Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Photos & Video: Joe Mantegna and Danny Ramm Talk about ‘Criminal Minds’ Season 10 Episode Honoring Veterans and the late Meshach Taylor

“Criminal Minds” star Joe Mantegna (Rossi) returns to the director’s chair for  “Anonymous”, a Season 10 episode co-written by Danny Ramm and Bruce Zimmerman, that airs on Wednesday, January 21, 2015 (9:00-10:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.

"Anonymous" - Criminal Minds S10 E12. Wednesday, Jan. 21 (9:00-10:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Series star Joe Mantegna, pictured, directed the episode. Photo: Cliff Lipson/CBS ©2014 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

“Anonymous” – Criminal Minds S10 E12. Wednesday, Jan. 21 (9:00-10:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Series star Joe Mantegna, pictured, directed the episode. Photo: Cliff Lipson/CBS ©2014 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

The BAU searches Tallahassee for a serial killer who calls the authorities to report the crimes prior to committing murder. Amber Stevens (the daughter of Shadoe Stevens and Beverly Cunningham), guest stars as Joy Struthers, Rossi’s daughter.

Rossi receives the startling news about the death of his former Marine sergeant, Harrison Scott (Meshach Taylor), in Vietnam. The Mantegna helmed episode pays tribute to his brother, the late Meshach Taylor who succumbed to cancer last June, and with whom he shared a friendship of more than four decades.

Meshach Taylor. Photo by Lia Chang

Meshach Taylor. Photo by Lia Chang

Click here to view the episode. wearethemightly.com video: Actor Joe Mantegna Is Pushing Hard For Veterans’ Issues On ‘Criminal Minds’ bryantimes.com: Joe Mantegna and ‘Criminal Minds’ remember Meshach Taylor Writer/Producer Danny Ramm co-wrote the first episode of “Criminal Minds” that Taylor appeared on in November, 2012. Ramm has worked in partnership with Joe Mantegna since 2001.During that time he worked with Mantegna on the CBS dramas “First Monday,” “Joan of Arcadia” and currently, “Criminal Minds”. Feature film work includes Stateside and Mother Ghost. Prior to that, he worked for two years as a script consultant for screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi, (Good Fellas, and Casino.) Currently Ramm produces the award winning shows Midway USA’S Gun Stories for The Outdoor Channel. He also created and produced Quick bites, a series for KCET Los Angeles. He recently completed work on Choc’late Soldiers, a look at the scope of racism during World War II and is in post production on the documentary Live Forever The Ray Bradbury Odyssey. Writing credits include “Criminal Minds” and “Quick bites the series” and an untitled drama pilot for The Outdoor Channel. 

The Criminal Minds Team: Joe Mantegna, Meshach Taylor and Danny Ramm at Taylor’s 67th birthday party in Toluca Lake, CA on April 12, 2014. Danny Ramm co-wrote the first episode of Criminal Minds that Taylor appeared in on November, 2012. Photo by Lia Chang

The Criminal Minds Team: Joe Mantegna, Meshach Taylor and Danny Ramm at Taylor’s 67th birthday party in Toluca Lake, CA on April 12, 2014. Danny Ramm co-wrote the first episode of Criminal Minds that Taylor appeared in on November, 2012. Photo by Lia Chang

Co-writer Danny Ramm shared a few details by email about the Meshach Taylor Tribute episode. Danny: We began filming yesterday and will wrap the episode on the 19th. Can’t say anything about the plot except that it will be a beautiful and fitting tribute to Meshach and the character he brought to life. There will be some surprise guest in the episode and some returning ones. It will air Jan 21st. Lia: What inspired you to write the first script about Meshach Taylor’s character, Harrison Scott, Rossi’s former Marine sergeant who fell on hard times and ended up a homeless vet after Vietnam? Danny: What inspired that character was my personal connection and work with the real New Directions in Los Angeles. It’s a facility dedicated to helping homeless veterans and I always thought what they did and the stories of the men and women they have helped were not only interesting but inspiring. When you meet a man who lived in a box for 15 years and now after going through the program not only has a job and a home of his own, but actually owns a second home that he rents out, well that’s truly inspirational. It has always been a goal of mine to tell as many people as possible about the work they do, in these “Meshach” episodes we’ve been able to do just that. The writers on the show, especially Rick Dunkle and Bruce Zimmerman, and the show runner Erica Messer as well as the network have all been very supportive from the beginning. This episode in particular presented some very difficult challenges for us but we’ve been able to overcome the them. It can be difficult to tell such a personal story in episodic TV and I’m forever grateful to everyone involved to be on board with it from the start. Lia: Inside the cast read through… Danny: When we did the cast read through of the script last week, it was so wonderful to see some returning faces and some new ones, but as we began I was quickly reminded that our friend Meshach wasn’t with us. It was very bitter sweet. They say that death is hardest on the living, I know that to be true now. There have been some unexplainable coincidences that can only be explained by our belief that Meshach has had a hand in this tribute. I think Joe and I both have said a few times that we feel his hand guiding us.

