Criminal Minds Star Joe Mantegna Says New Streaming Season Is As Disturbing As Ever, Explains Why He's A 'Defender' Of The Dark Tone

It’s been just over two years since we had to say goodbye to the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit with the end of Criminal Minds, but the series is coming back on Paramount+ with a new season, called Criminal Minds: Evolution. The new season will not only include some NSFW changes for the BAU but it will also see almost every character back in the bullpen, and star Joe Mantegna is opening up about how disturbing Season 16 will be.

Criminal Minds is known for some creepy storylines, with some even inspiring real unsubs. Of course, Criminal Minds: Evolution will go even further. While at Paramount+’s TCA panel for the new season, the cast was asked about storylines or cases that freaked them out or gave them nightmares. Joe Mantegna, who portrays Agent David Rossi, previewed just how disturbing Criminal Minds: Evolution will get, even more so than the previous 15 seasons:

I think where we're going with it, if anything, it's going to be like, you know, Evolution — Criminal Minds: Evolution. Yeah, if you think you were disturbed before, we may be taking it to another level.

It might be disturbing, but Mantegna did bring up the fact that for him and the rest of the cast, it’s all fake, which is why he doesn’t necessarily get nightmares or freak out. He explains why he’s a defender of the dark tone of the series:

But I've always been a defender of the fact that our show gave that realistic aspect to what these real men and women do. Because, you know, very often we hear, 'Oh, how can you... Don't you get nightmares?' Or 'Doesn't it disturb you to do this show?' No. My feeling is it doesn't disturb me at all. Because when they say 'cut,' that person lying there with the ax in his head pops it up and goes over to craft services and gets a sandwich. The ones I worry about are the real men and women of the FBI and other law enforcement agencies around the world who have to really do this for a living.

With the variety of procedurals these days, they showcase the work that real-life police officers, firefighters, doctors, etc. do, and it’s what Joe Mantegna loves about Criminal Minds:

So I think what I love about our show is that we show it like it is. You know, I grew up in the era of, you know, when you watch a cowboy movie, the guy got shot and fell over, and it was, like, cute. You know? We show it like it is. And I think that -- I think that's important. I think you have to show thank God we have the men and women who really do this job. And if you really want to see what they have to deal with every day, we're giving you a snapshot of that.

That’s not to say that there aren’t plenty of disturbing and nightmarish moments in the series, because there definitely are, which just even further gives props to the men and women really working in the FBI. Kirstin Vangsness and Aisha Tyler have very different opinions of disturbing than their co-star, as the two confessed to how the series has scared them and/or their family:

  • “Yeah. We've done 324 episodes, and I would say 323 of them have disturbed me. So that's -- that's my two cents. Yes." [Laughter.] - Kirsten Vangsness
  • “My husband — I mean, full disclosure, we got to watch the first two episodes of the show last night — and my husband was like, 'I think I'm going to have nightmares.'" [Laughter.] - Aisha Tyler

While almost every episode of the first 15 seasons had a different unsub, Criminal Minds: Evolution will be different. The new season will see the BAU work just one unsub case throughout the season, with the unsub being played by Friday Night Lights alum Zach Gilford. Following the drop of first look photos, Joe Mantegna discussed getting back into the bullpen, expressing his excitement about working with his co-stars once again. 

Although not everyone will be back for Criminal Minds: Evolution, fans should still be pretty excited. Plus, it looks like Paget Brewster’s Emily Prentiss will be rocking a new ‘do when she’s back on our screens. The new season will officially premiere on November 24 on Paramount+ with a subscription, so make sure you watch the original series first on both Paramount+ and Hulu to get you set for the new season! Just to be too disturbed by some of the storylines.

Megan Behnke
Freelance TV News Writer

Passionate writer. Obsessed with anything and everything entertainment, specifically movies and television. Can get easily attached to fictional characters.