The Playboy Club got cancelled after a mere two shows back in October. The cutthroat response to a highly-anticipated show, like Playboy, further proved that networks aren’t playing around these days, not at all. So, when a show makes it to episode 150, there is definitely cause for celebration. Criminals Minds will reach this coveted milestone tonight with “Unknown Subject.” The Subject may be unknown but what is clear is that A.J. Cook (JJ) is definitely crucial to the show. Her fans made this evident last year by lobbying for her return to the series; her short sabbatical obviously didn’t take. We talked with Cook about tonight’s episode featuring a “top-shelf creepy” unsub, the “Piano Man.”
How are you today?
So far so good. Just dropped my son off at school and I’ve been flirting with the women of Criminal Minds via text all morning...love letters back and forth that started last night [laughs].
Congrats on 150 episodes, what does this mean for a modern day network show?
It’s bananas...everyday I just sort of think, how did I get here? It’s so great to be on a show and get to 100, let alone 150. So, we feel pretty lucky and we’re definitely not taking it for granted.
Tells us about tonight, we get to see the “Piano Man” return to assault his previous victims?
Ahhh, the “Piano Man.” Well, we have some great guest stars per usual because our casting is incredible and this killer comes back, and we are not sure if it’s a copy cat or what’s going on...then there’s the personal stuff, which I really love. Prentiss is trying to come to terms with what had happened and all that.
Jay Karnes, (The Shield, Burn Notice), plays the “Piano Man.” What kind of creepiness did he add?
Yes, [he is] incredibly creepy...I think it is going to be top shelf creepy [laughs]. Someone called the “Piano Man,” it’s like “Ohhh, there’s just something pretty creepy there.” ...We always do a read-through for every episode, that’s your first glimpse into what these actors are going to do with these characters. You can always get a sense and I think my hair was standing up for that read-through because he plays it so soft spoken and on the DL, there’s just something more creepy about that...Oh, yeah but there’s also the thing of is he the serial killer, so there’s a very interesting switch up in this episode. I think the audience is going to be like, “Huh, yeah, was not expecting that.”
There’s quite a huge twist in this, where I can’t even hint at it because it would just ruin everything, but things completely sort of twist for a second and you’re like “What! Shut the front door. Really?”
I always like to find where these names come from, is the “Piano Man” maybe a tribute to Billy Joel or just a coincidence?
(Laughs) I don’t know if we got the copyright, there's a lot of music in this episode. I’m actually not too sure what songs we got clearance on.
What kind of unsubs can we look forward to the rest of the season - tough to top this one?
Well, we will, we always do [laughs]. We keep cranking out the psycho serial killers. We have some copycat killers coming up, there’s an interesting Dean Cain episode coming up that with gambling and gambling gone wrong...And you know what? We are going to see some really great happy moments too, which the show is really in need of [laughs]...and there’s going to be some really great stuff coming up for Garcia and Morgan...and for my character JJ, we are going to see her a little rough and tumble...we are going to see her get into a pretty ugly fight. That’s coming up in a couple weeks, so prepare to see a bloody JJ.
You left and came back on the show, fans were zealous about your return. How does it feel to have such a strong fan base?
Words really can’t describe the whole thing from being let go to the fans fighting, all of it was just surreal and looking back on it, it’s sort of like, “Wow, did that ever happen?” Just because you can’t write that stuff. The fans were just so incredible and made me feel loved and appreciated as an actor because I love JJ and loved playing that character. I put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into her, and to know the fans appreciated that and saw that, wow man! They fought and they fought and they fought. They know I love them and appreciate them.
The 150th episode of Criminal Minds airs tonight at 9 p.m. EST on CBS.
You can contact Mike Rothman on Twitter @TheRealRothman.
It’s hard to imagine an actress featured in a show about serial killers not taking herself too “seri-ously” but Kirsten Vangsness does just that. Vangsness, who plays Penelope Garcia on CBS’s Criminal Minds, is the paragon of eclectic. She’s always quick with a joke to lighten the mood and has a versatile background that suits her well in other ventures. With tonight’s episode “Hope” focused on her character’s search for a kidnapped friend, we spoke with Vangsness on creepy unsubs you can expect moving forward this season and even a future career path into the DJing world. (Expect some Duran Duran.)
For tonight’s episode “Hope”, the team investigates the disappearance of a woman in your survivors support group, can you tell us more about that?
You find out in Season 3 that in Garcia’s spare time she volunteers at a grief counseling center. Now in Season 7, we see her at that center and there is a woman that has been there a while she has grown close to, and all of a sudden is missing. Garcia takes it upon herself to go to the team with the info because she is not getting the support she wants from general police. She actually has to be so super duper involved with the case that she is there from beginning to end…you get to see her in a different way, she is much more serious.
It is a lot of Garcia and a lot of our two guest stars Brigid Brannagh from Army Wives and Jack Coleman from Heroes.
The kidnapping is on the seventh anniversary of the kidnapping of the woman’s daughter too?
Can they make it creepier? Her daughter’s been abducted and she is abducted. Yeah, it’s creepy.
What kind of unsubs can fans look forward to seeing this season?
You know, your sad clown unsubs, your deranged panda - that’s not true that last one (laughs)...I don’t really look forward to the unsubs, I look forward to what shoes I’m going to wear and pretend we don’t even get any unsubs, and after every case just say, “We got the last one!” Now let’s all just do an hour long show, play board games, hang out and get coffee but that doesn’t seem to happen. I like to remember the good things they did before they became serial killers.
Reid has been captured by an unsub in the past -- is there any chance of an abduction from the team again?
There is some danger certainly involved but I think by now, we have all had enough run-ins. If you catch Princess, you are like “please,” she has been able to cheat death. Nothing will happen to her like I’ve been shot. Thomas Gibson, who is in charge of all of us, Hotcher has been blown up, shot and stabbed, so we’ve all had so many trials and tribulations. We are now officially superheroes and we just keep our capes under our clothes.
Before acting, you had several interesting jobs (substitute teacher, writer), did those positions help prepare you for acting?
I still write. [For teaching] I go and I volunteer for like “Read Across America” stuff like that. They were just really great day jobs because I have been acting and that’s pretty much what I’ve always wanted to do, and I was doing it for free since I was 14. They just prepared me in the way I could barely pay rent and helped me so I had my nights free to do this. Now it prepares me because although I’m doing this, I’m also making a movie with my friends called Kill Me Deadly and it helps me at that because I’m very good at moonlighting.
If you weren't acting, what do you think you’d be doing?
I would be a DJ on a public radio station so I could play whatever I want…I would play all kinds of music. I would play Annie Palmer and Duran Duran and Cat Stevens and the Brandenburg Concertos…and Nirvana.
Your character is a computer genius, do you share that affinity for computers?
No I don’t (laughs). I know more about computers than most people but that’s because of the job…that is my bachelor’s degree in acting. My fiancé, she knows a ton about computers so I ask her questions.
I’d love to know what you watch on television other than your own show?
I watch Fringe, The Office, Parks and Recreation … I watch Modern Family, Torchwood, Doctor Who.
Criminal Minds airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. EST on CBS.