'Criminal Minds' A.J. Cook glad to have come full circle

aj-cook-apr-2011-cbs.jpgA.J. Cook is glad to be back where many fans feel she belongs.

After being let go from her role as FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit sleuth Jennifer "JJ" Jareau, the actress was brought back to CBS' long-running Wednesday crime drama "Criminal Minds" for its current season. With the show's seventh round nearing its end, and repeats shown regularly on both A&E Network and ION, Cook feels as if she never left ... almost.

"Because of all that has happened in the past year, there's a huge sense of pride and accomplishment there," she reflects. "I'm happy to see the long way that JJ has come. I always think back to the first episode, and I don't even know who that character is anymore.

"She's grown so much, and we've watched her grow up on-screen in a way," Cook tells Zap2it. "I feel like I've done a lot of growing up in my own life -- though I still feel like I'm 16 in some ways -- so life imitates art, and art imitates life. Having that marriage has been nice."

Cook returned to "Criminal Minds" at the same time as Paget Brewster (alias the show's Special Agent Emily Prentiss), who has announced she's leaving for good at the end of this season. Her presence will be missed, Cook confirms, since all the cast members are part of the spirited camaraderie displayed when the cameras aren't rolling on the typically grim series.

"We all find each other enjoyable, and we get ourselves into trouble," Cook reports. "We get kicked off the set a lot when they're trying to light it, because we're too loud or we're laughing. You have to, though. What we do every day is so heavy, there's no choice. It's a survival thing, I think."

Birth date: July 22, 1978

Birthplace: Oshawa, Ontario, Canada

Current residence: Los Angeles

Family info: Married; has a 3-year-old son

Other television credits: "Bringing Ashley Home," "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," "Vanished," "Tru Calling," "Dead Like Me," "Bloodsuckers," "First Wave," "Higher Ground," "The Spiral Staircase," "Blue Moon," "Psi Factor: Chronicles of the Paranormal," "Elvis Meets Nixon," "Goosebumps," "In His Father's Shoes"

Movie credits: "Mother's Day," "I'm Reed Fish," "Misconceptions," "Night Skies," "Final Destination 2," "The House Next Door," "Out Cold," "Ripper," "The Virgin Suicides," "Laserhawk"
Photo/Video credit: CBS