Oshawa and Whitby’s own A.J. Cook spends hiatus from TV show with family
DURHAM — It was a homecoming of sorts for A.J. Cook recently.
The Oshawa-born star of TV’s Criminal Minds spent a few days visiting family in Whitby — her first trip home in two years.
Among her stops was the drama department at Anderson Collegiate, where her entertainment career began.
“It was a lot of fun. I was there talking to drama students for a Q and A. I got to tell them my experience and reminisce with drama teachers,” the 28-year-old says.
She also donated to the department a costume she wore during a high school production of Romeo and Juliet.
Cook credits Michael Trites’s Grade 9 drama class with sparking her passion for acting.
“He was a big inspiration to me, just very encouraging and positive,” says Cook, who moved to Whitby at the age of eight and also attended Dr. Robert Thornton Public School.
She began dancing at the age of four, competing for Creative Dance Workshop and also teaching for the City of Oshawa’s dance programs.
Cook is miffed, however, about how a rumour spread that it was upon seeing Dirty Dancing that she decided to become an actress.
“That makes me sound like the biggest ditz in the world,” she said. “When I was eight-years-old I went to see that movie. I remember my mom being upset that it was more dirty than dancing.”
“It just goes to show you you can’t believe everything you read on the Internet.”
Starring in The Virgin Suicides in 1999 was definitely a big break for her, allowing the Canadian to work with such big names as director Sophia Coppola and actors James Woods and Kathleen Turner.
After several other roles in thriller and suspense-type films, including Final Destination II, Cook auditioned for the CBS drama, Criminal Minds. Executive producer Ed Bernero was key in her landing the role of J.J. Jereau, a young agent on the elite team of FBI profilers.
“He first saw me in the audition and has been a huge supporter right from the (start),” she says. “He’s really helped JJ grow.”
As for the cast, which includes Mandy Patinkin, Thomas Gibson and Shemar Moore, Cook says it’s one big family.
“We have so much fun on set. We’re just a bunch of goofs on set, which so many people are surprised to see because the show deals with such a dark subject,” she adds.
On hiatus from Criminal Minds until July 9, Cook says the show, when in production, leaves little time for other projects.
Her choice of roles so far has a lot to do with the morals and values instilled in her by her parents Sandra and Michael, she says.
“I think there are so many negative role models out there. The last thing I want to do is to contribute to that,” Cook adds. “There’s a line I’m not willing to cross and certain things I just won’t do… I’m in it because I love acting and I want to work with good people.”
Two talented actors she hopes to add to her list of co-stars are Joaquin Phoenix and fellow Canadian Ryan Gosling.
But for now, she’s enjoying this time with family, especially visiting with her sister Angela’s two young children. She also has two brothers, Nathan and Paul.
“It’s so good to be home. It’s been far too long,” she says. “It’s just fun to come home and sleep in your own bedroom.”
Cook lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Nathan Anderson, the operator of his own pet shipping business. The pair met in film class at Utah Valley State College.