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Aisha Tyler Has A Soft Spot For Criminal Minds: Evolution Co-Star Joe Mantegna – Exclusive

When "Criminal Minds" returned to TV via Paramount+ on Thanksgiving Day, the cast of the FBI-based procedural crime drama had a lot to be thankful for.

"It's been a dream," Aisha Tyler, who plays Dr. Tara Lewis, told Looper during an exclusive interview. "We didn't feel like we were done telling these stories at the end of Season 15 [which aired on CBS in 2020]. Then, magically, we were talking about making another season by the end of that year, and then everything stopped for everybody all across the planet [because of the COVID-19 pandemic]. So the fact that we're here now and making the show again has been really transformational. We're all thrilled to be back."

Starring alongside Tyler is veteran actor Joe Mantegna, who plays Supervisory Special Agent David Rossi, and fellow originals Kirsten Vangsness and Paget Brewster, among others. Together, they make up the Behavioral Analysis Unit of the FBI that is working on tracking down a sophisticated serial killer syndicate that's terrorizing the country in "Criminal Minds: Evolution," which airs Thursdays on Paramount+.

While the "Criminal Minds" cast is notoriously close, of all the returning co-stars, Tyler has a soft spot for Mantegna, which she explained during her recent interview with Looper.

Mantegna took Tyler under his wing from her very first day

Tyler joined the original "Criminal Minds" series during Season 11, replacing Jennifer Love Hewitt and A.J. Cook when both their characters were out on maternity leave. When reflecting on that time, one actor stands out to Tyler as making her feel right at home on the set: Mantegna.

"Joe's the best," she says. "I was very welcomed by everybody [to the show], but he was the person on set who made me feel right at home on my very first day on set. He was very welcoming. We all call him 'Papa Joe.'"

Beyond that, Tyler really seems to look up to Mantegna, as does the rest of the "Criminal Minds" cast. "He's the Don Corleone," she says. "He's our Papa Joe. He's so experienced, so talented. He's the venerated member of our team. We look at him as the captain. He's also so funny. We joke around so much on set. A lot of these jokes are not safe for work, so I can't repeat them. [Laughs.] It's a real family, and he's our captain."

"Criminal Minds: Evolution" airs Thursdays on Paramount+.