By RICK BENTLEY | McClatchy Newspapers • Published June 28, 2011
LOS ANGELES - The debut of "Cars 2" as the No. 1 film at the box office last weekend continues Joe Mantegna's winning ways. He can add this success to being on one of the top-rated network TV shows, "Criminal Minds," and being part of the longest running animated series, "The Simpsons."
The Chicago native answered a few questions about his successful - and diverse - career that ranges from "The Godfather: Part III" to "Baby's Day Out."
Q: Would being the voice of a Gremlin - the AMC car and not a creature that shouldn't be fed after midnight - have been your first choice of car voices?
A: I had this conversation once with Warren Beatty when we were doing "Bugsy." We were saying, "If you were a car, what kind of car would you like to be?" Jokingly, I admit, we were probably ribbing each other a little when I said I would probably lean toward Italian - a Ferrari, Lamborghini. It kind of fits.
Q: Then why do you tend to pick German cars to drive?
A: I think it's because I was the voice of Mercedes-Benz for seven years.
Q: This isn't your first voice work. You have provided the voice of mob boss Fat Tony on "The Simpsons" for 20 years.
A: It's my longest-running character by far. I've been told I've done more episodes than any recurring character on the show. I did the voice in the third season and it was supposed to be for only one episode. Fat Tony became one of Springfield's most popular characters so they just kept bringing me back.
Q: Those have been fun jobs. You joined the cast of the dark "Criminal Minds" in 2007 when Mandy Patinkin departed. Do you go home a frazzled, emotional wreck after a day on the set?
A: What people don't tend to understand is the experience of working on stuff doesn't necessarily parallel to what the material's about. When I'm making "Criminal Minds," as grim as the material is, the atmosphere on the set is not like that at all. You are talking a family-like atmosphere where we all like each other and have a good time. It's only those moments when you are doing the material that it gets heavy and serious. I am spending far more time on a set being Joe than I am being David Rossi.
Q: Can you talk about next year's "Criminal Minds" cast changes?
A: A.J. Cook will be back in the fall. And, there's a chance that Paget Brewster, whose character had gone into hiding near the end of last season, could return.