Things You Didn’t Know About Criminal Minds Star A.J. Cook
Over its many seasons, Criminal Minds has seen a lot of incredibly talented actors come and go and one of the longest-running has been A.J. Cook. As Jennifer “JJ” Jareau, the actress has appeared in all twelve seasons of the series and has found herself a loyal and passionate fanbase. Since she has now spent so many years as JJ, many forget that she actually isn’t her character and there is so much more to know about her! From a Canadian kid focused on dancing to becoming one of the biggest stars in one of TV’s most popular series, here are 8 things you didn’t know about actress A.J. Cook:
8. Being Brought Back
In June 2010, at the end of Criminal Minds‘ fifth season, A.J. Cook along with her co-star Paget Brewster received the news that she had been fired from her starring role due to “budget cuts.” Fans were outraged however, and luckily she was brought back as a recurring star for season six before being picked back up as a series regular for season seven. “All this story was so bizarre. It is almost like a bad dream, as if I woke up and I was talking to you. It all seems so far away,” she said of the abrupt firing and being brought back. “Thank God the fans complained. That is what surprised me the most, more than getting fired. I don’t think they did complain because they adored JJ, or because they adored me, but because they didn’t want to see the team broken up. That is what makes the success of the series. And the people who took that decision needed to understand this.”
7. Early Life
Andrea Joy “A.J.” Cook was born on July 22, 1978 in Oshawa, Ontario, to Mike and Sandra Cook and grew up in the nearby city Whitby with her three siblings Nathan, Paul, and Angela. At a young age, Cook loved dancing and at four years old she began taking jazz, tap, and ballet lessons. She went on to dance competitively for years and dreamed of starting up her own dance studio. After getting into acting, she attended Utah Valley University in Salt Lake City, Utah.
6. Legally Blind
When Cook was only in second grade she was declared legally blind as the result of severe astigmatism, but wore thick glasses and contacts to help correct it before undergoing surgery in 2007. As a child, however, it wasn’t easy for the actress. “Kids are cruel,” she said of the time in her life. “I had to wear thick coke bottle glasses and really couldn’t see – everything looked like a smear of color with no shapes,” she added. The other kids found out she was blind because she wasn’t doing so well at school. “At first, everyone thought I had a learning disability because I couldn’t read but I couldn’t see the board. It was a whole domino effect.”
5. Getting Started
After focusing solely on dancing for most of her life, Cook was 16 years old before she decided to try acting. At 19 she landed her first role which was in a 1997 McDonald’s commercial and never looked backed, and invested herself completely into acting. The commercial was followed by background roles in Laserhawk, In His Father’s Shoes, Goosebumps, and Elvis Meets Nixon.
4. Other Work
While most fans now only know the actress from her character on Criminal Minds, she was in many popular films and series prior to starting on the series in 2005. In 1999, she got her big break with a role in the Sofia Coppola directed film The Virgin Suicides co-starring Kirsten Dunst, James Woods, Josh Hartnett and Danny DeVito. She then starred in the popular TV series Higher Ground as Shelby Merrick alongside fellow Canadian actor Hayden Christensen. She was the first co-star Christensen told about landing the role of Anakin Skywalker in 2002’s Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones.
3. Personal Life
While studying at Utah Valley University, Cook met Nathan Anderson in film class and the pair were married on August 3, 2001. In March 2008, the pair announced they were expecting their first child and on September 13, 2008 they welcomed their son Mekhai Allan Anderson. A few years later, the couple announced in March 2015 that they were expecting their second child and on July 23, 2015 they welcomed their second son Phoenix Sky Anderson. While Cook is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints she has said that she has not restricted her acting roles based on her beliefs.
2. On-Screen Sons
Over the course of JJ’s journey on Criminal Minds, the character became a mother, and instead of casting child actors for the roles, they have used Cook’s real life sons. Her son Mekhai has appeared as Henry LaMontagne in 11 episodes of the series from 2009 to 2016. Meanwhile her youngest son Phoenix has appeared as JJ’s second son Michael.
1. Net Worth
Although Cook wasn’t always interested in acting, it is safe to say the career path most definitely worked out for her. From her commercial debut in 1997 to her long-running and most recent role in Criminal Minds, she has racked up 29 acting credits to her name, and now has an estimated net worth of $4 million. Of course, most of those millions are thanks to Criminal Minds for which she makes an estimated $100,000 per episode.