Exclusive 'Criminal Minds' Interview: Joe Mantegna on Shocking Season Finale: 'All Questions Will Be Answered'
Exclusive 'Criminal Minds' Interview: Joe Mantegna on Shocking Season Finale: 'All Questions Will Be Answered'
Morgan Glennon
Morgan Glennon
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
This has not been an easy season for the profilers on CBS' procedural hit Criminal Minds. Reid saw his love killed before his eyes. Morgan had to face the man who abused him as a child. Rossi was shocked to discover a former military pal now lived on the streets. And of course, the whole team is being stalked by the "Replicator," a serial killer replicating the many cases the BAU has solved this year.

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As the May 22 two-hour season finale approaches, fans have a lot of big questions. Just who is the Replicator? And will all our favorites from the BAU make it out of the finale alive? 

Before finding out the answers, BuddyTV was lucky enough to talk one-on-one with show star Joe Mantegna, who plays veteran profiler David Rossi. Mantegna teases what to expect from the season finale, storylines he'd love to see explored for Rossi next year in the ninth season, and just how long he expects the TV members of the BAU to go on catching bad guys every week: 

Really looking forward to the season finale of Criminal Minds. Could you give us a tease of what's coming up? 

Well I mean we have the luxury of having two hours to tell the story. We've laid out a whole season-long storyline with this replicator, who's been kind of coming in and out of different episodes and tracking us down and following us. So we knew we'd have to ultimately deal with it and we've come to that point. 

So we're going to take these two hours to really up the ante and really give the fans their money's worth. We've got two episodes of finances, time, and effort put into one two-hour program. So I think it's going to be an episode that will be memorable and a fitting way to end the season. 

Sounds like it's going to be good! Obviously the Replicator, as you mentioned, has been a storyline going throughout the whole season. Are we going to find out who it is in the finale? 

I think ultimately it will all get resolved. In other words, all questions will be answered. 

Were you surprised when you read the finale? 

I mean there's always things that happen and I think that's a good thing. I'm one of those people who don't like to read ahead anyway. Very often during the season we'll get the script for the next episode sometime while we're shooting the previous one, but I will very seldom read the new one until I've finished the other one. It's like life, I don't necessarily need to know everything that's going to happen to me tomorrow. 

Not a big spoiler person?

No I'm not, because my feeling is if I knew everything that was going to happen in my life every minute then it kind of takes some of the excitement out of it. So I'm not one who gazes into the future. It's the same thing for this instance. Like I said, it'll be a fitting resolution to what we've laid out for the whole season.

There have been some teases that there might be a big death in the season finale. Should we be worried about the BAU members? Should we be worried about Rossi?

We're a long-running show and we'll hopefully continue to be so, we're very successful that way. Things are going strong and we're renewed again. So I think we give it a lot of thought. So anything that happens, we always have our fans in mind as well. 

I know, of course, in the eight years the show has been on there have been some devastating things that have happened where people went "Oh my god I didn't see that coming." I think we'll always continue to do that. But at the end of the day I feel strongly that people that have watched our show and love our show will be satisfied.

As you've mentioned, Criminal Minds is a long-running show and I think it's done a great job of keeping the storylines and the characters fresh. But this year going into negotiations for season nine was a little bit tricky. How many more seasons do you think the show will continue? 

I think it could continue for quite awhile. What made it tricky this year was just the magnitude of it. It was one of those unique situations where the majority of the actors, the writers, and the showrunner; there were a lot of people that had come to the end of our contractual time. So it was more just a matter of the mechanics of trying to get all that done, whereas some years it's not that big a problem. 

You look at other shows like Law and Order or another show I do The Simpsons, which is obviously still going for twenty-something years. So it's hard to gauge how strong the legs are for anything. But if you look at the fact that we're still on at Wednesday nights at 9 o'clock, we're still against American Idol and Modern Family, two of the most popular shows on television, and still remain a top ten show without even having to change our time slot, I think that's a good sign. It indicates the strength of the show. 

It seems like we haven't weakened. Usually when you weaken they start moving you around, you start going to a lot of different homes. So we're in a very competitive time slot, at least here in this country and we do huge numbers overseas. The show is very popular worldwide. 

It has a huge fanbase.

Yea, so in my mind anyway I would not be surprised if we went on well beyond this upcoming ninth season, let's put it that way. 

For next year, what storylines would you like to see them explore for Rossi? 

There were two storylines that I suggested in the past that both happened. One dealt with one of my former wives, which I had asked to do and which we did. And one that dealt with my past in the military, which we did. I could see even extensions of those two stories. 

Rossi's character was married three times, we've established in various episodes. So there's two other former wives that may have something going on that would be a storyline. Or again my past in the military. We dealt with a character played by Meshach Taylor, who played my commanding officer, who I found homeless on the streets in LA and ultimately was able to put into a shelter for homeless and addicted veterans. It would be nice to see how that resolved. 

I like stories that deal with personal aspects of the characters, the flashback stuff. There was an episode called "Profiling 101" which dealt with the most prolific serial killer we'd ever faced. They showed flashbacks of how Hotch and I met. It was an episode that showed a lot of flashbacks of how we ultimately caught that one. And he showed up every year on Rossi's birthday. I love those kinds of stories. 

I also love those kind of stories and I think the fans love those personal stories as well. 

I do too! I think for a show that's been on as long as we have, I think that's important because the fans have invested their time. In other words you've watched the show for eight years, these people have become your family in a way. Every Wednesday night you flip on the TV and there they are. So I mean you owe it to them and I like that. 

So I agree, I like doing shows that, not just for my character but for all the characters, delve into their personal lives. I've found them to be the most intriguing. There have been some great episodes with Shemar's character about the abuse he had as a young boy. And Hotch's character when he lost his wife. There has been some incredible stuff that has been shown that dealt with our personal lives. 

Due to the subject matter the show can obviously be kind of grim, but it seems like the chemistry with all the cast members is really great. What do you do to escape the gloom on set? Do you have any pranks or behind-the-scenes antics?

All that stuff goes on all the time, it's the nature of the beast. I've been in this business for over forty years now. If I've learned nothing else it's that often the subject matter is contrary to the mood you create in your working environment. 

Maybe it's just a natural reaction. You know that what you're doing has such weight, and grimness and depth in a way, and because of that you offset it by being the opposite in the way you're dealing with things. So for every hour we're shooting the show, maybe five minutes of it is actually filming, but 55 minutes is of us living our lives on the set. So it's pretty lighthearted and pretty congenial. It's good, and that's why I still enjoy doing it.

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(Image courtesy of CBS)

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