AO: We have to ask about Criminal Minds – you’re amazing as David Rossi. How did your role in the show come about? What is the most rewarding part of being in the series?
JM: One of the actors left the show in the third season, and I came in as the character of David Rossi. David Rossi was written in as a retired founder of the unit and basically got a little bored with his life as an author. He wanted to get back in the action, and he had a hidden agenda with a past case he still wanted to solve. Obviously, now in my 11th year, David Rossi seems to like where he is and is still doing the job. The most rewarding part of being in the series is that we portray real organizations. I’ve been to Quantico numerous times and I’ve met the real profilers, supervisors, and special agents. The behavior analysis unit is a real part of the FBI. So, it’s been very rewarding to be able to portray someone in a group of people who I think do a very heroic job for our country. I’m honored to represent them on television.
AO: Your company is involved in the production of Hollywood Weapons, and you described it as “Mythbusters on steroids.” What are some of the most memorable moments you can recall from the show?
JM: There’s been so many. I think what’s been great about the show is the ability to add humor to stuff that people are going to find fascinating and interesting anyway. I mean, since we were little kids, when we would go to the movies, one of the things most exciting about movies is to be able to see something and say, “Wow! How did they do that?! Could that really happen?” So, besides duplicating the incidents or stunts, or whatever it is – gunfire, explosions, etc. – besides doing that, I think it’s those moments that we’re able to add some visual or dialogue or humor that adds some dimension to it. There’s everything from the Star Trek episodes, to the episodes that were about Rambo, to some of the western ones. That’s the formula for any successful show – when you have a combination of things that educate you, make you laugh, and make you think. I think the show does all of that.
AO: Has your love for the film industry always stood strong? When did you first take interest in this line of work?
JM: I’ve wanted to be an actor since I was in high school. I tried out for a play that I didn’t get casted for, but just the experience of trying out for the part excited me enough to know that this was what I wanted to do. I wasn’t really wanting to be a TV or film actor, or a theater actor predominately. I just knew that this was something I wanted to do, no matter if I was up on stage or in front of a camera, or wherever it may be. I feel lucky that at 16 years old, I had that little flash of, “Yeah! I really want to give this a shot!” and I really haven’t looked back since. It was a childhood dream that came true.
AO: Do you have any particular works that stand out?
JM: Over the course of my career – I’ve been at this almost 50 years – it runs the gamut. Luckily in theater, I’ve been privileged enough to win a Tony Award for my performance in Glengarry Glen Ross in 1984. In film, I was fortunate to be part of the Godfather trilogy, to work with great directors like David Mamet, Woody Allen, Barry Levinson, and Francis Coppola, and then in television to have been able to play everything from Dean Martin in The Rat Pack, to a series like Joan of Arcadia, to what I’m doing now. It’s been a wide and varied career and I’ve been so lucky to experience all different medias.
AO: Growing up, what was your favorite television program and/or movie?
JM: Wow. Well, as a kid, I’m going back to the 50s now. Father Knows Best was definitely one of my favorite TV shows. I also remember watching I Love Lucy and The Honeymooners with my family, so that dates me back to the old black and white TV days. As for movies, The Adventures of Robin Hood was always my favorite – the original, with Errol Flynn. That’s actually why my star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is right next to Errol Flynn’s – that was me tipping my hat to my childhood idol. But, like everybody, I have a ton of favorites – I’m just glad to actually be in the business.
AO: Who is your inspiration today?
JM: No one! Just kidding, that’s funny. I mean, at my age (70 years old) it’s more about what inspires me. What inspires me is that hopefully we’re handing the world off properly to the next generation, whoever it may be. So, in terms of people, my inspiration comes from the advances that we’ve made in the world thus far. The people I respect are the game-changers – the doctors, the scientists, the military, the people in uniform – the people who strive to do things that help others, and make life better. That’s what inspires me.
AO: Can you explain what a normal day while filming an episode of Gun Stories is like?
JM: Any normal day is always fun, because I’m surrounded by people that I’m close to and we all have like minds. We all love the outdoors and shooting sports. We gone to many interesting places throughout the country and in Europe, so filming is never boring. It’s always interesting, always a good time. It’s been amazing to mix something like this, that started out as a hobby when I was just a young man, into my career. A typical day filming is mixing business with pleasure in its highest form. Anyone who enjoys shooting sports would be able to relate and say, “Wow, you get paid for that?!”
AO: What should we expect to see in season 2 of Hollywood Weapons?
JM: I think Hollywood Weapons has really stepped up in season 2. We’ve got some really great surprises. We’ve got people like Tom Selleck, on an episode that deals with Quigley Down Under, and several other surprise guests. We’re going to be touching on some stuff dealing with James Bond, Justified, X-Men, and Payback to name a few. There are also going to be new cast members that make appearances here and there. I feel that we’ve also added a lot more humor and substance to the interactions. Viewers are always going to see the tests and what is being replicated, but I think it is being done in an even more entertaining and interesting way. I think the co-hosts, Terry and Larry, are in great form, and overall I think it’s going to be bigger and better, as it should be!
AO: If you had to choose a single weapon, what would it be?
