When you grow up in a creative family, you get to try your hand at a number of things to find out what works for you. Gia Mantegna grew up in the industry and has been acting since she was a kid, is a singer and in addition to her roles, can say that she has been able to spend quality time on set as a fellow actor with her dad, Joe Mantegna in the nail-biting series, Criminal Minds.
We sat down with Gia to talk about how she got into acting, what it's like to be on Criminal Minds, playing dramatic characters with a twist, her new show that is available now on CW Seed, what's going on with her music and some of her go to places in LA as well as when she's here in NYC.
ATHLEISURE MAG: When did the acting bug hit you?
GIA MANTEGNA: I started acting at a really young age in school. I think I was about 11 when I started theater and that’s kind of where I got the bug. I had obviously grown up in the business
because my dad is an actor.
AM: We’re huge fans of him!
GM: Yeah, yeah me too! Growing up around that environment and being in that industry it was just something that was second nature to me. And I was like, "when is it my turn?" Being the second born child and always wanting attention, I was known for having this personality and having a need to be heard. The only outlet for that was to sing and to perform - so that’s how it started. Then after doing theater, I started working in film and going to TV and auditioning. It hasn’t stopped yet – knock on wood.
AM: What are some of the roles that you have been in?
GM: My first big gig was a Christmas film called Unaccompanied Minors which was a film directed by Paul Feig. He did Bridesmaids, The Heat, Ghostbusters (Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy) etc. That was my introduction into really working in Hollywood. It was such a great experience working with Paul and the cast. That was a fun role for me and I have done a lot of
spots on TV.
I’m really drawn to the darker roles naturally. I am a positive person, but I love those really weird roles. I did a role on Perception where I played this girl who swallowed knives and it was a strange one, but I loved it. Now comedy is where things are going for me which I also love because it’s harder and comedic timing is hard to do. The dramatic roles come easier to me but
comedy is where I am falling into and where the world is going, it’s nice to laugh a little bit.
AM: How much has your father been an influence on your roles and how has it been also appearing on Criminal Minds with him?
GM: YES oh my gosh. I can’t watch Criminal Minds – I live alone with a cat!
AM: When we travel, it’s always on as a marathon and we get sucked in, but we have to have a buddy and the lights on to watch it!
GM: Oddly enough, I never worked with him on the show. When I first auditioned for the show, I was 17 there was a different actor playing my father and I never had any scenes with him. Then one day, the writers came to me with an idea where my character came back with Aubrey Plaza’s character as they wanted two strong female characters to come back to shake up the
team. Aubrey and I came out to do it and I didn’t have any good dialogue with my dad, but there was this scene where he pointed a gun at me which was really exciting as that is always fun to work with a family member holding a gun in your face. I mean when is that going to happen? Hopefully not. But it was great because I have worked on a number of shows, but Criminal Minds – that cast is such a tight-knit group, they’re a family. They get along and it’s
been running for so long which is a testament to how great it is to be able to step into that show for a few weeks. It was the greatest gig in the world and to be able to hang out with my dad for a bit. The character was fun too as she was psychotic!
AM: Tell us about CW Seed and how we can watch it?
GM: A lot of networks have digital platforms as I think that they are trying to compete with Netflix and things like that. CW Seed (shows you can catch: Riverdale, Original Dynasty) is CW’s answer to that. It’s their digital platform where they create new media and they also run shows that have already been out on the website. You can watch on their website or their app.
Our show, Life After First Failure has myself and Breanne (who plays my best friend on the show), we received the script and we loved that there were two strong female characters
shaking things up – we fell in love with it. We did 3 episodes in Portland and CW Seed ended up breaking it up into 6 episodes - to make it more palatable for the audience.
The way it seems to be going is that it’s all about quick easy content for quick gratification. At first, I was a little disappointed, but it’s the way that things are going now. I like longer episodes, but the younger generation is easily bored and when they’re bored, you lose your audience. But the character was so much fun to play and it was different and new. Honestly, it was one of my favorite people to play.
AM: Is there a second season coming out?
GM: In a perfect world, yes – the hope was that the network would see that there was a strong response to it – but they’re kind of new. So a lot of it has been left to us and social media has really helped in terms of campaigning for the show. We definitely want to come back to do more episodes – right now we’re not sure so we want people to watch and tweet to request more episodes.
AM: We know that you are also a singer can you tell us about how you started that and what your plans are?
GM: I was always singing at a young age. My parents threw me into everything soccer, piano, saxophone etc. Singing stuck with me – my sister and I took lessons at a very young age. Both of my parents have a musical background and it was just one of those things that I always kept in my back pocket, but I was too scared to use and then it got to a point that I really wanted to do a show so I got a producer and a band and we put it together with a show at The Whiskey in LA. It was so great, but there aren’t really any plans as I was starting to work on an album and then acting picked up, but it's always something I go back to. Right now, I record things and sell them to shows and just kind of do it as a hobby.
AM: What is the genre?
