Tales from the dark side
Criminal Minds star Joe Mantegna explains how watching the show could save your life.
There have been so many crime procedurals on TV in recent times - are you worried that viewers might start to look for something else soon?
I think we are a little different than the average show. I don't think you can lump us into, like, a procedural, as they do with some of these other shows, just because of the nature of the show - it's called Criminal Minds. We deal with psyche. I can't believe it when people say, ‘Oh, Dexter started the serial killer shows'. Forget it. This show was around before Dexter. I think this was ground zero for those kinds of shows. So people have obviously found something intriguing about that whole world, and the psyche of a serial killer, for whatever reason. And this show has obviously been successful doing it.
Are you surprised that the darker Criminal Minds seems to get, the more the audience seems to enjoy it?
I think it's important that it is as dark as it is. Because for us to do less than that would be disrespectful to the people who really do this job. And I think that's the attraction. I think people are attracted to it, and I think they understand. I like to think that our audience is intelligent enough to realise this is very disturbing, but so is life and so is what we're portraying. And so we show it as it is. I think that's important.
Given some of the incredibly dark storylines on the show, do you ever have trouble sleeping?
No, I have no trouble sleeping at all. Because, like I say, I have such respect for the people who do this kind of work that I'm grateful to be able to portray them, you know? I'd like to think there are serial killers out there who don't sleep well, thinking that we may get them. Let them worry about it, not me.
What about when you watch the show yourself? Do you ever find it disturbing?
It's supposed to be disturbing. But you know what? I can think of one episode that within 20 seconds of watching the show you learn three things that could save your life. There was an episode that showed a valet parker, like you would have at a hotel, who takes these women's cars. He would take the garage remote off their visor, take it home, and he had a machine that would duplicate the code. So now he can get in the garage. Then he hits the navigation on the woman's car, presses the button that says "favourite spots" and it says "Home". He now knows where the woman lives. Now he goes to the house, and, as often people do, they don't lock the door between the garage and their home, because they know the garage door is closed. But since he's able to now open the garage door, he can come into the house. So you watch that episode, and within one minute of seeing those three facts you've learned three things that could perhaps save your life. Which is a strange thing on a show that's considered to be so dark and gruesome, and this, that and the other. But yet we often do that. And I think people, even subconsciously, pick up on that. So while they're intrigued by that world, we often put in information on the show as to why things happen - so you can even learn something from it.
Finally, if your character was to be killed off on the show, how would you like to die?
I don't know. When they said that Strauss was going to get killed last season, I was pitching for the idea that it happened while she was kind of intimately involved with Rossi, and that's what killed her. So maybe I'd like to see Rossi go out the same way.
Season nine of Criminal Minds begins on Monday, 8.30pm, TV One.