During his career Joe has portrayed several real people, such as George Raft in Bugsy, Fidel Castro in My Little Assassin, and most notably, as Dean Martin in The Rat Pack. His role as Josh Waitzkin’s father in Searching for Bobby Fischer was based on Fred Waitzkin, who wrote the book upon which the film was based. Joe’s TV-movie debut was as Joe Esposito, Elvis’ road manager and close friend in the 1979 miniseries Elvis starring Kurt Russell.
In 2000, Joe completed production on his feature film directorial debut, Lakeboat, written for the screen by David Mamet from his original play. Starring Charles Durning, Peter Falk, Robert Forster, Andy Garcia, Denis Leary and George Wendt. The film opened the L.A. Film Festival to critical acclaim last fall and made its theatrical release in June 2001.
Joe spent the summer of 2000 in Spain and France filming the feature Off Key with Danny Aiello and George Hamilton. The comedy is about a trio of famed opera singers who unwittingly find themselves reunited at a wedding ten years after their tempestuous breakup. Joe headlined a series of original films for the A&E Network, based on Robert Parker's popular Spenser detective novels. The first, Small Vices, premiered in summer of 1999 with the second, Thin Air, following in fall 2000. His last entry to the Spenser series, Walking Shadow, continues to play on A&E. Due to budget cuts A&E has no future plans for more in this series.
Spring of 2001 found Joe in Venice, Italy for several weeks filming the feature, LAGOON. 2001 was a busy year for Joe. He finished production on the SHOWTIME film, Men Vs. Women! that co-starred Paul Reiser, Christine Lahti and Glenn Headly, directed by Chazz Palmenteri.
He also starred as Justice Joseph Novelli in the CBS series First Monday.The series co-starred James Garner and Charles Durning.
Summer 2002 found Joe and his daughter Gina in his home town of Chicago, filming the wonderful slice of life film, Uncle Nino with Anne Archer. Released in 2003, this gem played at selected theaters, including a record breaking run of 43 weeks in Grand Rapids Michigan.
In 2002, Joe starred in the Italian film Pontormo, playing the role of Jacopo Pontormo, an Italian Renaissance painter (b. 1494, d. 1557, Firenze). Joe also co-starred in Stateside, a drama based on a true story starring Johnathan Tucker and co-starring Val Kilmer, Carrie Fisher, Penny Marshall and Diane Venora.
Joe starred as police chief Will Girardi in the popular and critically acclaimed CBS series, Joan of Arcadia. Joan received several Emmy and Golden Globe nominations during its two season run from 2003-2005.
In 2005 Joe co-starred in Nine Lives, a film by Rodrigo Garcia that made both Ebert’s and Roeper’s Top 10 List for that year. Captives of the very relationships that define and sustain them, nine women resiliently meet the travails and disappointments of life. Accepted at Sundance, the film also stars Glenn Close, Amy Brenneman, Holly Hunter, Dakota Fanning, Sissy Spacek and Kathy Baker.
In 2006 Joe was involved in several independent film projects including Elvis and Annabelle, West of Brooklyn and Lonely Street. He also costarred with Debora Messing in The Starter Wife by Gigi Levangie Grazer for the USA network. For this, Joe was nominated for an Emmy in the category of Best Supporting Actor. Since 2007 Joe has been back on CBS as the star of Criminal Minds. On April the 29th 2011 Joe received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, next to his boyhood hero Errol Flynn. Looking ahead, Joe 's company has it's eyes set on producing. With several projects in the works including, Memories are Made of This, Tis it the Season, a web-series called Quick Bites and an original family feature called, The King and Me Joe is a busy guy. 2011 Joe lent his voice to the character of GREM in DisneyPixar's CARS2. In 2012 Joe completed the feature films The Bronx Bull, Ten Cent Pistol and Compulsion. He also is co-producing a documentary on the late Science Fiction Icon Ray Bradbury that’s due out in 2013.
He currently stars as David Rossi in Criminal Minds as well as hosting and producing duties on “Gun Stories” for the Outdoor Channel.