EXCLUSIVE: Criminal Minds‘ two original female cast members are staying on. Kirsten Vangsness and A.J. Cook have closed new deals to continue on the long-running CBS drama series, which is headed into its 13th season. They join fellow Criminal Minds veterans Joe Mantegna and Matthew Gray Gubler who signed new contracts last month.
Vangsness and Cook, who were negotiating together, had been seeking parity with fellow original cast member Gubler. I hear the two actresses have landed raises that put them essentially on par with him.
The studios behind Criminal Minds, ABC Studios and CBS TV Studios, did not begin talks with Vangsness and Cook until after completing deals with Mantegna and Gubler. I hear Vangsness and Cook, who play fan-favorites Penelope and J.J. on the show, respectively, took a similar stand during the 2013 negotiations as the two had consistently been paid less than half of what their male counterparts, Gubler and Shemar Moore, were making at the time. Back then, Vangsness and Cook eventually reached new agreements, securing salary increases but not able to achieve parity. I hear this time they were willing to walk for the cause.
CBS and the Criminal Minds producers had been taken to task on the treatment of female cast members in 2010 when they opted not to bring back Cook for Season 6 and to reduce the episodes of Brewster, leaving Vangsness as the only remaining full-time female cast member. The move led to an outcry from fans. Cook and Brewster subsequently were reinstated.
Both Vangsness and Cook have been on Criminal Minds since the beginning. Vangsness started as a recurring in Season 1, quickly getting promoted to a regular. She also co-starred on the 2011 spinoff Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior. Cook has been a series regular for the entire run except for Season 6, when she guest starred.
In addition to Vangsness, Cook, Mantegna and Gubler, set to return next season are recent Criminal Minds cast additions Adam Rodriguez, and Aisha Tyler along with Paget Brewster, who rejoined the crime drama this season after a four-year break. Damon Gupton is departing after one season.