Tag Archives: PBS

Joe Mantegna Talks Memorial Day Concert, ‘The Fallen’ Follow-UP

hosts-vert01 (2)Don’t be surprised if there’s a follow-up to Joe Mantegna’s acclaimed “The Fallen” episode of “Criminal Minds” when the show returns this fall.

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.”

Lesley Nicol Values ‘Downton’ Fans’ Passion, but Reminds: ‘It’s a Show’

“Downton Abbey’s” Lesley Nicol tells us she missed out on the big public clamor over the Season 3 finale in the U.K..  She was here in the States when she learned from her agent about fans being so upset over a character’s being killed off the show, there were complaints on the internet that the Christmas Day episode had ruined people’s holiday.

“This is a sticky one.  I value their passion but a part of me can’t help saying, ‘It’s a show.  It’s an actor,’” admits Nicol, known world-wide as blustery cook Mrs. Patmore.  “And an actor has to be allowed to move on if he wants to.’”

Nicol has no such desire, we’re glad to report.  “It’s lovely to work on this show.  It’s a privilege to be on it.  It’s a very good cast, a wonderful crew…We just want to make it better and better if we can.”  She was, however, here taking meetings with Hollywood executives about work outside of “Downton Abbey” — and tooling around town in a borrowed gold Jaguar.

“I was a nervous wreck because it’s a lovely car and the roads are quite scary in L.A., but I got used to it,” she says.

One result of her time here is that Nicol will be heading to Vancouver shortly to film an episode of ABC’s “Once Upon a Time.” After that, she flies to Chicago for a concert appearance.  And after that, it’s back to the U.K. to begin filming the fourth season of “Downton.”

Season 3 begins airing here Sunday (1/6) and there is much to relish, including the fun of Dame Maggie Smith crossing verbal swords with Shirley MacLaine, who has come aboard as the mother of American Lady Grantham (Elizabeth McGovern).  For Nicol, Season 3 opens up even more aspects of Mrs. Patmore’s personality.  She will be seen at the side of rival Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan), the head housekeeper, as Mrs. Hughes faces cancer.  And later in the season, it appears a bit of romance will be entering Mrs. Patmore’s life.

Nicol credits show creator Julian Fellowes for giving “everybody a proper journey.  He never leaves characters in one kind of groove.  He shows their different sides, just as we all have different sides to our characters.  To begin with, I was just this red-faced, angry bully.  But no one is just that.  The reason she behaved like that was, at that time, in that house, there would be no room for mistakes.  You couldn’t have people saying dinner at Downton Abbey wasn’t very good; it had to be the best show in town.”

‘Frontline’ Gets to the Root of the Recession

Watch Money, Power and Wall Street on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

Everyone wants to know the location of Ground Zero in our ongoing financial disaster – the place this recession all began.  PBS’s “Frontline” provides an answer in its special, two-part, four-hour “Money, Power and Wall Street” (tomorrow, (4/24) and May 1).  It was in the ‘90s, at a swanky Boca Raton conclave of twentysomething brainiacs from JP Morgan, when the idea of credit default swaps was conceived.

“They were well-intentioned.  I would not say they were greedy,” observes revered broadcast journalist Martin Smith, speaking of that team of young turks.  He points out that the idea stemmed from wanting to insure themselves against loan risks.  The Frontline report tracks how trading risk as an insurance product began in a seemingly smart way, with corporate loans, then morphed into a market of its own that spread into mortgages, and ultimately the toxic loans that resulted in 2008’s financial crisis.  Smith is quick to credit Gillian Tett and her book, Fool’s Gold for the Boca Raton story.  (Tett appears on the docu.)

Smith has won numerous journalistic awards for his reporting on documentaries like “Gangs of Iraq,” “Beyond Baghdad” and “Return of the Taliban.”  The labyrinthine world of high finance is most different from war reporting, he tells us, in that “you don’t have to explain to people what happens when a bullet hits,” but the practices and terminology of finance require careful boiling down for non-expert viewers.  Smith makes the point that instead of merely chalking up financial matters as  arcane and complex – which many media members do – “it’s important that we, the public, understand them.  And we can understand,” he stresses.  “As someone pointed out, every time we buy a box of cereal, we’re paying a price that involves derivatives.”

Judging by the galloping first hour of “Money, Power and Wall Street,” “Frontline” has achieved its goals.  In fact, the fascinating saga has so much potential to be portrayed as a smart thriller, one wonders whether Hollywood will soon be looking to dramatize it.