Rossi is saying goodbye to one of his own on Criminal Minds.
On Wednesday's episode, just as Rossi (Joe Mantegna) is about to unplug for a vacation with his daughter Joy (Amber Stevens), Garcia (Kirsten Vangness) comes barging in with an emergency call: His former Marine sergeant Harrison Scott (Meshach Taylor) has died. "Bone cancer," Rossi says in the exclusive sneak peek above. "He never said a word."
The episode, which was directed by Mantegna, will pay tribute to Taylor — a long-time friend of the actor's — and had been in the works since Taylor died in June of colon cancer. Taylor, in fact, first received the diagnosis after undergoing an appendectomy following his first Criminal Minds episode in 2012, which came about after Mantegna's assistant Danny Ramm suggested a homeless veteran story line.
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"I thought to myself, the best kind of medicine would be to get him working again and do a follow-up to that episode and so I pitched this idea to our writers, which led to the second episode he did," Mantegna tells TVGuide.com. "He was undergoing chemo when he shot that episode. When he passed away — I always go in at the beginning of the season to pitch my ideas and this time I had two: Rossi has a long-lost daughter, which we realized, and the other was, can we finish this story, put a coda on this whole thing with Meshach's character? And they did. Being able to direct it, like I did with the second one, it allows me to pay tribute to my oldest and dearest friend."
Mantegna and Taylor met in 1969 on a production of Hair, which was both their and Mantegna's wife's first acting jobs. "I'm the godfather of his children. He's the godfather of mine," Mantegna says of their enduring friendship. "We did our first professional acting jobs together and his last acting job was on Criminal Minds, which I directed. I was able to bookend his career."
Though helming Wednesday's episode was understandably difficult, Mantegna says it was also a positive experience. "I was given an opportunity and ability to pay homage to his wonderful, talented man and wonderful human being," he says. What makes it even more special is the fact that Rossi's daughter Joy is played by Stevens, the daughter of Shadoe Stevens — Taylor's Dave's World co-star. "I had no idea when we cast her. I didn't even know [Stevens] had kids. It was totally by coincidence," Mantegna says. "It was almost like Meshach had a hand in this. ... I just feel very blessed to be able to do this for him."
Criminal Minds airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on CBS.
(Full disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by CBS.)