JM: Well, I’ve always been a big aficionado of the old 1911 .45 ACP semi-automatic pistol, which got us through a couple World Wars and is still viable today. I like it in other configurations as well though, and I particularly like that type of firearm in terms of a handgun. John Browning did an incredible job with that gun obviously, so to me it’s still the benchmark for handguns. So, I suppose if I had to have one, that would be the one I’d like. There’s just so many out there, so many guns and so little time to shoot them!
AO: What’s more interesting, the gun or the story?
JM: That’s a good question. I think ultimately it is the story behind the gun, or the story that involves the gun. For me – being an actor – the story is everything. I’m not a prop guy, and a gun is somewhat of a prop, but the gun itself tells a story, so the gun can sometimes be the storyteller. We did an episode of Gun Stories where we shot on my grandfather’s farm in Oklahoma that he got after coming over from Sicily, and I was able to visit his grave. I was also actually able to shoot his original shotgun on the farm, something that hadn’t been done on that farm since he died in 1928. To be able to do an episode where I picked up that gun and shot it is so very special to me. That will forever be in my mind as a gun that really told a story.
AO: If you could give some advice about sport shooting, what advice would you give to those who may be just starting out?
JM: First of all, as with anything, my advice would be to first get excellent professional instruction, especially with firearms. The last thing you want to do is say, “I think I want to shoot a gun,” and then just try to acquire one and go out and start shooting it somewhere, thinking that that’s the way to do it. Whether you’re taking up sport shooting, golf, tennis, swimming – anything – you want to do your research before you start and then seek high-level professional instruction. With shooting sports, a lot of it is easy to access. You can simply contact the NRA for a list of programs, from gun clubs to other things, depending on where you live. But do your research, because the main thing, especially with firearms, is you want to make sure that you’re handling them safely and sanely. Once you learn those aspects of it, then you’ve got a whole new world that is open to you. There are lots of possibilities and different types of shooting sports that you can get involved with.
AO: Gun Stories is one of the more educational and historically stimulating programs on the Outdoor Channel. How did the idea for the show come about?
JM: Initially Tim Cremin from the Outdoor Channel presented it to me. He approached me over 8 years ago and told me that they had an idea for a show that would delve into the history of firearms, and I think he read somewhere that I was somewhat of a shooting aficionado, and wanted to see if I’d be interested. Lo and behold, I was. So, it was really nothing more complicated than that. It sounded like it would be a lot of fun so I decided to give it a shot and clearly I enjoyed it because I’m still here!
AO: How did Hollywood Weapons come about?
JM: Hollywood Weapons came about pretty much through the imagination of the guy who runs my company, Danny Ramm, and Tim Cremin from the Outdoor Channel. Danny and Tim worked so well producing Gun Stories together; it just turned out as a great brainchild of theirs. I’m glad to be more on the outside looking in when it comes to this series, and to be whatever help I can be with it, but this is pretty much their project, and they’ve done incredibly well with it. The team of guys on Hollywood Weapons is great. Danny, who co-conceived the show and writes all the episodes, and the Executive Producer, Tim, who has just been so brilliant all the years on Gun Stories, and John Carter, who has been doing a wonderful job directing – all the staff, the editors, the sound people, the camera department, and all the people at Outdoor Channel have all been wonderful.
AO: What do you find most intriguing about Hollywood Weapons? What is one episode that stands out in front of all others?
JM: What I like about Hollywood Weapons is the depth of it. It does a lot of different things. It’s informative, interesting, funny; if it were an hour-long drama on a network show, they would probably call it a dramedy, because it’s got both aspects in one, and it’s educational as well. I think the people that have been involved have been terrific; I think that Terry and Larry are the new Abbott and Costello! Hats off to Tim Cremin and Danny Ramm for creating and writing it, and to the director and the crew, and everyone involved with it, because I think they’ve come up with a really interesting and fun show. I am especially fond of the Star Trek episode because I think they really did their research and came up with amazing sets and costumes. The whole look was just great, and for people who are considered to be “Trekkies,” that episode will blow their minds, or anyone who is at all familiar with Star Trek for that matter. And that’s what I like about the show is that they keep raising the bar and taking things further and further; Hollywood Weapons stands apart from a lot of other shows I’ve seen.
AO: From The Godfather III to The Simpsons, you’ve displayed your talents through a wide range of characters. Is there a role that you’d like portray, but haven’t yet?
JM: I’ve been lucky enough to portray a very wide variety of characters during my career, so it’s always the next one that peaks my interest. But I don’t have a wish list of characters I want to play or anything like that. I just keep my eyes and ears open, and maybe the next phone call I get will be the one that says, “How would you like to try doing this?” and I’ll be excited all over again. My real problem is finding the time to do anything new, since my dance card is pretty full these days.
AO: Do you have anything new in the works? What can we expect in the future?
JM: Yeah! I directed a play, a one-man show, called I’m Not a Comedian, I’m Lenny Bruce. It is based around the life of the late comedian, Lenny Bruce, and that’s done very well here in Los Angeles, and we have plans of possibly moving it to Chicago and New York. So, we’ll see how that goes. It’s been a lot of fun because theater takes me back to my roots since that’s what I did almost exclusively for the first 15 years of my career, so it has been nice to dabble in that again. Beyond that, I’m just glad to continue on with the 8th season of Gun Stories, my 13th season of Criminal Minds as David Rossi, and my 28th season of The Simpsons as Fat Tony.