2011 was a bittersweet year for CSI: Crime Scene Investigation‘s George Eads. During the summer hiatus, Eads happily wed his girlfriend Monika Casey after spending more than five years together. Shortly after the passing of Maverick, his dog and best friend of many years, Eads received news that his father’s health was rapidly declining, ultimately ending in the unfortunate passing this last November. With all of the pressing personal matters in his life, the Nick Stokes actor asked producers of the show that made him a household name to write a “light” start of the season for him so he could travel back and forth from California and Texas to spend some time with his father Arthur Coleman Eads. Now back on the show full-time, the actor is “eternally grateful” to his bosses at CSI for allowing him to be away from the forensic series and promises to be the “best Nick Stokes imaginable.” In his first interview since last year, Eads talks with CSI Files’ Shane Saunders about the loss of another CSI star, how long he imagines being on the CBS series, a potential love interest, and much more. Spoilers after the jump!
CSI Files: You’re one of the few cast members left that’s been with the show since Day One. How hard is it to see all of your closest friends and colleagues of twelve years leave?
George Eads: [Chuckles.] Woooo! It’s been difficult. You continue to learn with every passing year in this business and you have to roll with the punches. In the end I’ve just learned–and I’m learning–that sometimes change is good and things happen for a reason. They’re so missed by me. I learned so much from Billy Petersen [Gil Grissom] as a man and as an actor. Gary Dourdan [Warrick Brown]… I just love Gary Dourdan, he’s sorely missed. He’s unlike any other man in this business. I love the guy. But having said all that, I have to try and improve as an actor and welcome these new people and move forward. It’s been difficult.
CSI Files: With Marg Helgenberger (Catherine Willows) being the latest cast member to leave, are you starting to contemplate whether you want to start pursuing other projects as well?
Eads: Yeah, I contemplated that for a while, but for me in the end I want to nurture what’s right in front of me and who’s to say I can’t have some brilliant moments here on CSI? If I continue to link these scenes together and make them seamless and really make them smooth and great, then that can only bode well for me when CSI is cancelled. I think if somebody says, “What is the most recent work of the guy?” hopefully they’ll be able to show them last year’s CSI and it’ll get me more work. I think having the reputation of being loyal and a hard worker and a good fun guy working on a set for twelve hours a day, I think there’s something to be said for riding this out until the end.
CSI Files: When the show does end what kind of projects do you want to go after?
Eads: I’m just going to let my work speak for itself and hopefully take meetings with people who get together as a group of producers and see me in a different light or want to see me as something that I haven’t been [on CSI]. Would I like to do films? Of course. Would I possibly like to direct one day? Maybe some TV, I really know what I’m doing so of course I’d like to do that. There’s a big difference in saying, “Oh I can do this!” and sound like a bragger. That’s just not me. It’s not up to me, it’s up to the people who do the hiring and firing. I just try to be a good guy in front of the camera and in life so hopefully that will do me well. I’m just glad I’m on CSI, I love it just as much now as the first day I started.
CSI Files: Speaking of Marg leaving, what were your final days on set together like? The previews show Nick and Sara (Jorja Fox) tearing up.
Eads: That was very emotional. Marg has been a huge influence on me as an actor and as a man, too. Again it’s the same song, different verse about what a great person she is. I went to her trailer personally one on one with nobody around and we had a heartfelt, really heartfelt feelings of gratitude and that we’ll both miss one another. So what you see on camera is not acting at all. It was acting for me to try not to blubber up. [Laughs.] I did all I could to not fall on the floor like a kid in a grocery store and just have a temper tantrum, I didn’t want her to leave. She’s a beautiful person.
CSI Files: So would you say it was art imitating life?
Eads: I think for maybe a few characters it was. I think when I saw her goodbye speech–well, maybe I think it was something she said to us as a group after the cameras were off–and she said something about how Laurence [Fishburne, Ray Langston] did and how we’ve seen people born and we’ve seen people die, and we were all looking at each other because we’ve all been through it personally as a company; man it was a cool moment. It was really cool.
But I think when you see that monologue and see the emotions she has, that you know when somebody is putting on and she’s definitely authentic in that moment.
CSI Files: Well I called Costco and they’re delivering a large quanity of Kleenex to me.
Eads: Well, I did cry.
CSI Files: Let’s talk a bit about the next couple of episodes. How does Nick factor into Catherine’s departure?
Eads: I think they kind of have him take the reigns and be in command for a while with Catherine and Russell [Ted Danson] in the predicament they’re in. He’s kind of the catalyst to make sure stuff gets rolling. So we see him a bit in that leadership role, which I really personally enjoy because I feel like I’ve earned it. I’ve been here a long time… I was promoted to a CSI Level Three in the “Pilot”; Grissom said I was his best student. I think in other labs he could be the supervisor, you know what I mean?
And then there’s a couple of storylines in the following episodes when she leaves where I get to be in the episode a lot and sort of driving these scenes and I dig that. There’s a lot where I’m working with Elisabeth Harnois [Morgan Brody]. I pull a guy out of a burning car tonight, save his life… I’m running over to the car peeling things off and trying to save his life. That’s the kind of stuff I really enjoy. The guy I’m saving is Jesse McCartney, so there’s a spoiler. He’s in peril when I save him.
CSI Files: I’ve noticed you work with a lot of musicians on the show.
Eads: [Laughs.] Yeah, it just so happens. I always go “Wow.” And for me, with no disrespect, I like getting to go, “Wow, I got to work with that kid.” When I watch them perform, I get to go “Wow, they’re really talented, special, and one of a kind kid.” Again, with no disrespect to stunt casting, there’s a big community here in LA that need jobs. I kind of like getting to watch people you’ve never seen before on TV shows. We’re only as good as our guest stars.
