Joe Mantegna has developed a reputation as one of America’s most prominent character actors.

He’s won a Tony for the classic play “Glengarry Glenn Ross” and spent a decade as the lead investigator David Rossi on CBS’ hit crime procedural series “Criminal Minds.”

But he’s lucky that his passion for acting came to him early in life. It gave him a grounding that has carried over into one of Hollywood’s most stable marriages. That passion also allows his spiritual side to guide both life and career decisions.

“I was fortunate that when I was young I was exposed to my high school drama program. So I feel blessed from the age of 16 to today well into my 60s,” says Mantegna, 68. “I’ve been able to pursue my passion and for the last 30 years. I’ve done pretty well with it.

“I wish any kid in high school can find their purpose. I’m a proponent of mandatory service, whether it’s the military or Peace Corps, to give kids a couple years to find themselves and ignite their passion, and then go to college, military and trade school. I’m one of the lucky ones who found what I loved early and still do it.”

Despite having been married more than 40 years and being the father to two grown daughters, Mantegna still compares marriage to a roller coaster. He openly admits that “nothing is 100 percent perfect, but you work at it” – advice that’s solid for anybody considering a lifelong union.

“You fall back on what got you there in the first place, because obviously some strong attraction brought two people together,” Mantegna says. “Marriage is not always an easy road. It’s like a roller coaster ride, where some are the most thrilling moments ever had, and others are the scariest. You might think I’m scared and gotta get out, but if you jump out of one roller coaster, you’ll likely jump into another. So hang on tighter, get through them, the ride starts to smooth out and it gets that much more enjoyable.”

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Joe Mantegna, Gary Sinise, Esai Morales and Colin Powell pose during Memorial Day Concert on the Mall.

Mantegna was raised Catholic while growing up in Chicago. And while he’s pursuing funding to portray the famed Catholic mystic Padre Pio in a feature film, he says his spiritual side has developed a broader interpretation over the years.

“I find spiritualism very important, and that’s part of why I did the series ‘Joan of Arcadia,’” says Mantegna.  “I loved it so much because of its spirituality and that it was about something. I was raised Catholic and have no problem with it, but I don’t negate others’ beliefs. I believe in a power higher than us, whether you call it Christ, Buddha, whatever you want to believe in.

“If they base it rightly, they’re all based in peace, love and moving forward in a positive way. All religions are trying to get to the same point, and at the end of the day, we’ll also find out it all leads to the same one place.”

To hear more of Mantegna’s interview, which streams on Radio Titans’ “Kozversations” series and includes his thoughts on keeping  his “Criminal Minds” role fresh and his passion for gun rights, visit the podcast’s Spreaker site.

Photo credit: Sensual Shadows Photography via Foter.com / CC BY-SA