You've had quite a ride as JJ on
over its seven-season history, including the time you were off the show. Do you reflect on that much?
A.J. Cook: I do feel a lot of pride. I've put a lot of effort and time and sweat and tears into JJ, so it feels good that I'm still here, and our 150th episode has aired. I didn't think we would be here for 100, let alone 150 ... and I certainly didn't think I was going to be there for the 150th, because I had been let go!
It really does mean a lot to me, just to see JJ grow and how much she's changed since she's come back. We've had a lot of creative license there, and that was important to me in coming back. I wanted to take her someplace new and give her something exciting, and I'm having a blast. I've been able to do a lot of fun things with JJ that you've never seen her do before.
Zap2it: What do you recall now about the period when you were off "Criminal Minds"?
: I was able to do a lot of soul-searching and remember why I became an actress in the first place. I was able to go and do some really great projects, and it sort of re-ignited the flame inside me to be a better actress, to embrace and love the profession again -- because it was rough for me for a while.
How were the show's fans to you throughout that time?
: They've just been so delightful, I'm still blown away by it. Part of me wants to forget the whole thing, but it's impossible to, because the fans are still so hurt by it.
"Criminal Minds" airs Wednesday on CBS.