The November, 2012 segment that got into his character, David Rossi’s, background as a Vietnam vet also shined a spotlight on the problems of homeless veterans — with Meshach Taylor guest starring as Rossi’s former Marine officer whom he finds living on the streets. Mantegna, who suggested the original, envisions a follow-up “that kind of shows what happened and how he has thrived, how he recovered from that situation, which will give hope to those in similar situations.”
He notes that Taylor “has been my dear friend for over 40 years. He’s the godfather of my daughter, I’m the godfather of his son. Our relationship in the episode mirrors the relationship we have in life.”
The episode also showcased the work of veterans’ organization New Directions in Los Angeles, which Mantegna was delighted to be able to do.
Right now, the brilliant and beloved actor is in Washington, D.C., getting ready for The National Memorial Day Concert, which he is cohosting with Gary Sinise for the 9th time. In fact, Mantegna has been a part of the annual event honoring the military’s fallen since 2002.
“I had absolutely no idea it would become such a part of my life,” he tells us. “It started when Charles Durning, a dear friend, asked me if I’d come in and read a segment for the concert. Just the experience of doing it changed my life. It had such an impact on me I said, ‘Look, I’d be glad to participate as long as you’d like me to.” His third year, after former host Ossie David passed away, he was asked to continue on as host. “On the fourth year I decided I’d like to bring someone in on this who feels as passionate about it as I do.” That was Sinise, who brought along his Lieutenant Dan Band. “Afterwards, he said, ‘Joe, this is so important, I’d like to be involved as long as I can be.”
And so it is.
This year’s concert features Ed Harris, “American Idol” winner Candice Glover, “The Voice’s” Chris Mann, Broadway stars Katherine Jenkins and Alfie Boe, Colin Powell and many more. There will be a special segment in tribute to Korean War service members on the 60th anniversary of that conflict. And, Mantegna reports, there will be a segment on the difficult subject of the high incidence of suicide among veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “We’ll highlight that — there are some important things that will also be helpful, hopefully, for people watching the show. There will be highlighting of ways to get assistance for those going through these troubles associated with their time in the military.”
Hosting such segments is difficult, he acknowledges. “That whole thing of being in front of a live audience of 300,000 people, let alone the television audience. It’s pretty awesome, an awesome responsibility.”
Once the concert is through, he’s taking his family to visit his cousin, who owns a resort in Southern Italy. Then he’ll be shooting episodes of his antique firearms show for the Outdoor Channel in Italy and Germany, then on to Monte Carlo and London to do “Criminal Minds” promotion work.
As for “Minds” future — Mantegna is confident that the show will not only get an early pickup next year, but that his popular CBS drama will go right on through both Season 9 and Season 10.
He saw this year’s slower renewal coming, he says, “just because of the sheer volume of things that had to be worked on. All of our contracts — all the actors and the showrunners’ contracts — were up.” But now they’re all tucked in again with two-year deals.
“After that, we’ll see,” he says.
Mantegna never thought that the wrangling would lead to the series’ demise. “I’ve been in this business long enough to know the value of certain things. In this instance, even if CBS had for some reason said, ‘We don’t see you on our schedule,’ ABC would have picked us up in a heartbeat because we’re carried by ABC internationally.”
The nice guy actor always seems to be lending his celebrity to veterans’ and autism causes (one of his daughters is autistic) when he isn’t working. He says that’s partly because the older he gets, the more he feels “I want to give something back, to leave something behind. I read a quote that the noblest thing you can do is leave the planet in better shape than when you go there, and that’s what I think about. Of course there are people doing infinitely more than I am in any of the areas I’m involved in. I feel so grateful for the opportunity to be able to do something.”
It’s going to be hectic time for Gary Sinise next week in Washington, D.C., when the “CSI: NY” star headlines back-to-back events. On the 26th, he and his Lt. Dan Band will perform as part of the Rolling Thunder XXV motorcycle run festivities, by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.
“Then I’ll leave right from there, race over and rehearse for the Memorial Day Concert the next day,” he tells us. “This will be my seventh year in a row doing the National Memorial Day Concert.” Sinise cohosts the concert Sunday, May 27 with Joe Mantegna. Sharing the bill are an eclectic lineup including Colin Powell, Dennis Franz, Ellen Burstyn, Natalie Cole, Selma Blair, Trace Adkins and “American Idol” finalist — and maybe winner — Jessica Sanchez. (Check your local PBS station for air times.)
Sinise has a full calendar of Lt. Dan Band dates this summer — before he goes back to work on “CSI: NY.” Talk about an eleventh hour reprieve. Up until last weekend, Sinise didn’t know whether the show would continue into a ninth season or be cancelled. Last Friday night’s season finale, in which his Mac Taylor character had a near-death experience, was designed to work either as a season-ender that opens up new territory for stories next year — or as goodbye.
“I thought the writers did a good job with that,” he says. Since it was a “reflective episode, there were a lot of wonderful scenes between my character and all the principle characters on the show” — including Mac’s new girlfriend, Megan Dodds.
Sinise had made it clear he wanted to go on with “CSI: NY,” and that the writers feel they have a lot more to say. Viewers can look forward to Mac opening up his personal life, now that he has finally been able to let go of the anguish of losing his wife in the Sept. 11 attacks.
Asked whether he’ll be involved in endorsing or campaigning on behalf of any candidate this election year, Sinise says, “I stay away from all that.” Though he is known to have strong political views privately, he takes a nonpartisan posture in deference to his ongoing, tireless charitable activities. His Gary Sinise Foundation to benefit military service members in 2010 is the latest.
