Does working on “Criminal Minds” give A.J. Cook nightmares? It’s a very scary show.
—Douglas Roberts, Ocala, Florida
A.J. Cook, 35, who plays Jennifer “J.J.” Jareau on the CBS crime drama, is a mother in real life just like her character. In fact, her real-life son Mekhai has played her TV son in a couple of episodes, which brings us to the fact that the most difficult stories for her are the ones that involve children.
“Those are hard to swallow,” says the Oshawa, Ontario, Canada-born actress. “I have no choice but to not bring it home. We like to laugh a lot on the set. In a way, I think it is our defense mechanism to not bring it home and keep things as light as possible. It is a tricky one. Ignorance is bliss. I just keep telling myself that it is all fake. This is a TV show.”
As to the question of nightmares, because of the aforementioned camaraderie on the set of “Criminal Minds,” Cook doesn’t suffer from bad dreams caused by the storylines. What she does acknowledge is the information forever implanted in her brain that she would rather not have been exposed to.
“There are some things I wish I never knew, but I am grateful for things that I have learned, too,” she says. “I am obviously a little more paranoid in life now, especially with being a mom. There are times that I think I am being followed. I am, ‘I’m crazy. I just need to calm down.’ It is so easy to get paranoid and look at people differently. I hate it because I am a trusting, nice Canadian girl and now I have all these things going on in my head.”
Cook also appreciates the fact that J.J.’s difficulties as a working mom make her relatable to women in the audience, because, despite the violent content, the show has a lot of women viewers.
“We try to be as honest about it as possible,” she says. “I think it is important to see those moments where you feel like a failure. You can’t be [home] and it is tough. It is tough juggling career, family and relationships. All of that is exhausting and hard and we are not afraid to show that.”