The Criminal Minds Team: Joe Mantegna, Meshach Taylor and Danny Ramm at Taylor’s 67th birthday party in Toluca Lake, CA on April 12, 2014. Danny Ramm co-wrote the first episode of Criminal Minds that Taylor appeared in on November, 2012. Photo by Lia Chang

The Criminal Minds Team: Joe Mantegna, Meshach Taylor and Danny Ramm at Taylor’s 67th birthday party in Toluca Lake, CA on April 12, 2014. Danny Ramm co-wrote the first episode of Criminal Minds that Taylor appeared in on November, 2012. Photo by Lia Chang

Lia: When did Meshach first come into your life? Danny: I met Meshach about 13 years ago when I started working for Joe Mantegna. I know I felt an instant connection to him, I’m not sure if he did with me. I only say that because he was everyone’s best friend. It didn’t matter if you were the big director at the party or the bartender, Meshach would sit and talk to you at length. He was always curious and always learning. He’d ask you about you, about your family, where you were from, he wanted to know you. He was the guy that you always looked forward to seeing at any party. For me as writer, Meshach never said no. Whether it was a staged reading or a critique or just advice, he was always available to help me. Having a guy like that tell you he likes your writing is a real shot in the arm. The last time I saw him was on his birthday. He was so happy and touched that so many friends came to see him. The love was bigger than the universe. He smiled that unmistakeable Meshach smile whole night, a grin from ear to ear with a hint of Cheshire Cat mixed in. He was funny, charming, polite, respectful and probably one of the best story tellers I’ve ever met. We all miss him dearly.

An Organic Theater Reunion at Meshach Taylor's 67th birthday in Toluca Lake, CA on April 12, 2014. From left to right: Joe Mantegna, Ina Jaffe, Arlene Mantegna, Jack Wallace, Meshach Taylor, Carolyn Gordon, John Heard, Lenny Kleinfeld, Keith Szarabajka, Josephine Paoletti, Vinny Guastaferro, Stuart Gordon, Dennis Franz, Roberta Custer. Photo by Lia Chang

An Organic Theater Reunion at Meshach Taylor’s 67th birthday in Toluca Lake, CA on April 12, 2014. From left to right: Joe Mantegna, Ina Jaffe, Arlene Mantegna, Jack Wallace, Meshach Taylor, Carolyn Gordon, John Heard, Lenny Kleinfeld, Keith Szarabajka, Josephine Paoletti, Vinny Guastaferro, Stuart Gordon, Dennis Franz, Roberta Custer. Photo by Lia Chang

Certain aspects of this episode will be difficult for a lot of us, but it’s important that we do it, for him, for his fans and for us. I don’t really believe in closer, to me that makes it all too final, too in the past. For me Meshach isn’t gone, I see him all the time on TV, laughing, joking, being outrageous. It’s comforting to know that he’s still out there making people laugh, and cry, and think.

Gia Mantegna, Joe Mantegna, Mia Mantegna, Arlene Mantegna, Esme Taylor, Meshach Taylor, Don,Yasmine Taylor, Tariq Taylor, Tamar Taylor at Taylor's 67th birthday in Toluca Lake, CA on April 12, 2014. Photo by Lia Chang

Gia Mantegna, Joe Mantegna, Mia Mantegna, Arlene Mantegna, Esme Taylor, Meshach Taylor, Don,Yasmine Taylor, Tariq Taylor, Tamar Taylor at Taylor’s 67th birthday in Toluca Lake, CA on April 12, 2014. Photo by Lia Chang

Whenever I do run across one of his many films or TV appearances I think, how lucky was I to have known him?

Bianca Ferguson Taylor, Meshach Taylor, Delta Burke and Gerald McRaney. Photo by Lia Chang

Bianca Ferguson Taylor, Meshach Taylor, Delta Burke and Gerald McRaney. Photo by Lia Chang

Meshach Taylor, whose career spanned over four decades on television, in films and on the Broadway and regional stage, became a household name with his Emmy-nominated turn as lovable ex-con turned law student Anthony Bouvier during seven seasons from 1986 – 1993, on the CBS sitcom “Designing Women,” and for his portrayal of Hollywood Montrose, a flamboyant window dresser in the 1987 box office hit and cult classic romantic comedy film Mannequin and the 1991 sequel Mannequin 2: On the Move.

Meshach Taylor at his 67th birthday party in Toluca Lake, CA on April 12, with his daughters Esme Taylor, Yasmine Taylor, Tamar Lashae Taylor, and his son Tariq Taylor. Photo by Lia Chang

Meshach Taylor at his 67th birthday party in Toluca Lake, CA on April 12, with his daughters Esme Taylor, Yasmine Taylor, Tamar Lashae Taylor, and his son Tariq Taylor. Photo by Lia Chang

The beloved actor, devoted husband and father, was surrounded by his wife Bianca Ferguson Taylor, his 100-year-old mother Hertha Ward Taylor, his daughters, Tamar Lashae Taylor, Yasmine Taylor, Esme Taylor, and his son Tariq Taylor, when he passed away peacefully in hospice care at home in Altadena, CA. on June 28, 2014. He was 67.

Gia Mantegna, Joe Mantegna, Mia Mantegna, Arlene Mantegna, Meshach Taylor. Photo by Lia Chang

Gia Mantegna, Joe Mantegna, Mia Mantegna, Arlene Mantegna, Meshach Taylor. Photo by Lia Chang

During Taylor’s homegoing memorial service on July 6, 2014, in the Old North Church at Forest Lawn – Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles, “Criminal Minds” star Joe Mantegna recounted their first encounter, their professional beginnings in a touring company of Hair, and working together as members of the Organic Theatre Company in Chicago.

Meshach Taylor and Joe Mantegna in Criminal Minds - "The Fallen". Photo: Screen Grab/CBS © 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Meshach Taylor and Joe Mantegna in Criminal Minds – “The Fallen”. Photo: Screen Grab/CBS © 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Mantegna also told the story behind the late “Designing Women” star’s first appearance on the CBS drama in season 8 as Harrison Scott, Rossi’s former Marine sergeant who fell on hard times and ended up a homeless vet after Vietnam on the episode, “The Fallen,” which aired in November, 2012. “Two years ago, I presented the producers of my series ‘Criminal Minds’ with an idea for an episode where I would discover that my commanding sergeant from Vietnam (a man who saved my life), I would discover was now homeless on the streets of Los Angeles. My assistant Dan wrote a rough draft of the script, and the producers agreed to film the episode. My only requirement was that the only actor to be considered for the role of my sergeant had to be Meshach Taylor or no one. They agreed and Meshach turned in a performance of a lifetime. It was only weeks after shooting that episode that he was diagnosed with his disease,” shared Mantegna.

Joe Mantegna gave his brother Meshach Taylor a 67th birthday party at his home in Toluca Lake, CA on April 12, 2014. Photo by Lia Chang

Joe Mantegna gave his brother Meshach Taylor a 67th birthday party at his home in Toluca Lake, CA on April 12, 2014. Photo by Lia Chang

“For the next year he fought that disease with a vigor and strength that was remarkable, so much so that when my series then asked me to direct an episode that following season, I again hit them with the idea that I would do it if they agreed to let me bring back Meshach’s character, as we all knew that the chance to work again would be the best medicine anyone could offer him,” said Mantegna. Five months before Taylor died, Scott and Rossi crossed paths again during the season 9 episode, “The Road Home,” which aired in January, 2014, in which Rossi helped Scott reunite with his long-lost son. “In the throes of his chemotherapy, he once again turned in a performance of a lifetime. How blessed am I that I was able to watch his first performance as a professional actor in 1970, and then be able to direct and act beside him in his last. I loved him like a brother in every sense of the word, because one should love their brother unconditionally and completely,” said Mantegna. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vEH0zRtIQdI You can watch past episodes of “Criminal Minds,” “The Fallen” and “The Road Home,” featuring Meshach Taylor, on Netflix. Click here to read the complete article in an August 2014 report in EW.

Joe Mantegna, Richard Gilliland, Meshach Taylor and Jean Smart. Photo by Lia Chang

Joe Mantegna, Richard Gilliland, Meshach Taylor and Jean Smart. Photo by Lia Chang

Other Articles about Meshach Taylor:
Jan. 21: Joe Mantegna Helmed ‘Criminal Minds’ Season 10 Episode to Honor the late Meshach Taylor
Q & A with Danny Ramm, Co-writer of Joe Mantegna Helmed ‘Criminal Minds’ Season 10 Episode to Honor the late Meshach Taylor; Airs January 21, 2015
Joe Mantegna to Helm ‘Criminal Minds’ Season 10 Episode to Honor the late Meshach Taylor
Joe Mantegna, Delta Burke, Gerald McRaney, President Bill Clinton and More Remember Meshach Taylor
July 6: Memorial Service for ‘Designing Women’ Star Meshach Taylor at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills
‘Designing Women’ Star Meshach Taylor, Veteran of Stage, Screen and TV, Dies at 67
Reports of Designing Women star Meshach Taylor’s Death are Premature Photos: Meshach Taylor Celebrates 67th Birthday with Arlene and Joe Mantegna, Delta Burke, Gerald McRaney, Jean Smart, Dennis Franz, Ernie Hudson, John Heard, Keith Szarabajka, Stuart Gordon, Shadoe Stevens and More
goodmantheatre.com: Goodman Theatre Remembers Meshach Taylor (July 1, 2014)
Click here for more articles on Meshach.

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