No or­di­nary Joe

With one week’s no­tice, Joe Man­tegna had a big pair of shoes to fill, writes Dar­ren Devlyn

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Guide - with LUAINE LEE

CRIM­I­NAL Minds might spe­cialise in plumb­ing the depths of the de­praved, but it’s renowned as one of the hap­pi­est and most re­laxed work­places in TV.

No sur­prise then that there was panic on the Los An­ge­les set when star Mandy Patinkin de­cided, without con­sult­ing his cast­mates, that he sim­ply wasn’t com­ing to work any more.

A.J. Cook, who plays Jen­nifer Jareau, says she wal­lowed in fear and dis­ap­point­ment when stu­dio bosses told her the show was sud­denly mi­nus its lead­ing man.

‘‘I was re­ally sad. I loved Mandy, I loved work­ing with him. He was a lot of fun — he would sing and dance. He was just . . . he was our show,’’ she says.

‘‘When we found out he wasn’t com­ing back, there was that panic— do I need to look for an­other job? And then there was anger and con­fu­sion. If he wasn’t go­ing to be happy here, then by all means he needed to do what­ever was go­ing to make him happy.’’

Matthew Gray Gubler, who plays the greasy-haired, cardi­gan-wear­ing Spencer Reid, adds: ‘‘It was re­ally out of nowhere when he (Patinkin) just didn’t show up.

‘‘I still can’t be­lieve it. He re­ally liked ev­ery­body, re­ally liked the crew. The sub­ject mat­ter in the end I think wore him out. I think he felt ‘I don’t want to die on this TV show, looking at dis­mal dead pros­ti­tutes’. He wanted to die singing on Broad­way.’’

Cue one of the most re­spected char­ac­ter ac­tors in Hol­ly­wood, Joe Man­tegna, who filled the Patinkin void in the role of vet­eran agent David Rossi.

Man­tegna brings just the right amount of prickly iras­ci­bil­ity to Rossi, founder of the FBI’s Be­havioural Anal­y­sis Unit.

He serves as a coun­ter­point to the other char­ac­ters as they carry on their macabre duty.

‘‘It was pretty quick . . . less than a week,’’ Man­tegna says of the cast­ing process.

‘‘All of us in Hol­ly­wood knew there was this open­ing, that this role had been va­cated.

‘‘I didn’t know much about it (show), then I im­mersed my­self in it, got a crash course in it.

‘‘We use this anal­ogy on the show a lot. We are the last of the white knights who are try­ing to slay the dragon. If this were me­dieval times, the se­rial killers are the em­bod­i­ment of evil and we are the last de­fence.

‘‘We are the ul­ti­mate knights of the round ta­ble and go out and bat­tle the dragons be­cause some­body has to. I’m hon­oured to play one of th­ese peo­ple.’’

Man­tegna, 60, has been a soughtafter char­ac­ter ac­tor for years in films such as The God­fa­ther III, Bugsy and Baby’s Day Out, as well as TV se­ries Joan of Ar­ca­dia and The Simp­sons, in which he voices mafioso Fat Tony.

While Man­tegna has never been a ‘‘celebrity star’’, pep­per­ing the tabloids with ex­ploits, he has ob­served them up close.

‘‘I feel movie stars are not made. I think the pub­lic first and fore­most de­cides who the real stars are. A lot of peo­ple have had a lot of pub­lic­ity and they’re re­ally well known, but I wouldn’t call them movie stars,’’ he says.

‘‘Some peo­ple are fa­mous for be­ing fa­mous, yet work in the movies and make big money and have big roles. It es­capes me, like they went from zero to 100 overnight . . . to me the true movie stars are the peo­ple 10 years from now, 50 years from now, we’ll look back on their work and say, ‘Wow, that guy was great’ — the Humphrey Bog­a­rts, Robert Red­fords, the Cag­neys, Cary Grants,’’ he says.

‘‘I think the true stars are the ones that em­body not just ad­mirable qual­i­ties, but try to live a full and com­plete life with some class and grace as op­posed to be­ing this wild can­non go­ing off and say­ing ‘Ev­ery­body get out of my way.’

‘‘What it takes to stay where I’m at, it takes con­sis­tency, de­pend­abil­ity,’’ he vol­un­teers. ‘‘When some­body hires me I al­ways go in with the feel­ing they’ll get their money’s worth and more — within rea­son.

‘‘They’re not gonna have any trou­ble. Any­body meets me half way I’m go­ing to meet them half way and then some.

‘‘There are a lot of temp­ta­tions in this busi­ness, but you gotta keep at it and ride the waves, es­pe­cially hav­ing chil­dren. I take that re­spon­si­bil­ity very strongly.’’

Man­tegna and his wife, Ar­lene, have two daugh­ters, Mia, 20, and Gina, 17. His older daugh­ter is autis­tic.

‘‘It’s an on­go­ing prob­lem. She’s got learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties I’m go­ing to have to deal with all her life. That’s the stuff that’s im­por­tant. That’s the stuff that makes los­ing a part pale in com­par­i­son,’’ he says.

‘‘You learn pa­tience, cer­tainly (as a par­ent). You learn that not all things fall into a cer­tain kind of pat­tern that can be pre­dictable. You learn to ac­com­mo­date. You learn no­body gets a free ride and that you do the best you can.

‘‘You know, I have a very pub­lic life. I’m in the wrong racket if I don’t want a pub­lic life. I’m not hid­ing it (his daugh­ter’s autism).’’

Man­tegna has be­come a pub­lic face of autism fund-rais­ing and aware­ness cam­paigns in the US. Crim­i­nal Minds, M Chan­nel 7, Wed­nes­day, 8.30pm FBI drama Du­ra­tion: 1 hour

Crim­i­nal cast:

(from left) Matthew Gray Gubler, Paget Brew­ster, She­mar Moore, Thomas Gib­son, Joe Man­tegna, A.J. Cook and Kirsten Vangsness.

Walked out:

Mandy Patinkin

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