Criminal Minds airs its 300th episode tonight at 10:00PM ET/PT on CBS. Number 300 will also serve as the show’s 14th season premiere as David Rossi, Spencer Reid, Penelope Garcia and the gang continue entertaining audiences across the globe.

CBS Local’s Matt Weiss spoke to Joe Mantegna, who plays David Rossi, to discuss the show, being a director, and his many on screen marriages.

MW- Good morning sir, how’s it going?

JM- Hello Matt, doing good.

MW- Happy to hear it! So 300th episode of Criminal Minds premieres on Wednesday the third, so congrats on the milestone. I spoke to (Criminal Minds Executive Producer) Erica Messer the other day and she talked about how much she loves the bond you all have on the show and how it’s like a second family. What’s been your takeaway from working on the show, what is most rewarding to you?

JM- That’s basically it. My dear friend Dennis Franz told me years ago that he hoped I’d get the opportunity to get on a long running series because he knew I’d appreciate that kind of camaraderie and continuity between the cast and the crew. He knew I’d like that because he and I are very similar in that way. We’re still very close friends and he was right.

There’s that bonding that happens because you figure there’s over 300 people that go into making a show like Criminal Minds. When you have an opportunity to have a show be around as long as ours has faces sometimes change as people move in and out but for the most part there’s this family atmosphere that happens. You spend a lot of time with these people and if it’s a good experience, which this has been, it’s really great.

MW- I’m sure it makes it a lot easier to go to work everyday knowing you’re walking into a second home of sorts.

JM- Yea, exactly. What’s also nice is we shoot it here in Los Angeles so I get to come home at night, it’s not a bad lifestyle.

MW- I know this season there’s going to be a lot of deep dives in terms of character backstories and development – what can we expect to see with regard to your character, David Rossi?

JM- Well, there will be some things going on. We’ve already explored a lot in my past – my time in the military, my marriages. I’ve had three different marriages and last season we actually covered that third, short-lived marriage I had that lasted about 24 hours when I married the dealer in Vegas in front of an Elvis impersonator. I think we may be revisiting that whole story line this season again and I find that to be a lot of fun and interesting.

I always appreciate the personal stories we do that deal with the personal sides of our characters. After 300 episodes, I think our fans appreciate that, they want to know more about who we (the characters) are and there’s a lot more of that.

MW- Right, there’s only so many different scenarios, and I think you all do a great job with the drama and suspense, but at some point the emotional investment and the human element of the characters is what really hooks people.

JM- Absolutely! I think that’s the strength of the show is that it’s such a strong ensemble. It’s not a one person show where everyone follows the leader. All eight main characters are very distinct and different with stories to tell within themselves. I think we’ll pursue more of that this season so that everybody gets a fair shake in terms of the personal development of their stories.

MW- You’ve had a big hand in that development throughout the series off camera as well directing eight episodes with a ninth coming this season. What do you enjoy about directing that keeps you coming back for more double duty?

JM- It’s a difference between on a baseball team being one of the players or being the manager, it’s a whole different set of responsibilities. Directing you’re responsible for everything that takes place. You’re like the general leading the troops into battle, not just one cog in the wheel, you’re actually controlling the wheel. It’s pretty fascinating, it’s a huge responsibility and I’ve been in the business long enough to feel comfortable at it and appreciate it.

It doesn’t take away the amount of effort it takes to do it, but it’s very rewarding and hopefully to do it well while having a major part in telling the story. I’ve enjoyed doing that and I did just do that ninth episode that will be on later this season and I feel really good about it. I’m very happy to have had that opportunity.

MW- I imagine it must be really exciting to keep things fresh with an extra outlet to express your creativity.

JM- Yea and luckily a few of us have had that opportunity on the show. Matthew Gubler has directed on the show, Adam Rodriguez has directed on the show, Aisha Tyler has directed on the show and I think A.J. Cook is going to do one this season which will be the first time for her, which is great – I’m glad she’s getting that opportunity.

I think about the old days of Happy Days where Garry Marshall, who’s family has been my neighbors here in Los Angeles for the last 30 years now, he gave a lot of his cast members the opportunity to direct. Then because of that so many, starting with Ron Howard, a lot of the people from Garry Marshall’s era have gone on to become premier directors. Garry gave them the opportunity to do that and my hats off to our bosses on Criminal Minds who have allowed us to do that, especially Erica Messer who has been running our show for quite a while now.

MW- Really quick before I let you go, what can the viewers be excited about for this season and why should they tune in for the 14th season of Criminal Minds?

JM- Well I think if you’ve already been following the show we just keep trying to amp it up and take it to the next level. All I can tell you is that we’ve never been stronger, we’ve never been tighter as a group, we’ve never felt more confident about what we’re doing. If you’re new to the show just give it a shot.

What’s been great about our show too is that it’s been so big internationally. As big as it is in the United States, it even exceeds that in other countries. It looks like we’ve been doing something right so hopefully we can keep doing it.

MW- Three hundred episodes isn’t exactly a flash in the pan, clearly there’s been a formula that is working for the show.

JM- Exactly!

MW- Thanks so much Joe, pleasure talking to you today. Good luck with episode 300 and beyond!

JM- Thank you very much!

Criminal Minds returns tonight for its 14th season premiere and 300th episode tonight at 10:00PM ET/PT, only on CBS. Check your local listings for more information.

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