'Criminal Minds' Season 9 finale 'is a thrill ride from beginning to end,' says A.J. Cook

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aj-cook-criminal-minds-demons.jpg "Criminal Minds" fans everywhere have been on the edge of their seats since the end of part 1 of the Season 9 finale. "Angels" still has us reeling from the shootout, which left both Reid's (Matthew Gray Gubler) and Morgan's lives (Shemar Moore) in the balance.

To help us cope, Zap2it spoke with actress A.J. Cook who plays, Jennifer "JJ" Jareau in the series about part 2 of the finale titled "Demons," her hopes for JJ in Season 10 and how she prepares for all those action scenes.

Zap2it: There's a lot of action in the season-ending story, and JJ has gotten a lot more physical as the character has developed, especially in recent seasons. Were you ready for that workout, or did you have to do a little more prep than usual?

A.J. Cook: I think that is sort of how all of that came to be. I love being physical! I'm very physical in my life. I love working out. I live at the beach and I have a dance background. I think they sort of realized that oh, A.J. likes to do this stuff, so let's take advantage of it. Then after one of the first fight scenes they saw I could do a roundhouse kick and it became Shemar and I doing all the action. I love it! That's my favorite stuff to do because it's so much fun! I love boxing and kickboxing. My son's really into jiu jitsu, so I am trying to learn a little of that on the side. My main workout is reformer pilates.

You are really good friends with Kirsten Vangsness, who plays Garcia on the show. How much fun was it for you to see the usually office-based Vangsness play a field agent in the finale?

I can't wait! I wasn't there for that. Morgan and JJ were out dealing with something else. So all of her action stuff I didn't get to see. I can't wait to see Garcia playing the action star. It's going to be so weird, but so awesome! We're just flipping everything on its head in this episode. Don't mess with Garcia. If someone is threatening the people she loves she's going to care. It should be very interesting to see all of that play out.

When you first read the script, how shocking was it for you that the characters Reid and Morgan were felled in the shootout at the end of part 1?

At the end of every season I think everyone gets really anxious and wonders if they are going to write someone off. So whenever you get those scripts you skip to the end. It was pretty crazy to see who they decided to shoot, the two heartthrobs. What a way to go. It was so mean to leave it hanging like that and make everyone wait a week. We are picking it up right where we left off in the middle of that shootout guns a blazing. We also learn a huge secret about one of the other characters that will forever change the face of the BAU.

How significant is it to you that Esai Morales is back in the season's last story, since his character Cruz has such a strong connection to JJ from their past?
It was fun! It is always fun to see him. Our characters hadn't seen each other since that. None of the team had seen him. So we just did a quick little, "Hey how's your rib?" type of deal. Then we move forward. Just moving forward to the next story. It was fun to see him. His show ["The Brink"] got picked up on HBO, so I'm super excited about that.

The teaser for "Demons" showed JJ saying something like, "Let go of me," as she angrily stormed away. What's that about?

Mama bear is kind of coming out a little bit there. The team is being threatened and we're trying to get to the bottom of what turns out to be this deep web of corruption in this town. So we are just trying to hack our way through it and at the same time save the life of one of our team members. There is a lot going on in that episode. It's a thrill ride from beginning to end. The end is yet again going to leave everyone sort of slack jawed.

Do you feel the background detailed in the 200th episode in February -- when JJ was kidnapped and tortured, related the mission she had abroad during her year working at the Pentagon-- informed JJ the way you wanted for the rest of the season?
I think it just kind of explained a little bit why she went away one person and came back to BAU a different person. Two hundred was insane, let's be honest. The fact that she was tortured and electrocuted; there was a lot to deal with there. She's obviously a very tough tough cookie. We've kind of just left it as is. We're moving forward. I don't know what's going to happen in Season 10. Who knows, that might come back to haunt her. I hope not. I hope she doesn't have a mental breakdown or anything. It was quite harrowing, everything she went through, but we don't ever talk about it again. I'm OK with that. I understand the people want to see us find the bad guys every week. That has formed my character, but we don't need to keep hitting it on the head.

Were you surprised by the early renewal the show got for next season?

This is the first time I think this has ever happened for us. It was lovely! It was nice to know, OK, we have a job next year. We were really excited. The numbers have been amazing and we are winning the night every night. The fact that we are in our ninth season and still kinda kickin' is pretty remarkable.

What do you envision and hope for in Season 10?

I know that Erica Messer, our show runner will have a great plan. It's Season 10, its going to be a big season. I will say that how Season 9 ends will directly impact Season 10.

The Season 9 ender airs Wednesday, May 14 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.
Photo/Video credit: CBS