Meeting with Fat Tony

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posted on June 2, 2011
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All things, apparently, are a matter of perspective. When I told my teenage son that I was going to interview Emmy-nominated and Tony-award-winning actor, producer and writer Joe Mantegna, the first words out of his mount were, “Hey, isn’t he Fat Tony on the ‘Simpsons’?”

Yes, indeed he is, but Joe Mantegna is also one of Hollywood’s hardest working actors with stage work, film credits and television roles stretching back to the 1960s—including “The Godfather Part III“—and he has a voice role in the soon-to-be released “Cars 2”. But Mantegna is also a gun guy, a shooter who enjoys sporting clays and used to actively compete in IPSC. He was a friend of past NRA President Charlton Heston and even chaired the celebrity shoot named in Mr. Heston’s honor.

Mantegna was here at NRA Headquarters in the National Firearms Museum filming a new show for the Outdoor Channel he is hosting in the fall—“Gun Stories.” Between takes, I was fortunate enough to interview the actor, who plays David Rossi on CBS’s “Criminal Minds,” and talk with him about his shooting experience, the kinds of guns he likes, and what it’s like being one of the most famous celebrity shooters in the country. It turns out that Mantegna is extremely personable, genteel and has a genuine passion for firearm, history and freedom. And he is old school in his tastes, preferring Beretta over-unders and M1911 pistols. As I stopped by the set, Mantegna was holding theColt Model 1911, serial No. 4. And, yes, look for an interview in the pages of American Rifleman in the coming months.

The brainchild of Michael Bayne and Tim Cremin, “Gun Stories” is poised to have the highest production quality in outdoor television. The crew spent a week at Gunsite with high speed Phantom HD cameras filming the first season’s firearms from a number of different angles. The Phantom HD, by the way, is the type of camera used on History Channel’s “Top Shot” and was also used in “The Hurt Locker.” Such cameras can capture up to 1,000 frames per second.

“Gun Stories” has pulled together many of the top firearms historians, writers and trainers together to spend a half-hour each week on a particular firearm. Some of the “talking heads” appearing on the show are familiar faces from “American Rifleman Television,” including National Firearms Museum Director Jim Supica and Senior Curator Philip Schreier, oh, and yours truly.

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