What is the Strange Origin of the Name of Joe Mantegna’s Criminal Minds Character?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about TV and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the TV urban legends featured so far.

TV URBAN LEGEND: Joe Mantegna came up with the name of his Criminal Minds character from an out of the ordinary source.

Joe Mantegna took over from Mandy Patinkin as the co-lead (along with Thomas Gibson) of Criminal Minds beginning in Season 3.

Mantegna plays David Rossi, a retired FBI agent who comes out of retirement to work with the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit.

Peculiarly enough, there is an actual history behind the seemingly straightforward name of Mantegna’s character.

In an interview with The Onion’s AV Club, Mantegna explained:

I got a chance to name this character after a real person, a policeman named David Rossi who was the first guy to testify in the O.J. Simpson trial. I thought he got piled on by O.J. Simpson’s lawyers at the time. So I thought “Someday I’m gonna name a character after this guy.” He went up in his dress blue uniforms and testified for two days. And I thought “What integrity.” For two days, this guy just got beat up—and all he did was answer the phones—and it’s obvious the defense is just gonna beat this guy up and try to hang the LAPD over the fact that this {expletive} idiot murdered his wife. To me it was a joke. And so because of it, I named him after this guy, and he found out through surreptitious methods, and we became great friends. ’Cause he was so flattered that I had done that.

Isn’t that fascinating?

I’d love to have a picture of the “real” Rossi, but I’ve yet been unable to find one. Anyone out there have a picture I could use?

The legend is…

STATUS: True

Thanks to Joe Mantegna and the Onion AV Club for the information!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is [email protected]

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