EXCLUSIVE: Potential great news for Criminal Minds fans: Co-star A.J. Cook is in talks to return to the CBS crime drama next season as a regular, and she may be joined by Paget Brewster. Meanwhile, executive producer Ed Bernero, who has run the series since the start, is leaving, with another Criminal Minds veteran, executive producer Erica Messer, taking over as the sole showrunner.
Cook departed Criminal Minds after the end of last season when her option was not picked up, stirring outcry among fans of the show. She appeared in the first two episodes of this season to wrap the storyline of her character JJ, who was transferred from the BAU to a job at the Pentagon. Cook then returned for the last episode (for now) of co-star Brewster, which aired last month. Speaking of Brewster, she is filming a comedy pilot for NBC, My Life As An Experiment, and will continue on the project if it goes to series. But if it doesn’t, I hear Criminal Minds producers ABC Studios/CBS Studios have an option on her for the show and, if they exercise it as many expect, that would bring the cast of the show back to the way it was at the end of last season. The developments, especially Cook’s potential return to Criminal Minds, do not bode well for newly minted regular Rachel Nichols, who was brought in to fill the void left by Cook’s departure. Cook got an offer to return to Criminal Minds late last week after the series’ producers recently came up with ideas for JJ for next season. Despite her exit from the show, Cook and her character continue to be extremely popular among Criminal Minds fans.
While things look bright for the female portion of the Criminal Minds cast, things are still murky on the male side, with stars Thomas Gibson and Shemar Moore still not signed for next season. Talks are under way with the two actors, whose deals are up at the end of this season.
As for Bernero, he told the cast and crew of his departure last night. There had been speculation that he would leave the series at the end of the season, especially after Simon Mirren and Messer were tapped as co-showrunners alongside him in October and he got his script Partners picked up to pilot at ABC in January. In February, Mirren told CBS he was leaving the show at the end of the season for a deal at Sony, leaving the well-regarded Messer as the clear successor. “I’m leaving the show in the capable hands of Erica Messer,” Bernero said last night, adding, “I’ll still be around.” A new episode of Criminal Minds airs tonight.