A.J. Cook A.J. Cook

She was only on set half a day for the Criminal Minds season finale, but it was still a very sweet homecoming for A.J. Cook. "Everyone was so happy," she tells TVGuide.com. "They were like, 'Finally! OK, good, let's get back to what we do here. We missed you. We're glad you're back.' I love everyone over there. It was so great to see the camera operators and everyone you know and love."

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Did you say "yes" right away or did you think about it?
No. [Laughs] I did a lot of thinking and a lot of stressing. At the end of the day, it just happened to be the right decision for my family right now. I guess one thing to make clear to everyone is that I wasn't sitting around waiting for them to come back. I had other offers. There were other things that could've been great, but I wasn't willing to pick up my family and move them out of the country or out of state to pursue something that I didn't completely love. It just made sense for my family and my second family — Criminal Minds! ... I did a lot of talking to several of the cast and producers and writers. ... I am excited to get back there, from an acting standpoint too. I think this is a different JJ than we've seen in the past, so I'm excited to see where she goes.

She seems much more confident. I almost didn't recognize you in Paget's last episode — in a good way.
I know! Yeah, she's a different woman — a confident, "I've been working in the State Department" woman. But that's what I like. If I was going to come back, I didn't want to go back to what I was because apparently it wasn't deemed important enough to have me there in the first place! [Laughs] I wanted to make sure the character was going somewhere else and was going to be utilized. ... We've been talking a lot, me and Erica [Messer], who's now the new showrunner. ... What I love about them is it's open dialogue. It's always been that way with writers and actors. I guess fans are kind of freaked out that I'm going to turn into this huge ball-buster!

Some think you may be the new Unit Chief.
I know, right? I have no idea. The new Strauss? I don't know!

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