Criminal Minds' Joe Mantegna Talks Rossi Kicking Off Paramount+ Revival With Curse Words And Dark Reveals

Rossi looking rough in office on Criminal Minds: Evolution
(Image credit: Paramount+)

Spoilers below for the first two episodes of Criminal Minds: Evolution, so be warned if you haven’t yet streamed them both with a Paramount+ subscription.

With most of its core cast ensemble back for the new season, save for a few exceptions, Paramount+’s newest original drama Criminal Minds: Evolution still looks and feels a lot like its broadcast network predecessor, just with a bit of a streaming polish on it. There are still depraved killers lurking in the darkness — Midnight Mass’ Zach Gilford stars as the overarching UnSub — and there are still willing and able BAU a gents ready to deliver justice. But things sound slightly different where Joe Mantegna’s David Rossi is concerned, as this Evolution allowed him the ability to utter slightly more NSFW language, albeit with the caveat that Rossi would have a lot to swear about. 

CinemaBlend spoke with the Criminal Minds: Evolution star ahead of the ten-episode drama’s streaming debut on Paramount+, and I asked for his thoughts both about Rossi getting blue with his dialogue, and about the reveal that his wife Krystall (as portrayed by Gail O’Grady on the CBS flagship) passed away during the interim. Ever the pragmatist, Mantegna shared that he remains fully behind such changes and ideas whenever they better represent the real agents that the show depicts. 

Yeah, I mean, there's been a few instances, I think, as people watch the series, they'll go, 'Oh, hello.' If it's gonna come from anybody, it's gonna come from Rossi, I suppose. You know what I mean? The character, as well as myself, have been around long enough to kind of justify certain aspects of his behavior.

I don’t know that many esteemed actors would explain a character’s reasoning and justification for dropping a “Holy shit,” in the midst of something awful, but that’s just the kind of professional Joe Mantegna is. Too bad we can’t hear his Simpsons character Fat Tony call Bart a “dumb little shit” at any point, but so it goes. 

Rossi and Krystall together at party in Criminal Minds finale

(Image credit: Paramount+)

How Joe Mantegna Feels About Rossi Dealing With Krystall's Death

Beyond the general amusement of seeing a familiar character saying new things, Criminal Minds: Evolution had more somber paths to travel with Joe Mantegna’s Rossi, with viewers initially kept in the dark about what had him so snappy and on edge, as well as why he’d apparently been living out of a hotel room instead of his own home. Near the end of the premiere, Rossi himself revealed in the heat of a dangerous situation that it has now been almost a year since his wife Krystall died. 

When I asked the actor about Rossi having to cope with such a dark turn right as the new season started up, Mantegna shared a take that is likely on the flip side of things from how others might view it. In his words:

Well, I mean, it just points to the reality of life as it is dramatized on the show, you know what I mean? Why wouldn't it? It's like that old line - there's a cartoon where this little guy's looking up to the heavens and saying, 'Oh, God, why are you doing this to me?' And then God answers, 'Why not?' It's a little of that.

If the mechanisms for chaos are there, why not create chaos? That’s not exactly his point, I guess, but the Criminal Minds universe is such that happiness comes in fleeting moments, and death is the only constant. So if there’s a way to give Rossi even more of a hard edge going into this massive country-spanning case, why not make it happen?

While we’re still not completely aware of how Krystall died, the second episode brought in the detail that it was a medical issue, presumably cancer, with Krystall’s diagnosis being mentioned. So while it would have already been hard if she’d passed in a car accident or a sudden heart attack, the couple appear to have gone through a dark period following said diagnosis, which would have certainly stretched those emotions out to breaking points. And Mantegna spoke to the idea of Rossi being no less impervious to tragedy than anyone else, saying:

I've often said, I go by the dictate of 'Everyone has a story, and nobody gets a free ride.' And so that includes Joe Mantegna, and that includes David Rossi, the character. So I mean, this is part of his story. He doesn't get a free ride, and this is part of the ride that he has to pay. Perhaps a little bit, in this particular instance, he has a little bit more to pay for it than maybe somebody else. So you know, it's okay. It's like, it's not how many times you fall down. It's how many times you get up.

Here’s hoping David Rossi has a few robot exoskeletons in his closet or something, so that viewers can be assured that he’ll keep getting up for many more years to come. We need to know that if there’s some nutbag out there making school uniforms out of dead teachers’ hair, Rossi will still be around to stop him. At least he was able to joke about not getting laid anymore, which 100% drew a chuckle out of yours truly.

Criminal Minds: Evolution’s first two episodes are available to stream now (opens in new tab) on Paramount+, with new episodes streaming every Thursday. Check out our 2022 TV schedule and our 2023 premiere guide to see all the other new and returning shows hitting the small screen in the future.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.