GM: It ended up being a rock show when I was at The Whiskey. But the song I’m most proud of, ‘I Won’t Wait’ it’s alternative/electronic. It has a cool vibe to it as I’m inspired by Banks and Tove Lo - just I love that electronic ease and fun. But when I get back into singing, I want to do a lot of oldies covers as I listen to a lot of 70s music. I love Top 40, but I’m inspired by that era. I have been listening to a lot of THEM (Van Morrison’s old band) lately and I thought it would be really fun to do a lot of covers of music that my parents grew up with as that's what I listened to growing up.
AM: What is your personal style when you're going out for brunch versus when you're having a night out?
GM: It doesn’t change – it’s always the same – I’m all black everything – it makes doing laundry very easy. I always dress for winter or fall – I wear Doc Martins all the time, I live in them. I love skinny jeans and a baggy sweatshirt on top. I love jewelry which allows me to go a little crazy and I love makeup! My sister and I went to makeup school just for fun and my sister was really into it – she has autism and is really high functioning, but my parents didn’t want her to go alone so I went as her pal and I ended up loving it. I love playing with makeup looks and it taught me what I could do with makeup – so it’s all about the accessories.
AM: How do you take time for yourself in the midst of your busy schedule?
GM: It’s interesting as an actor, you’re your own boss and there is going to be downtime so you’re always trying to stay proactive. I do piano as much as I can to stay with my music.
I do meditate - big meditator. I tried running for 5 mins. - it was horrible, but I really love yoga. There is a huge yoga culture in LA - which I know is everywhere as well. But I have been doing
yoga for so long that I just do it on my own and I just do it in my trailer. Now that I have this amazing cat in my life, I love meditating and doing yoga at home. I don’t do any high impact – I
don’t. I can’t do it because I have this really weird jaw issue which is a severe form of TMJ where I have to get injections in my masseter muscles. So when I do anything high impact the stress goes to my neck and my face and then I have to go to the Chiropractor and it becomes this whole thing. Everything is low impact and easy – I walk a lot and although LA is not a walking town, I live in West Hollywood so I can do that.
AM: What charity/philanthropy do you do?
GM: Because my sister has autism, I have always been involved in that as it has been a big part of my life and to give back to the community. My family and I do not support Autism Speaks as they have paid celebrities to do endorsements which makes sense, but many don't know what they're talking about and funds have gone to the CEOs and very little of the money is going to autism research. More grassroots organizations is where we go and my dad does a lot of work with veterans so anything that involves them and the military, I am all about it. Autism is big for me and there isn’t one that I champion specifically.
AM: What's on your playlist?
GM: I’ve been listening to a lot of THEM, Van Morrison, Bob Dylan – I went to a concert of his last year and it was so great. I just really love him. Let me grab my phone out. I love Tove Lo and Banks of course. A lot of oldies - OH - Roy Orbison - he's the best for the holidays - I really love his stuff and I have been getting obsessed with Chris Isaak again. OH Tom Jones is my
go to when I'm getting ready, I go to Spotify, put in Tom Jones and listen to everything. It gets crazy and my dad makes fun of me and asks, “why do you listen to my music?” I love it and everything coming out lately now – it’s cool to vibe out to in the background, but I don’t connect with it and it’s not inspirational to me.
AM: When you're in LA, what's 1 place you work out, 1 place you eat at 1 place you shop? What version do you have for that here in NYC?
GM: The answer to most of those questions is home, home, home haha. In NY, I go to McSorley’s Old Ale House - I was just there last night with my mom and my sister. So only in NY
would this take place, we met these two guys where one had just broken up with his wife and one with his girlfriend and they wanted to recreate this picture that they had taken when they were with them at the same bar a few years prior! One ex was blonde and one was brunette and we re-created the picture.
In LA, people are very "don’t talk to me," but in NY it’s so different and they were from Orange County. It was hysterical and the picture was identical and I even arranged everything on the table the same way. McSorley's is my go to.
In LA, I go anywhere although there is this cool Australian bar called The Eveleigh. Serafina just opened in LA so I love that – they’re on Sunset. I work out at home in LA so I just go outside as there is so much hiking you can do and I want to try boxing. For shopping, I am all about ASOS – they have great stuff, affordable and they always have black options. In NY it’s anywhere.
I’m obsessed with shoes, so any shoe store. I love Opening Ceremony and I love Soho in general. Evolution is here and I love them, we have something similar in LA called Necromance, but I haven’t bought anything. Where am I going to put taxidermy squirrels?
My God mom has a store in Toluca Lake near my parents house called Pergolina and she has these beautiful taxidermy animals which she gets from Necromance. Her store is where I get my jewelry and I wear these bracelets all the time. But I’m not a big shopper – I’m an eater – I love to eat. My mom has a restaurant in Burbank called Taste Chicago.
AM: Wait we have heard of Taste Chicago!
GM: I know a lot of people think that it’s my dad’s, but it’s my moms!
AM: Which one is from Chicago?
GM: Both – my whole family is from Chicago and here. We’re here because one of my family members just bought a house in New Jersey. We’re the only ones in LA. We needed to bring Chicago to LA.
AM: So what are we ordering at Taste Chicago?
GM: Chicago dogs, Sicilian Pan Pizza, Deep Dish, Italian Beef, everything – it’s hard core. You don’t go there to get a salad, you go there to work! But I actually prefer NY style pizza haha but I go there for the Italian Beef.