Who Is Max on 'Criminal Minds,' Played by Rachael Leigh Cook?

Reid will have a new woman in his life.

(Image credit: VALERY HACHE)

Everyone's favorite autodidact on Criminal Minds, the lovable, bumbling Spencer Reid, hasn't had much luck in his romantic life. There was Lila (season one), who gave him his first kiss, and Maeve (season eight), whose sudden death broke his heart. For the show's 15th and final season, his luck may be about to change: Rachel Leigh Cook will play Max, billed as a "love interest" for Matthew Grey Gubler's character.

TV Line broke the news in February that Leigh Cook would play "a quirky, kind-hearted, candid woman who strikes up an unusual relationship" with Reid. Max will guest-star in at least two episodes (which is a lot, considering the final season only has ten episodes)—so you can expect her to play a pretty major role in Reid's life.

You may recognizable Leigh Cook; she played protagonist Laney in She's All That and later appeared in Josie and the Pussycats and Dawson's Creek. Since 2016, she's been focused on Hallmark, both developing and starring in new movies on the network. This past summer, her personal life made headlines when she split from husband and fellow actor Daniel Gillies after more than a decade of marriage.

Here she is in her She's All That era:

Rachel Leigh Cook

(Image credit: Time & Life Pictures)

And here she is today (Rachael, I would very much like your skincare secrets, thanks):

Premiere Of Amazon Studios' "Brittany Runs A Marathon" - Arrivals

(Image credit: Gregg DeGuire)

Her turn in Criminal Minds as a romantic interest for Reid would otherwise be welcome news—but fans were left taken aback by J.J.'s sudden and passionate declaration of love for Reid in the final episode of season 14. "I’ve always loved you," she said, quite literally at gunpoint, "and I was just too scared to say it before. And now things are just really too complicated to say it now. I’m sorry, but you should know."

J.J. and Reid, of course, have been the very best of friends for years. Also, J.J. is married to Will, and the couple have two kids. So it's already a pretty dramatic situation—and is set to get even more so with the arrival of "Max," essentially making this a love quadrangle.

Showrunner Erica Messer opened up about the J.J. and Reid situation to TV Linesaying: "It’s definitely a huge driver for the first handful of episodes that will help add layers to those characters again."

No word on exactly when season 15 will premiere, but it'll be midseason—so, late winter or early spring.

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Criminal Minds

(Image credit: CBS Photo Archive)
Jenny Hollander
Digital Director

Jenny is the Digital Director at Marie Claire. A graduate of Leeds University, and a native of London, she moved to New York in 2012 to attend the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She was the first intern at Bustle when it launched in 2013, and spent five years building out its news and politics department. In 2018 she joined Marie Claire, where she held the roles of Deputy Digital Editor and Director of Content Strategy before becoming Digital Director. Working closely with Marie Claire's exceptional editorial, audience, commercial, and e-commerce teams, Jenny oversees the brand's digital arm, with an emphasis on driving readership. When she isn't editing or knee-deep in Google Analytics, you can find Jenny writing about television, celebrities, her lifelong hate of umbrellas, or (most likely) her dog, Captain. In her spare time, she also writes fiction: her first novel, the thriller EVERYONE WHO CAN FORGIVE ME IS DEAD, was published with Minotaur Books (UK) and Little, Brown (US) in February 2024 and became a USA Today bestseller. She has also written extensively about developmental coordination disorder, or dyspraxia, which she was diagnosed with when she was nine. She is currently working on her second novel.