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Official: Paget Brewster Returns to 'Criminal Minds', Rachel Nichols Leaves

May 30, 2011 (1:59 am) GMT
Brewster will reprise her presumed-dead character Emily Prentiss, reuniting with A.J. Cook who will also return as a regular in season 7.

"" welcomes back . After leaving the show last season, the Emily Prentiss depicter will rejoin the cast ensemble in season 7, reuniting with who has previously signed up to return as a regular.

"It feels rewarding," executive producer Erica Messer says of Brewster and Cook's return. "This team works well together and now we can get on with telling the stories that have kept us going for six seasons."

On how Prentiss will be seen when she comes back, Messer explains, "No one goes into hiding and comes out unscathed. She has been in defensive mode for months now. She'll be exhausted and will have to face the family to explain a few things."

Her return will also cause "a lot of tension" among the team. "Hotch [] and JJ [Cook] kept a big secret from the team. Ultimately. Those kept in the dark will forgive the others when they find out Prentiss is alive," Messer elaborates.

Now with Brewster and Cook on board alongside , there is no place left for new series regular Rachel Nichols. The 31-year-old beauty, whose character Ashley Seaver was introduced last season to fill the place due to the departure of Cook's JJ, will not return next season.

Messer, who will handle showrunner duties this coming season, claims "it wasn't an easy decision and it took a village" to let Nichols go, before adding "She will be missed by all of us who worked with her everyday." Asked by TV Guide if Nichols may appear to wrap up her story, Messer says, "Creatively, there's more to explore there. I won't know for a bit if that's a possibility."

Another "Criminal Minds" regular has signed a new deal to stay on the show. Meanwhile, his co-star Thomas Gibson is still negotiating his contract.

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