Born Andrea Joy Cook
July 22, 1978 (age 33)
Oshawa, Ontario, Canada
Occupation Actress
Years active 1997–present
Spouse Nathan Andersen
(m. 2001–present; 1 child)

Early life

Cook was born in Oshawa, Ontario and spent most of her life growing up in Whitby where she attended Anderson Collegiate Vocational Institute. Her father, Mike, is a teacher, and her mother, Sandra, works as a psychiatrist. She has three siblings, Nathan, Paul, and Angela. Cook is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.A dancer from age four, Cook began taking jazz, tap and ballet lessons. She danced competitively for many years, before deciding at the age of 16 that she wanted to try acting.

Career

Cook’s first job was in a McDonald’s commercial in 1997. She graduated to series work with a guest role on the television series Goosebumps, and parts in two television movies, In His Father’s Shoes and Elvis Meets Nixon. Cook launched her feature film career as one of five captivating suicidal sisters in 1999’s The Virgin Suicides. Also that year, she took a starring role in the TV series Higher Ground, in which Cook played Shelby Merrick, a rough-around-the-edges teenage girl dealing with abuse and heartache at a wilderness school for struggling kids. Higher Ground lasted one season, ending with a romance between Shelby and Hayden Christensen’s character, Scott.

After Higher Ground, Cook appeared in the 2000 TV movie The Spiral Staircase (alongside Higher Ground alumKandyse McClure), and then captured leading roles in several films, including Out Cold (as Jason London’s love interest), RipperI’m Reed Fish, and Final Destination 2.

In 2003, A.J. guest starred in a pivotal role on the critically acclaimed series Dead Like Me. (Interestingly, the episode preceding her appearance in Sunday Mornings was entitled A Cook, although there was no connection between the guest characters in either episode.)

She currently stars as Jennifer “J.J.” Jareau in the CBS drama Criminal Minds. On June 14, 2010 it was announced that her contract option would not be picked up for the show’s sixth season as a series regular, but she did return for two episodes to wrap up her character’s storyline due to thousands of letters and petitions written to the show’s producers. She also returned for one episode for the departure of Paget Brewster from the series. On April 16, 2011 it was reported that she had signed to reappear for two more seasons of the show.

Personal life

From a very young age, AJ suffered from severe astigmatism, an eye condition that had previously left her declared ‘legally blind’. In the second grade, Cook was wearing glasses, but they became a problem due to her love of dance. In the sixth grade, she began wearing contact lenses, but her vision was still poor. Cook admitted it was difficult to drive at night, but because of her career, it could not be avoided. She also admitted that she would see ‘halos around the lights’. Cook stated that her vision was a problem for her because she had night vision that was ‘rock bottom’, and could barely see when she initially woke up in the mornings.

AJ discovered Visian ICL, a lens implant that goes inside the eye, and corrects an astigmatism. She underwent the procedure to have these implants, and says they changed her life, due to her ‘bionic right eye’, as she could see clearly straight after the procedure. Cook admitted that when she woke up the next morning, and saw her husband’s face clearly for the first time, she burst into tears.

In August 2001, Cook married her long-time boyfriend Nathan Andersen, whom she met in a film class at Utah Valley University. She later moved to Salt Lake City, Utah to be with him and currently resides in Los Angeles, California.

In March 2008, it was reported that Cook and Andersen would be expecting their first child in October. Their son, Mekhai Allan Andersen, was born on Saturday, September 13, 2008. Weighing in at 7 lbs, 10 oz and 20 inches long, Mekhai was born at 8:50 p.m. A.J. said “He’s such a good baby. I feel so lucky that he’s mine. My husband and I feel very blessed!” Mekhai made a brief appearance in Criminal Minds in Season 5 when Cook’s character Jennifer Jareau was in a pharmacy buying children’s medicine which lead to a breakthrough in the case the BAU was currently trying to solve. Cook and Andersen are also the owners of a Yorkshire Terrier named Zara.

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