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October 22, 2014

5 Questions With: Joe Mantegna

by Kim Potts, posted Dec 9th 2008 5:30AM
"I've been around long enough and am rational enough to understand that all I did was to hop on a fast-moving train that was already doing pretty well."

He's known for big-screen roles in 'The Godfather III,' 'Up Close and Personal' and 'Three Amigos,' but Joe Mantegna has also made his mark on the tube, nabbing three Emmy nominations for miniseries 'The Rat Pack,' 'The Last Don' and 'The Starter Wife.'

This season, Mantegna's a triple threat on TV, continuing as newest 'Criminal Minds' leader David Rossi (after replacing Mandy Patinkin last year), popping up in 'The Simpsons' season premiere as Springfield mobster Fat Tony and reprising his 'Starter Wife' miniseries role in USA's spin-off weekly series.

Mantegna talked to AOL TV about the success of 'Criminal Minds' (one of the only shows to actually win new viewers this season), how the O.J. Simpson murder trial inspired the name of his character and the upcoming nuptials of one of his TV alter egos.


He's known for big-screen roles in 'The Godfather III,' 'Up Close and Personal' and 'Three Amigos,' but Joe Mantegna has also made his mark on the tube, nabbing three Emmy nominations for miniseries 'The Rat Pack,' 'The Last Don' and 'The Starter Wife.'

This season, Mantegna's a triple threat on TV, continuing as newest 'Criminal Minds' leader David Rossi (after replacing Mandy Patinkin last year), popping up in 'The Simpsons' season premiere as Springfield mobster Fat Tony and reprising his 'Starter Wife' miniseries role in USA's spin-off weekly series.

Mantegna talked to AOL TV about the success of 'Criminal Minds' (one of the only shows to actually win new viewers this season), how the O.J. Simpson murder trial inspired the name of his character and the upcoming nuptials of one of his TV alter egos.

1. Many returning and new series are losing viewers, but 'Criminal Minds' actually saw a ratings bump this season. Why are fans finding the show in its fourth season?
I think if you look at the history of any shows that the public responds to, they tend to build if the show is good and the word of mouth is good. And a lot of it is the chemistry of the cast, and the quality of the show. You know, I'd love to say "Oh yeah, it was because Joe Mantegna came on," but I've been around long enough and am rational enough to understand that all I did was to hop on a fast-moving train that was already doing pretty well. The show also reveals personal aspects of a lot of the characters, and you can do that even more in the fourth year, so viewers feel that they know these people a little bit.

2. Did you have any input into creating your character, David Rossi, and his back story?
I did. When I first came in, I had a small wish list, which the producers and writers acknowledged. First, I wanted to make him an Italian American, for a couple of reasons; one: because I am one. And the second reason was to kind of balance out all the negative, stereotypical roles that Italian Americans often get. And I've done them, and I make no apologizes about it. But if you get the opportunity, let's show the other side.

3. Is it true that you named the character after a real person?
Yes, my other thing was to choose the name of the character, who was based on a real person I didn't know at the time, but I do now. He was a policeman, and the first witness to take the stand at the O.J. Simpson murder trial. He was the watch commander of the LAPD at the time, so he's the guy who took the phone calls. And I remember watching that trial, and for two days these lawyers kept him on the stand and just beat him up mercilessly, and all the guy did was -- and he was getting ready to retire -- take the phone call. He was on the stand in his dress blue uniform, and I'll never forget it, because the guy went up there wearing this policeman uniform, like a guy who's very proud to have the job he has. And they beat him up for two days, and he just conducted himself with such grace. I thought to myself, "This is bullshit," and I said to myself, "Someday I want to name a character after this guy."

4. Does the real David Rossi know he's the inspiration for the 'Criminal Minds' David Rossi?
Yes. ['Criminal Minds' producer] Ed Bernero did an interview where he mentioned who the character is named for, and someone sent it to David Rossi. He's retired and lives in Idaho, and he sent me a letter, just saying how touched he was. So I invited him to the set, and he came and visited and we took pictures. If you look on my character's desk, there's a photo of me standing between two guys. It's me standing between David Rossi and his son, David Rossi Jr.

5. You're having a very busy TV season: 'Criminal Minds,' plus you're Fat Tony on 'The Simpsons' and reprising your character on 'The Starter Wife.' Will you be back for more guest appearances on those two shows?
I've been doing 'The Simpsons' for 18 years now, so I expect Fat Tony will be back again. I mean, as long as they want me to. I love doing it. It's a fun character, and I think the show is still a quality show after almost 20 years. And, my character, Lou Manahan, is back for 'The Starter Wife' season finale [Dec. 12], and he's getting married. So we'll see how that plays out ...

Criminal Minds Photos

    Actresses A.J. Cook and Paget Brewster attend "Inside Criminal Minds" at the Paley Center on November 17, 2008 in Beverly Hills, California..The Paley Center for Media Presents "Inside Criminal Minds".The Paley Center for Media.Beverly Hills, CA United States.November 17, 2008.Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic.com..To license this image (56213022), contact FilmMagic.com

    WireImage.com

    Actor Shemar Moore attends The Paley Center For Media Presents Inside Criminal Minds at The Paley Center for Media on November 17, 2008 in Beverly Hills, California..The Paley Center For Media Presents Inside Criminal Minds.The Paley Center for Media.Beverly Hills, CA United States.November 17, 2008.Photo by Kevin Parry/WireImage.com..To license this image (56212798), contact WireImage.com

    WireImage.com

    LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 13: Actor Joe Mantegna arrives at the 2008 Creative Arts Emmy Awards at the Nokia Live Theatre on September 13, 2008 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images)

    Getty Images

    LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 13: Actor Joe Mantegna arrives at the 2008 Creative Arts Emmy Awards at the Nokia Live Theatre on September 13, 2008 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images)

    Getty Images

    LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 13: Actor Joe Mantegna arrives at the 2008 Creative Arts Emmy Awards at the Nokia Live Theatre on September 13, 2008 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images)

    Getty Images

    LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 13: Actor Joe Mantegna poses for photographers in the press room during the 2008 Creative Arts Awards at the Nokia Theatre L. A. Live on September 13, 2008 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

    Getty Images

    Actor Joe Mantegna arrives at the 60th Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards held at Nokia Theatre on September 13, 2008 in Los Angeles, California..60th Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards - Red Carpet.Los Angeles, CA United States.September 13, 2008.Photo by Mathew Imaging/WireImage.com..To license this image (55730732), contact WireImage.com

    WireImage.com

    Actors Joe Mantegna (L) and Robert Morse arrives at the 60th Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards held at Nokia Theatre on September 13, 2008 in Los Angeles, California..60th Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards - Red Carpet.Los Angeles, CA United States.September 13, 2008.Photo by Mathew Imaging/WireImage.com..To license this image (55731399), contact WireImage.com

    WireImage.com

    Actors Joe Mantegna (L) and Robert Morse arrives at the 60th Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards held at Nokia Theatre on September 13, 2008 in Los Angeles, California..60th Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards - Red Carpet.Los Angeles, CA United States.September 13, 2008.Photo by Mathew Imaging/WireImage.com..To license this image (55731364), contact WireImage.com

    WireImage.com

    Actor Joe Mantegna arrives at the 60th Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards held at Nokia Theatre on September 13, 2008 in Los Angeles, California..60th Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards - Arrivals.Los Angeles, CA United States.September 13, 2008.Photo by Mathew Imaging/WireImage.com..To license this image (55730839), contact WireImage.com

    WireImage.com

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