“We’re out there all the time,” he notes. “We have to remember, each and every day should be Memorial Day when it comes to supporting and acknowledging those who fight for our freedom.”
Esteemed filmmaker Richard Loncraine reports that his ‘The Special Relationship’ movie — debuting on HBO tonight (5/29) — is being released theatrically in countries around the globe, save for the United Kingdom, where it will be shown on the BBC.
‘It will be interesting to see how a cinema audience accepts this subject,’ he says of the drama that sheds behind-the-scenes light on the relationship between President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Tony Blair in the ’90s. ‘Is it the kind of film people will spend money on a babysitter to go see?’
With dazzling performances by Dennis Quaid as Clinton, Michael Sheen as Blair, Hope Davis as Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Helen McCrory as Cherie Blair, ‘The Special Relationship’ will undoubtedly be remembered at awards time. However, Loncraine doubts it could have gotten made for the big screen ‘in the present studio or independent film environment.’ He feels the same way about his Emmy-laden ‘Band of Brothers’ and ‘The Gathering Storm’ as well. ‘This is the fourth film I’ve done for HBO and they’ve been a real pleasure,’ adds the director, whose feature credits include such fare as ‘The Missionary,’ ‘Richard III,’ ‘Firewall’ and ‘My One and Only.’
He candidly tells us that ‘The Special Relationship’ ‘really wasn’t much of a challenge for me, to be honest. It was an odd one for me. Peter Morgan decided directing wasn’t for him on this project, and I came in four weeks before principle photography,’ he says, referring to the play and screenwriter, who’d been planning to make his directing debut with the cable film. ‘Usually, directors have been working six months on a production before shooting starts, the last three months of which are very stressful and involve things like not enough money, or arguing with the studio. I didn’t have any of that, so I wasn’t as exhausted as directors usually are.’
He points out that HBO insisted everything be vetted for accuracy, which he did find demanding, especially since, ‘I’m not a particularly political animal.’ Much of the material was new to him, in fact. ‘I was struck by the realization that without Clinton’s infidelity, the world be a different place today. Obviously it was harmful to his wife and family, but it wasn’t like he declared war on South America. It’s stunning to think that such a relatively small event had such enormous repercussions from then on.’
MEANINGFUL DAY: Joe Mantegna, who marks his ninth year of hosting PBS’s National Memorial Day Concert before a crowd of hundreds of thousands on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol this weekend, has been met with much appreciation from veterans, active service members and their loved ones. But he’s not one to take thank-yous for his participation in the music-filled event that celebrates and memorializes the sacrifices made by troops past and present. ‘I mean, look, there’s no reason to thank us. The whole point of this is to thank them. I realize this is probably the most important thing I do all year,’ says the ‘Criminal Minds’ star.
‘The fact I have a career and have a good life and all that is due to the fact that we have people in the military who’ve been out there protecting us. There’s nothing to thank us about. I’m glad to do it.’
For the fifth year in a row, he co-hosts with pal Gary Sinise. This year’s event (check local listings) will include Lionel Richie, Brad Paisley, Blythe Danner, Dennis Haysbert, Yolanda Adams and Colin Powell.
THE VROOM VROOM ROOM: Supermodel-turned-super mogul Kathy Ireland has now turned to the world of super motors. She has become the most recent celeb (David Letterman and the late Paul Newman come to mind) to become part owner of a major racing team — and car 43 will be carrying her brand out onto the Indie 500 this Sunday (5/30) with none other than John Andretti at the wheel. The Kathy Ireland Home division of her Kathy Ireland WorldWide design and marketing empire is joining racing legend Richard Petty and Window World as sponsors of this top Memorial Day 500 entry.
Joe Mantegna couldn’t be prouder that his daughter Gia has her own series, ‘Gigantic,’ coming up on TeenNick this summer. ‘There’s a chip off the ol’ block going on here,’ notes the nice guy ‘Criminal Minds’ star with a smile.
‘She’s a very talented girl, in many way more advanced than I was at that age, from having been around the business all her life,’ he adds of the 20-year-old. ‘I think she’s ready. She’s already done a lot of other things — movies and television. They don’t give you these jobs just because you’re related to someone, you know.’
Mantegna, who heads to D.C. next week to cohost PBS’s The National Memorial Day Concert with buddy Gary Sinise, has commented in the past about how supportive and loving Gia has been with elder sibling Mia, who is autistic. ‘That’s another reason she’s mature for her years, because of growing up with her sister,’ he tells us now.
He reports that Mia has become the first autistic person to graduate from MUD makeup school and is now involved with Joey Travolta’s Inclusion Films, aiming to be a makeup artists. ‘He’s doing great work with kids who have all kinds of disabilities. She’s knee deep in all that and just loves it. I feel very fortunate.’
This will be Mantegna’s ninth year as host of the National Memorial Day Concert — this year with a bill including Lionel Richie, Brad Paisley, Blythe Danner, Dennis Haysbert, Yolanda Adams and Colin Powell.
He recalls, ‘The first year I did it, I had to read the words of four New York City firemen who had lost their sons, who were also firemen, in 9/11. It was life-altering for me.’ Sinise came aboard the always-moving event a few years later. ‘He was touring Iraq with his Lt Dan Band, and I called him and said, ‘You and your band would be a perfect fit for this event. Why don’t you come check it out?’ …When he got in front of 300,000 people and saw how big the whole event was, and how meaningful, he said, ‘Joe, look — as long as you want me to be involved in it, I’ll do it.’ And I said, ‘Why don’t we host it together from now on?’