'Criminal Minds' Paget Brewster and AJ Cook play sexy photo spy game with Kirsten Vangsness

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Their minds may be on criminals, but their bodies still like to play dress-up.

Such was the appeal to the female stars of CBS' long-running Wednesday series "Criminal Minds" -- Paget Brewster, A.J. Cook and Kirsten Vangsness -- when they participated earlier this year in a photo shoot for the June issue of CBS Watch! Magazine.

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Tysons Corner, Va. (just outside Washington, D.C.), proved to have all the swanky settings needed for the shoot's storyline casting the women as high-class spies tailing an international bad guy.

Brewster, alias FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit agent Emily Prentiss on "Criminal Minds," says while on location for the occasion that the feel is "very film-noir, three undercover chicks taking down a James Bond-villain archetype. It's been really fun, and the stylists gave us great clothes, so we're excited. I think we're all buying one of our dresses!"

Techno-genius Penelope Garcia on the show, Vangsness believes the shoot's approach makes total sense. "There actually are more female spies than male spies, but they're so good, you just don't know about them," she tells Zap2it. "I'm a theater girl, and I always glam up more there than for I do for TV stuff, so I feel very much at home with this."

The shoot's theme was a collaboration between celebrity photographer Matt Hoyle and Jeremy Murphy, CBS Watch! editor-in-chief. Hoyle explains the magazine's staff "saw some of my more cinematic stuff, and I think they were inspired by that. They said, 'We want to do a spy theme, but we want you to make it your own.' I created this amalgam of all the spy movies I've seen, so it has a little of the Cold War espionage of the '40s and '50s, but a couple of the shots are more modern and sleek and Angelina Jolie-esque like 'La Femme Nikita.'"

kristen-vangness-aj-cook-criminal-minds-325.jpgThe long day of photography also took the actresses to a chilly parking garage, where they willingly vamped it up in a "Charlie's Angels"-type setup ... with Brewster, wearing only a black leotard, understandably racing for a bathrobe to warm up as soon as Hoyle got each shot. While he knew "Criminal Minds" to a degree, he admits, "I wanted to come at this as a blank slate. I wanted to create characters who stand on their own, and (the actresses have) mentioned to me that they're having fun playing parts that are new and of another time."

Indeed, Cook -- who returned to the series this season as BAU operative Jennifer "JJ" Jareau -- reflects, "I don't think it's even anywhere in the realm of what we play on the show. It's fun to escape and fantasize, and that's what this whole thing has felt like. They just came up with a great concept, and it's been a great experience."

During the magazine shoot, which was a rare chance for the actresses to get away together, Brewster informed Cook and Vangsness of her plan to leave "Criminal Minds" at the end of this season. The news wouldn't become public for several more weeks, and she says, "It wasn't even really a decision. It was something I'd wrestled with for a while, and my gut just kept saying, 'Go do something else.' "

Having left "Criminal Minds" once before, not by her own choice, Brewster adds Cook and Vangsness "completely understood. When I thought, 'OK, I could stay and get a raise,' I'd just sort of crumble inside. As much as I love everyone on 'Criminal Minds,' I couldn't shake the desire to go learn and try something else. And I don't lose the best parts of the show, which are my friendships with the people on it."

While Brewster insists she'll still see her "Criminal" co-stars regularly, the professional parting won't be easy. Vangsness makes that clear by saying about the photo session, "To go to a location where you don't quite know where you're going and you don't know any of the other people, there's a bit of relinquishing control to strangers, and I can't think of two people I would feel safer around. They are exquisitely wonderful women, and I'm so glad to get to spend a couple of days with them."

The CBS Watch! story might have run during the summer instead, or even in the fall, but Murphy maintains Brewster's announcement didn't cause major rearranging. "Fortunately, this is going on while Paget's still on the show," he reasons of releasing the issue around the time of the seventh-season finale May 16, a two-hour episode encompassing her exit as Prentiss. "Maybe it's a nice way for her to go out."

Offering something different for his network's stars to do is traditional for Murphy, who has taken Pauley Perrette ( "NCIS") and Archie Panjabi ( "The Good Wife") to Paris and had Kaley Cuoco ( "The Big Bang Theory") photographed aboard a flight to England for CBS Watch! stories.

"These people play characters in shows that are very story-driven," he notes, "so to get them out of that element and let them be glamorous and have couture and designer shoes, they love that. It's so different from what their normal day is like."
Photo/Video credit: CBS