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Joe Mantegna Explains His Emotional Connection To As We See It - Exclusive

Joe Mantegna has had a long, storied, and successful career that spans nearly 50 years and 150 credits. From "The Money Pit" and "Three Amigos" to "The Simpsons" and "Criminal Minds," the veteran actor has seemingly tackled every role imaginable. However, his latest project, the Prime Video series "As We See It," hits closer to home than anything he has ever done.

The show, which is now streaming, follows three young adults on the autism spectrum as they maneuver through life and try to fit into society. Mantegna plays the ailing father of one of the characters, Jack (Rick Glassman), who struggles with holding a job and maintaining friendships.

It's a role that has quickly stolen Mantegna's heart, as he has been very open about having an adult daughter who's on the autism spectrum. In fact, he spoke exclusively with Looper about the deep emotional connection he feels to "As We See It." Here's what he had to say.

Joe Mantegna experienced 'real emotions' on the set of As We See It

Mantegna admits that his personal experience with having a daughter on the autism spectrum may have made him appreciate the sharp, poignant, and even funny storyline in "As We See It" a little bit more than previous roles he's had in his career.

"This was a unique situation in that there were instances where I can relate in many, many ways," says Mantegna. "Usually, when I go to work ... I'm going from my world of reality to this pretend world that I do for a living. But this is an instance where there's a little more of the reality mixed in with that pretend. Obviously, it's scripted, fictional characters and all that, but it's based on reality, and it's somewhat based on a reality that I live ... I don't think I could have avoided tapping into some real emotions at times."

He continues, "Look, I've spent 50 years playing pretend. I'm not a real FBI agent. I'm not a real disc jockey. I'm not a real kidnapper of babies in 'Baby's Day Out.' I'm not a real mafia don. I'm not a lot of the things I've portrayed in my career, but playing the father of a child with autism, I am. There was that extra layer of, 'Oh wow, there's a lot about this I can really understand and relate to and know.'"

Some of the cast and crew were on the autism spectrum

Beyond the storyline, Mantegna liked the behind-the-scenes commitment to understanding and even helping those with autism. In fact, the three young actors who portray the main characters are on the spectrum themselves, but the undertaking went even further than that.

"I loved the fact that we were able to have some people on the crew that were on the spectrum, and I was able to, in fact, get sons of a couple friends of mine considered for crew jobs, which they were able to fulfill," says Mantegna. "We had our dear person Elaine Hall from The Miracle Project that was always there on set, so that's what I really enjoyed about it. It wasn't just some make-believe TV show. It was the whole package. It encompassed the whole ball of wax. It was steeped in that kind of reality."

As for what Mantegna hopes viewers get out of watching "As We See It," well, that's personal to him too.

"When my daughter was diagnosed 30-plus years ago, it was a one in 1,500 kind of thing," he says. "It's much, much more prevalent now, and all these children have grown up and continually grow up to be adults. Now what? They're not going to go away. The world's not going to change. Everybody has to adapt, and I think this is a great portrayal of what that experience is like.'"

All eight episodes of "As We See It" are now available to stream on Prime Video.