A.J. Cook Passionate About Acting

Canuck star of Criminal Minds keeps a low profile

A.J. Cook has no interest in being famous.

That may seem like an odd position for the Canadian actress to take, given that she stars in Criminal Minds, which is one of the most popular shows on TV.

But Cook is all about the craft, not the accoutrements. And she believes Hollywood gets that backwards a lot of the time.

“I think people become actors to be famous, not to be an actor, and that’s the last thing I want,” said Cook, who never even has hired a personal publicist. “I could not think of anything less appealing to me.

“I’m very private, I like my little life, I’m surrounded by really good people. So I’ve never been in this mad rush for fame.”

With the success of Criminal Minds, though, the native of Whitby, Ont., is becoming more personally famous, whether she wants to be or not. Without a lot of hype, Criminal Minds — which is kind of one-third Silence of the Lambs, one-third X-Files and one-third CSI — has become a top-10 show in Canada for CTV and a top-25 show in the United States for CBS.

“I live at the beach (outside Los Angeles), it’s very mellow, and I look a lot different in my real life than I do on the show,” said the 28-year-old Cook, who spent much of her youth training as a dancer before she got into acting. “I get a lot of double-takes, ‘I know her, but I’m not sure from where,’ that sort of thing.”

Criminal Minds essentially has seven lead roles, but you never get the feeling that Cook, Mandy Patinkin, Thomas Gibson, Paget Brewster, Matthew Gray Gubler, Shemar Moore and Kirsten Vangsness are battling each other for screen time. The show, which centres on a team of FBI profilers and will begin taping its third season on July 9, has a weird but quietly effective chemistry to it.

“It feels good, in a way, that we haven’t been one of those annoying shows that’s like, ‘Look at us, we’re a hit, I swear, we’re a hit, really!’ ” Cook said. “We have a really great fan base and they don’t care if American Idol is up against us, or if Lost was against us. They always have tuned in.”

Cook can’t quite believe she has been in acting for more than a decade now. She admits she got a very lucky break early in her career when she was cast in Sofia Coppola’s 1999 feature film The Virgin Suicides.

“Right from the get-go I was working with James Woods and Kathleen Turner, and Francis Ford Coppola would come to the set and visit — it was just surreal,” Cook said. “But it was great, and that is my favourite thing about acting, getting those people together and seeing what happens.”

With each passing year, Cook’s take on the acting trade has solidified: It should be about the artistry and the finished product, not red carpets and rehab.

“You won’t see me hanging out with Lindsay Lohan or Paris Hilton any time soon, although I’m thinking of going to rehab, so maybe I’ll see them there,” Cook said. “It’s the cool thing to do now, you know? It’s like this badge of honour. It’s ridiculous.

“All I know is, I love acting. It has gone well. I love getting to work with great actors. To me that’s the goal, not being famous.”

-jam.canoe.ca

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