December 27, 1962
Rockford, Illinois, United States
Jon Robin Baitz
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Compact with dark wavy hair and large expressive brown eyes, Joe Mantello established himself as a leading actor and director in NYC theater in the late 1980s. Born and raised in the Midwest, he received his training at the North Carolina School of the Arts. With his classmates writer Peter Hedges and actress Mary-Louise Parker, Mantello co-founded the now defunct Edge Theater in NYC. By 1989, the young actor had become associated with the famed Circle Repertory Company as both an actor (in productions like Paula Vogel's "The Baltimore Waltz") and director (with shows like "Imagining Brad"). He landed a bit role in Susan Seidelman's uneven comedy "Cookie" (1989), but found other acting roles lacking in both quality and number. After deciding to focus on a directing career, Mantello was offered a prominent role in Tony Kushner's acclaimed award-winning two-part drama "Angels in America". As Louis Ironson, a nervous, garrulous left-leaning clerical worker afraid of commitment yet coping with life and love in the age of AIDS, he demonstrated impressive range and likability. He received a Drama Desk Award and a Tony nomination for "Angels in America: Millennium Approaches". Despite a growing profile as a stage actor, Mantello landed relatively few other acting roles. Like many New York-based performers, he made the requisite guest appearance on "Law & Order" (NBC 1990-2010), as a public defender. His other small screen credits include a guest shot on "Sisters" (NBC, 1993) and a recurring role as an unscrupulous theatrical producer on "Central Park West" (CBS, 1995). Mantello's secondary career as a director accelerated with his sensitive staging of Jon Robin Baitz's two character drama "Three Hotels" in both NYC (1993) and L.A. (1995). He made his Broadway directing debut with Donald Margulies' black comedy "What's Wrong With This Picture?" (1994), which folded quickly. Only a month earlier, he had successfully helmed Terrence McNally's award-winning play about eight gay men spending summer weekends together, "Love! Valour! Compassion!" off-Broadway. When the production moved to the Great White Way, it received critical praise for its elegiac staging and earned Mantello a Best Director Tony nomination. He has continued to oversee theatrical productions including a 1995 revival of Craig Lucas' "Blue Window". When the feature adaptation of "Love! Valour! Compassion!" was to be made, Mantello was tapped to direct. A conflict with original cast member Nathan Lane caused a delay in filming. Jason Alexander was selected to replace him, joined by the other original cast members (including John Glover and Stephen Spinella). The finished product premiered at the 1997 Sundance Film Festival, but its middling reviews and lackluster box office did the film no favors. After returning to the stage for nearly two decades, Mantello co-starred in the television adaptation of Larry Kramer's searing "The Normal Heart" (HBO 2014) as Mickey Marcus, for which he was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie.