The first thing Mantegna highlighted is the makeup of the Criminal Minds fandom itself. According to the actor, the percentage of the show’s followers that are women surprised him.
“I was always amazed by how big our fan base was in terms of women,” he said. “Females make up a big part of our fan base, and a lot of the fan mail and the interest. More than once, I’ve had people contact me because their daughters wanted to go into this line of work, and in a couple instances, I know definitely two, I spoke to them when they were kids out of high school, and today they’re FBI agents.”
For Mantegna, this flies in the face of the idea that female viewers might be turned off by Criminal Minds‘ sometimes graphic nature. He shared, “A lot of people would think it’s so graphic, and it’s so this and so that, and I’ve always defended that aspect of the show. I know others have felt like, ‘You’re going too far, it’s too creepy.’ And my attitude is, no we really can’t go too far, because the real people go that far and beyond. For us to cut corners, and for us to sugarcoat it, is a disservice to what these men and women really do.”
So, it’s established that women aren’t turned off by Criminal Minds‘ darker themes, but what is it that draws them in? Mantegna believes the answer lies in the series’ focus on the psychology of its unsubs.
“What made our show somewhat different than a lot of procedurals — it was more about the psyche of these people,” he asserted. “And I think women, for the most part and understandably so, find that very interesting and fascinating. Because it’s something they want to be on top of, be aware of. These are people out there in the world, and what can I do to educate and protect myself.”