Gibson, Criminal MindsAs if profiling and catching serial killers weren't dramatic enough, the 'Criminal Minds' crew is dealing with some major shake-ups behind the scenes.

Actress A.J. Cook was cut from the show
(her character Jennifer "JJ" Jareau was transferred to work at the Pentagon against her wishes), while actress Paget Brewster, who plays Emily Prentiss, will appear in fewer episodes this season, causing a great deal of fan backlash and even criticism from the cast. And last week it was announced that 'Criminal Minds' showrunner Ed Bernero will also take over as showrunner for the January spin-off 'Criminal Minds: Suspect Behaviour,' starring Forest Whitaker and Janeane Garofalo.

'Criminal Minds' continues to be the most watched show on Wednesdays, but ratings have been down by about one or two million per week compared to the same period last year. And of course questions about the show's future linger.

Star Thomas Gibson, who plays Aaron Hotchner, took a few minutes to talk to TV Squad about how all these changes might impact the show and its fan base.

Criminal Minds castThe diehard 'Criminal Minds' fans really see your characters as a family and feel like they're a part of it, too. There has been such a strong reaction to A.J. Cook leaving. How do you think fans are going to view 'Criminal Minds' going forward without her being a part of it?
I think we'll have to see. I think we were all blindsided by it. A.J. took a very positive and constructive attitude about it and said, "You know what? This is an opportunity and I'm going to move forward and onward and upward." And we decided to take the same attitude. I hope our fans will take a similar high road and stay along for the ride. Obviously her shoes are unfillable and we will always I think pay the respect that is due to her contribution as a character to the team and as an actress on the show. But she's moved forward, and we're going to try to do the same. And I hope the audience does as well.

Where's the show going from here?
I said to [A.J.] in the episode when she left that I was not going to replace her, and we're not going to replace her. So it's a challenge for us to redistribute her responsibilities. Everybody tries on a different pair of shoes, I'd say, to try to go forward and do [her] job as effectively as we can, given that we've lost a member of the family.

AJ Cook Criminal MindsFor the season going forward, one of the things [showrunner] Ed [Bernero] has talked about that we're all embracing is the idea of secrets. There are things about each of these characters that we haven't seen before that may be revealed this year, and of course hopefully as an audience you'll say, "Oh my gosh, I should have seen that coming but I didn't." So there are things that are surprising on the one hand and at the same time they are organic to the characters, and they're certainly going to be challenging for the team professionally and personally.

Hopefully. (Laughs)

What's it like for you as an actor for your character to keep all these secrets?
These are all human beings trying to do a very, very difficult job, and trying to utilize their humanity to understand the very, very dark sides of these killers and these cases, but at the same time preserve part of themselves, apart in a way from that. There's a part of themselves that they have to hold in reserve I think. But at the same time, there's a great conflict and a great tension between that investment and the need to get away from these cases at a certain level in their lives, their personal lives.

That's why I know the real BAU [the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit that inspired the show] is full of people whose lives have been somewhat broken, both in preparation for working and as a result of the job. It's a very difficult thing. And I think that may be true in law enforcement in general. But it's interesting to see because this is such a family, and we think of ourselves that way, we think of the team that way, to see how that tension and how that dynamic will change based on what kinds of things are thrown at them both professionally and personally.

Paget Brewster, Criminal MindsThen there's the fact that Paget Brewster is appearing in fewer episodes, which has caused a lot of speculation. The show has had such strong female characters, but now A.J. was cut and Paget will be around less. What are your thoughts on that?
It's a very fluid kind of thing. I hope that we will continue to have a very strong female presence. I think Paget's contribution to the show is absolutely invaluable and I personally love working with her, and I think the character of Emily Prentiss is one of the stronger characters on the show. Her contribution is no less strong than anyone else's. And I would love for her to stay, and who knows what's going to happen? Like we mentioned in the episode when A.J. left, these things are done without our consultation and there's nothing we can do about them. But I know that one of the things the audience has very much responded to is this family, and to break up a family for no apparent reason is always devastating. So I'm sure that everyone understands we need a strong female presence and that presence will continue.

What are your thoughts on Ed Bernero taking over as showrunner for the spin-off? Obviously it's a big job to be a showrunner, much less a showrunner for two programs. How do you think that will impact what you are doing?
We're so busy right now ourselves, [but] I know that Ed is capable of handling a lot of stuff at the same time, and I know that we've got very able and capable hands on our show who have been able to take the reins and keep the ball in the air. And all of us are very capable and know the characters. So we obviously still need Ed. Ed did such a great job of taking our show from its pilot and building it, and hopefully he'll do the same for the other show and we'll be OK in the meantime, and we'll look back on this and it will be very interesting.

'Criminal Minds' airs Wed., 9PM ET on CBS.

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Deborah \

seriously, if CBS wants to get trigger happy and start firing everybody to "save money" then fire whatever idiot or group of idiots made this decision.

April 13 2011 at 2:37 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Deborah \

while I appreciate Thomas Gibson's acting and he's trying to have a positive attitude or whatever, I really hope that a lot of this is just him parroting CBS and not his own thoughts. You can't just skate by assuring the audience that there will still be "a strong female presence". Nobody cares if you find some bimbo to replace every actress based on her haircolor. Fans aren't upset that CBS is getting rid of female characters, we're upset that they are indiscriminitely firing fabulous and talented actresses whose characters are unique and significant to the show far past their gender. Prentiss wasn't kickass just because she was a chick, any more than Shemar Moore's character is solely defined by his race or Thomas Gibson's by his gender. When you get down to it, the fact is CBS is ruining the best show on TV by sheer stupidity, suspect behavior is one of the worst shows on TV, and honestly, Paget should come back and get whatever she was getting paid before plus whatever they're giving forest whitaker for mumbling incoherently.

April 13 2011 at 2:35 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Catherine Mcginty

It is very obvious that CBS is not intersted in what the fans feel or think. They are mucking about with Criminal Minds so badly and in my opinion, for what it is worth, are doing the same to the Criminal Minds cast, which is not very
professional at all. Why can't they be up front and tell the cast what their plans are, they would get a lot more support be[ng honest. They are dealing with peoples livliehood and shouldn't be bent on ruining the best show on TV.
The other C.M.- behavior Suspect is in no way like the original Criminal Minds. The original show is superb along
with the cast and they seem to along very well together. The other show lacks so much it is hard to watch the acting
because it is pathectic... Even Forrest Whittaker is a momumental disappointment. Enough said!!!!!!

February 28 2011 at 5:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

why do they need to take paget out of this she's pretty funny smart and she brings entertainment to everyone wHo has been watching I myself love her and wish she can stay on the show because she's one of the important characters on criminal minds plz plz plz keep the on criminal minds we need everyone have u ever have a family member die in front of u I have and it was a big deal for me my cousin was shot multiple times at a restaurant my whole family freaked out all that has been happening is like a family member being replaced like paget and aj they should stay on criminal minds even if they get new contracts at let us know they will be on criminal minds I love paget and aj they r pretty bright funny and smart and smoking hot your fans will be disappointed in u guys if u take one of them out so plz keep them on the show they r a family member of criminal minds

February 23 2011 at 1:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Williams Jenkins

In lew of my prior statements, that's probably why Lola Glaudini left Criminal Minds as Elle Greenaway because they were maybe trying to misuse her as well and phase out her character. But I don't know one can only speculate I just
that they come to their senses and reverse their horrible decision.

February 11 2011 at 12:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Stephanie Gallardo

Emily Prentiss NEEDS TO STAY!!!! She's seriously a piece of this amazing puzzle! She is a strong character and she is so unique, she's a great friend and would do anything for the BAU family. She is my favorite character and I think she's essential to the show. You CAN'T REPLACE HER nor ELIMINATE HER CHARACTER. All I'm saying is SHE NEEDS TO STAY!!!! for real.

January 25 2011 at 4:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Kimberly Price-Long

Who ever mad the cast changes, with JJ leaving and Prentiss leaving its time to fire them, why change something that worked, if they come back so will the ratings.

November 18 2010 at 10:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Gail Hendrix

I still love the show. Keep hoping they bring JJ back. They need to leave it along. Why fix something thats not broken. I dont watch a lot of shows but this and NCIS are my favorite. I am also upset with CBS. Why not listen to the fans, I thought thats who the shows are for anyway.

November 11 2010 at 2:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I miss JJ the show is not the same. Bring her back!

October 24 2010 at 8:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Marnie's comment
Williams Jenkins

I agree with you completely Marnie, a grave mistake was made when A.J. Cook was terminated as J.J.
I also don't agree with them trying to phase out Paget Brewster's character Prentiss, I miss J.J. as well
and will miss seeing Prentiss regularly on the show. I feel that they should have left cast alone, and if
the show truly cares about it's ratings it will bring J.J. back and keep Prentiss. CBS should also listen to its fans, because without us there would be no CBS, we are the reason the network has survived and done well for so long.

February 11 2011 at 12:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Im also was a HUGE fan of Criminal Minds.... I hate that aj is gone! .....and if they start with Padget, then CBS are fools....I'm definitely NOT going to watch the new show...simply because the actress Jenine Garafalo will be one of the starts...I lost interest in her when she thought I cared about her politcal views!

October 21 2010 at 12:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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