Rachel Nichols

Rachel Nichols knows she's in kind of a tough spot.

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The former Alias actress, who joins Criminal Minds with a three-episode arc beginning Wednesday, is fully aware that longtime viewers of the show are still mourning the loss of veteran cast member A.J. Cook, who was let go from the show this season. But Nichols says the show allows the other characters to somewhat speak what the audience may be feeling about the new girl in town.

"I knew that JJ had left and then there was a lot of uproar. People were all wondering, who is this girl coming in?" Nichols told TVGuide.com last month. "What they wanted to do was introduce this character and have people like her because you can't have people angry and hate her right off the bat. There are some scenes in the first episode where [the characters] kind of talk about it, and they're definitely a little wary. But it was all intended to be a very warm welcome for this girl who was going to be here a short period of time."

Report: Criminal Minds promotes Rachel Nichols to series regular

But that period of time might not be short after all. Deadline.com reported last week that Nichols was in talks to become a series regular. CBS and ABC Studios, which produces the show, would not confirm the report, though Nichols hasn't shied away from tweeting her feelings about the news.

In any case, viewers will get to make up their own minds Wednesday, when Nichols' character, Ashley Seaver, a cadet at the FBI academy, is brought in to help the BAU catch a serial killer in a gated community. Even though she's still technically in training, she has a very specific insight into this case, according to Rossi (Joe Mantegna), who crossed paths with Ashley in the past.

"This episode deals with a gated community — everybody has the white picket fence, kids, a dog and a station wagon," Nichols says. "They're trying to look for an unsub who really carries off life as a perfectly normal individual. The experience Ashley grew up in [was] the seemingly idyllic childhood with a very dark underbelly. Rossi thinks they need someone with a new perspective and because of the way she was raised, she may have this perspective."

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But is she ready for down-and-dirty field work? "She's green; she's not an agent who's been out in the field a lot," Nichols says. "But she asks if she can finish out her training sessions with the BAU because that's ideally where she'd like to end up one day. For the first time ever, she's looking at very gruesome crimes and seeing a lot of blood, and severed limbs. She's the one who asks a lot of the questions and it's helping her figure out if she wants to do this seriously or not."

And if she's going to be sticking around, she'll have to make some bonds pretty quickly.

Enter Dr. Spencer Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler), who was handpicked at age 21 to join the BAU by Gideon (Mandy Patinkin). "They have a bond by having grown up as outsiders," Nichols says. "She's fascinated by Dr. Reid because he's got that memory, and she knows he can give her insight into her past because she doesn't have a lot of details on it. They could certainly develop something there with the two of us having a lot of similarities."

Criminal Minds airs Wednesday at 9/8c on CBS.

Are you looking forward to meeting the new team member?