Joe Mantegna Thrilled About His ‘Criminal Minds’ Marine Storyline

by | November 13, 2012 at 11:35 AM | Criminal Minds, Interviews

Joe Mantegna on "Criminal Minds" (Robert Voets/CBS)

It’s a special episode for David Rossi (Joe Mantegna) when the “Criminal Minds” Behavioral Analysis Unit travels to Santa Monica, Calif. on Wednesday, for a case in which the unsub is burning the bodies of homeless people and leaving them near the pier.

A clue leads Rossi to Skid Row, where he reconnects with his former Marine sergeant (guest star Meshach Taylor), who is down on his luck — and it is flashback time as “Criminal Minds” turns back the clock and takes us to when Rossi was a 19-year-old, very green Marine [Robert Dunne plays the young Rossi] stationed in Vietnam.

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In this exclusive interview, Mantegna gives XfinityTV.com his insights into “The Fallen” episode, as well as shares his thoughts on an upcoming episode in which it appears as if “The Silencer” may have returned.

Is the fact that Rossi is an ex-Marine a new aspect of the role for you to play?
We have made reference to it. There was the episode with the Navy Seal, played by Max Martini, where he suffered this condition where he thought his own friends and family were the enemy. He actually comes into the BAU because he has expertise. I talked to him on the phone and I mentioned that I was a former Marine and made reference to boots on the ground. About four seasons ago, I was on the plane with Hotch (Thomas Gibson) and I told him how right out of the Marine Corps, I came into the FBI. For a long time, I have wanted to explore that avenue so the fact that we are finally able to do it, I am thrilled.

Preview “The Fallen”:

Can you reveal anything about why Rossi reconnects with his former Marine sergeant?
In essence, investigating one of our cases in Skid Row in Los Angeles, I happen to spot an African American guy who looks pretty down on his luck, and I realize, “Could this be?” And it is my former commanding officer from Vietnam. Boom! The next thing you know, we are there. [The flashbacks] come in and out of the episode. It is very powerful because it tells the backstory of the relationship between me and this man. Now we have this parallel story of not only this crime we are trying to solve, but what happened to this guy and why is this guy who was this very influential individual in my life in the situation he is in now?

Both writers — Rick Dunkle and my assistant Dan who wrote originally wrote the Marine storyline — did a great job of not only creating a great episode of our show but highlighting that aspect of Rossi’s character — doing a backstory on one of our characters, which I think for our fan base is really important. I think they like it when they learn more about Morgan (Shemar Moore), Reed (Matthew Gray Gubler), Hotch, J.J. (A.J. Cook) and all the characters.

What is special about the killer in “The Fallen” episode?
All of them have their quirky, special thing about them. I think for me, part of it was he had a lot going for him. What is interesting about our show and why it is called “Criminal Minds” is a person can have a criminal mind for lots of various reasons. Sometimes, somebody is doomed from birth. They’re doomed in the sense that they have been almost programmed for this terrible existence. Whereas in other instances, someone should be the pillar of the community, but something gets twisted along the way.

Also the fact that we are a real unit of the FBI makes these things more intriguing because these things do exit. We are not doing a science fiction show. These people, for whatever reasons, have some sort of flaw in their character that sets them off on this sort of weird path. “The Fallen” episode is no exception. Here is a guy who has a lot of positives to his character but he has a fatal flaw. That makes it interesting.

At the end of last week’s episode, Hotch got a call from the Dallas PD about a case similar to The Silencer, which was this season’s premiere episode. Then at the baseball game, someone in a black SUV was taking pictures of the BAU team. Can we assume that episode will be coming up soon?
I think you can assume that we will be dealing with that. That was put there for a reason. We are laying the groundwork right now, but I think before very long, we will start to figure out that something is rotten in the state of Denmark, and we will have to deal with it.

It is almost as if another layer has been added this season, which I think is great. I have great respect for our audience. I like to think that we are a thinking person’s drama. I think our audience expects more and demands more and we demand more of them. We don’t just get out there and say, “Here’s a crime, let’s solve it,” and on we go.

“Criminal Minds” airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on CBS.