Criminal Minds Exclusive: A.J. Cook on Cults, Frozen Bodies, Askari & More

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A cult, some frozen bodies and some demons from JJ's past all factor into the upcoming episode of Criminal Minds, "The Forever People."

I sat down with AJ Cook to discuss the elements of Criminal Minds Season 10 Episode 11, cults in general and the great relationship JJ has with Reid.


TV Fanatic: As much as you miss Oshawa because of the cold, you probably don't miss it so much this time of the year, do you?

A.J. Cook: No. Not at all. In fact I had my whole family come to me this Christmas so I didn't have to go to Canada. *laughs* I didn't get much of an argument from them. They were pretty pumped to come down here.

TVFanatic: Before we get into the first episode of this new year, you should know that when I put out a tweet to say we were going to have this discussion the Twitterverse kind of erupted.

Cook: Cool!

TVFanatic: You've got quite a following. And so fans wanted you to know that you're loved in Chile, France, the U.K., Portugal, Austria, Finland, Brazil, Columbia, Australia, Indonesia and the Isle of Man, not to mention Canada and the U.S.

Cook: Wow. That's a little overwhelming. That's so crazy. Thank you for telling me that!

AJ Cook image

TV Fanatic: In this upcoming episode, JJ is revisiting old wounds from when she was captured. Is that a PTSD thing? How exactly is that playing out?

Cook: I guess the black and white textbook way of looking at it would be PTSD, but JJ feels it's more than that. She's having a hard time struggling through it and working through it because she's suppressed it for so long. Because as a working mom, that's what you do. You don't worry about your problems. You just keep pushing it down, pushing it down. But unfortunately you can only do that for so long when you've been through such a traumatic experience.

It also happens to coincide with the anniversary (of her abduction). Anniversaries are huge when it comes to making that stuff come to the forefront. So, yeah, she's going to have to deal with some of her demons.

I say good for her, because she's not a super-hero. The fact that she's even suppressed it for this long and pretended like she was a super-hero and that she wasn't affected for this long is ridiculous to me. It's nice to see that she's human and that she struggles and is having a hard time dealing with things, like anyone else would. It's kind of refreshing.

TV Fanatic: When Reid and Morgan have to go through and deal with their demons, fans really pick up on that. I guess there's a lot of relating going on.

Cook: I love that. I love it when we see our characters "put down their capes" - as they say - for a minute and just act like a normal human being and cope; when they deal with it like a normal human being would.

And I love, in this episode, that Spencer steps up and reaches out. He, out of everyone, realizes what JJ's going through and he calls her on it.

It was so nice to be able to, once again, see that relationship. They're so tight, and you just feel the love between the two of them. Not that kind of love but just that they're best friends. We haven't touched on that in a very long time. So it was very refreshing and exciting to get to see that pure 100% caring for one other relationship.

It was really nice to get to shoot those scenes with Matthew. They turned out great, so I'm really happy for the fans to see that and to see two great characters coming together to work through something. It was a lot of fun to do.

TV Fanatic: Can you tell us about the case? I know there are frozen bodies involved and that there's a cult involved. Is there anything else you can tell us about it?

Cook: At first they find these frozen bodies floating in Nevada, which does not add up. So the investigation unfolds this whole cult involvement. But there's so much more behind it. There's some interesting twists and turns.

We have Brian Gant who is just incredible. He's guest starring in the episode. He and I have such great chemistry, so he plays a really great character in this.

I'm fascinated by cults and that whole world. Whenever we hear about cults we just think "that's not real; that's not true".  But it is. It's crazy that these things happen. That story line is so fascinating to me.

Another person we have coming back is Faran Tahir who plays Mr. Tivon Askari. I think that really confused a lot of people when they saw him on the guest cast list. I don't want to give anything away but it's one of the most poignant, intense scenes I've ever shot in my life. I'm so excited for people to see it. That's all I'm going to say about that.

TV Fanatic: On that same the scenes in the episode entitled "200" in which JJ was being interrogated, and also the scene where Cruz was telling her she’d had a miscarriage were just brilliant and well done. How difficult for you was it to get into that mindset?

Cook: It was very hard. You know, in anything that deals with incredibly personal things like that, it is definitely hard to have to go to that place. But you know, I look at it all as very cathartic. You use it in your life as therapy - it's why I don't have a therapist. *laughs* I just sort of bang my way through all of it in my job. It's really cathartic.

TV Fanatic: Every good story involves conflict. One of the things that entice fans to watch the show is the sense of family the BAU team has for each other. In the second episode of this season (Burn), we see Garcia and Morgan in conflict over her decision to visit the man she shot defending Reid. That too was good to see, as it cemented their relationship. Any chance we’ll see some more conflict like this among the team?

Cook: I hope so, because that's what makes it real. People can't see eye-to-eye all the time. Yeah we have great chemistry and we're all on the same page but it's important to have those moments of the butting of heads....that's what makes the team so great. So I certainly hope we'll see a lot more of that, because I think it's true to life. We all can't get along all the time, you know?

TV Fanatic: Are there any other hints of surprises we can watch for in this season?

Cook: There's a great episode coming up that Kirsten Vangsness and Erica Messer wrote together that deals a lot in flashbacks. We cast Ben Savage as "young Gideon". He is just incredible. He is Gideon. I'm really excited to see that episode. It's going to be an emotional one. There's some crazy stuff that goes down in that episode.

Douglas Wolfe was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. He retired in 2016. Follow him on Twitter


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Criminal Minds Season 10 Episode 11 Quotes

JJ: The Humvee. Was that in the file?
Reid: You almost caught him, he set an IED to take your convoy. I know you were wounded---
JJ: I was pregnant. You see, if I had never gotten involved, Nadia and her daughter would still be alive. And Henry would have a little....I can't let this go. I can't. What's the word for that, Spence?
Reid: I don't know.
JJ: This stays between us.

JJ: I have nothing left. You've taken everything.
Askari: Oh Jennifer. There is so much more I'm going to take. First, I will take your sleep. Then, your smile. I won't let you feel safe anywhere. So I'll take your job. And finally, I will transform you so that your husband and son won't recognize you anymore.
JJ: You can't. I won't let you.
Askari: You already are. Think about the risk you took at that freezer. You had no idea that the gas would ignore or not. It was dumb luck that you got out of there alive. Either you will try that again and I'll watch you kill yourself. Or you will quit and I'll watch you wither and fade. Either way, I win.
JJ: No.
Askari: Yes.