When Mandy Patinkin abruptly quit the CBS hit show “Criminal Minds” over the summer, there was some question as to whether the series would be able to weather the loss as it entered its third season.
The answer to that has come: Yes!
Ratings are as high as they ever were and one of the reasons is a solid ensemble cast that includes A.J. Cook as Jennifer Jareau who is part of a team of FBI profilers from the bureau’s Behavior Analysis Unit.
A.J. (short for Andrea Joy) and I met for the first time last week after she helped to announce the People’s Choice Award nominations.
I wondered how things are going post-Mandy who has been replaced by Joe Mantegna. A.J. was surprisingly candid.
“In the beginning, it was very stressful because nobody really knew what was going on but it’s been such a great transition. If ever there could be a great transition, this was it. Joe’s fabulous, he really does feel like he’s been there from the very beginning. He fits in so perfectly.”
The cast is currently shooting the 12th episode of the season and likely the last one for the year unelss the writers strike suddenly gets resolved and they are able to resume with new scripts.
“We are entering into the great unknown here and I really feel for our crew. Many of them live paycheck to paycheck and can’t afford to have a five or six month strike. I support the writers and I understand, I just want it to be over quickly.”
Along with Cook and Montegna, “Minds” also stars Thomas Gibson, Shemar Moore, and Paget Brewster, among others.
“We feel very lucky. We’ve got great fans that always tune in and our fan base is getting bigger and bigger. We’ve been in the top 10 like every week. It’s crazy. But at the same time, a lot of people don’t know that. We’re kind of like this quiet success which has been kind of nice. We as a cast and crew and a group, we’re like a family and we love to work every day. We feel very lucky.”
Like A.J., her television alter-ego also goes by her initials: “I like that J.J. has seriously evolved. She went from being a couple of lines per episode to really coming into her own. I love it whenever she gets to pull her gun out – that’s exciting for me. Or when I get to put the FBI vest on and storm a building with everyone else it’s a lot of fun. She’s badass now, I like it.”