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July 7, 2015

'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.

Interesting.
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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