CSI Files: To clear something up, viewers aren’t quite sure whether Nick was demoted along with Catherine. Are you aware of his senority status or are you in the dark as well?
Eads: That I don’t know. Those are specific details that I think the fan community sort of talk about and discuss. There hasn’t been a discussion and it hasn’t been brought up. I don’t think there’s any level of difference between anybody other than Ted as the boss.
I really felt like I maybe had a chance to be put in Billy’s shoes and cast around that. But that’s just something that never has been the formula for the show and I kinda needed to accept that a patriarchal type character is what drives the show. That’s a discussion for the people that created the show, not me.
CSI Files: There was a bit of tension at the beginning of the season between Nick and Catherine due to the Nate Haskell (Bill Irwin) fallout and Nick going rogue somewhat with Langston. Looking back, what do you think Nick should have done differently?
Eads: Well again, real quick, those scenes aren’t written to be hot. Marg and I chose to make it a bit of a tit for tat argument with some level of volume. It turned into something fun for us because we never get to fight on the show. I love to have more arguments on the show, even more shouting matches. Nick and Sara got into it in the hoarder episode and we had a really good time. But looking back, Nick could only do what was written for him to do. I really wanted to be involved in saving Langston’s life. I told them, “Hey, I want to be involved with this. I maybe even want to save his ass.” It ended up coming out differently. But the only thing that I would have done differently is write a cooler scene and make him more involved. [Laughs.]
CSI Files: Now you’re working with Elisabeth Shue (Julie Finlay) on Episode Fourteen. You two share scenes in the episode, correct?
Eads: No, we don’t have any scenes together in this episode. I don’t think. But I did meet her yesterday and she’s great.
CSI Files: And what’s it like working with Elisabeth Harnois and Ted?
Eads: Because of the situation with my father and me being so light [on the show] this year, I think I’ve been light with her. I think you’ve seen Eric [Szmanda, Greg Sanders] be really heavy this year to help me out and help himself out, he’s a great actor. My time’s been limited with Ted just because of my personal situation, which is over, but you continue to evolve your relationships on camera with every scene that you do. I think every time… I don’t want to say it gets better, but it gets more authentic every time I get together with the two of them. One thing I can take from Quentin Tarantino is make it real. It’s a collaborative thing on our set; they allow us to add and take away dialogue. Yesterday I had a discussion in my trailer with the producers about a small point of contingency that I had in a scene with Jesse. We ended up clearing it up and it was great.
CSI Files: With there being several cast additions this year, does it feel like CSI: 2.0 to you or does it still feel like the CSI you’ve been with for more than a decade?
Eads: A little bit of both. I’ve always felt a certain way about the show from the start… I’ve always felt like it was mine. And it’s not; it’s theirs too. We all had an equal stake in it almost like being partners in a company. I know I still certainly feel the same way about CSI like I did from Day One. But does it seem weird to look across at Ted instead of Billy or Elisabeth instead of Gary? Of course. Do I miss those guys? Of course. Do I think it’s better or worse? That’s relative. That’s relative for the audience to decide. I still feel passionate about it.
CSI Files: And for being on a show for more than a decade Nick can’t get some proper loving! We hear there’s a potential love interest coming up, are you excited for Nick to start getting more personal?
Eads: You know we keep teasing that and every time it’s absolutely nothing. I think it’s fun to flirt on camera and to have a little chemistry with somebody but even with this episode right now, the nurse that’s involved with saving this victim we kind of bat eyes at each other and we say, “If you’re ever free for dinner…” but then it never goes anywhere. I can tell you and I can probably tell the producers right now through you, if he’s going to fall for anybody it’s going to be Elisabeth Shue. It’s going to be a character like Marg Helgenberger or Elisabeth Shue. I already told Elisabeth, “I admire your work” and she goes, “Thank you. That’s great, we’ll play that.” I told her I’m already in love with you and she turns around, laughs, and says “Great!” [Laughs.] I think they keep putting people in front of me but the whole time the girl is right there. I think Nick’s going to fall for somebody he has respect for and works with. I don’t know; it’s not a soap, it’s not a show about people making out. I applaud those shows that do it well, but I don’t know if this is the one. But do I want Nick to have a partner? Absolutely. [Laughs.] Line them up, please. I’m ready to interview! [Laughs.] I don’t know how my wife would feel about it… [Laughs.]
Carol [Mendelsohn, Executive Producer] picked Naz [Boniadi] I guess through the audition process. It’s so light and it’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it, but it’s a reminder that Nick is available and he needs loving. I don’t mind putting that out there, again, I lean towards it being Elisabeth Shue. We had an immediate connection yesterday. I think she’s awesome.
CSI Files: Over the summer there was a comment saying Billy Petersen contacted you and shared he would be making a return. What changed?
Eads: Billy, in his personal life, was having twins. He was having twins and I think there were some complications, so he needed to be there with his wife and his family. That’s my understanding. He had a lot going on.
CSI Files: Do you still keep in touch with him?
Eads: It’s a phone call away. We’re pals. I think Jorja may talk to him more. He’s open to any phone calls from us. He will always be the king and the patriarch in my mind. I think he’s an amazing actor and an amazing guy.
CSI Files: For years you’ve gone on the record saying you’d like to direct an episode, but it seems the timing and scheduling hasn’t quite worked out. Have you ruled out directing an episode or is the idea still on the table?
Eads: Well, no. The pathway to do that though is, as much as I know about the process, I would really need to take steps to on my offtime here stay on set and shadow a director for at least two or three episodes. I would also need to spend hours in the editing bay watching them edit; that’s long days and long nights and when you’re acting at the same time, I don’t know if I want to spread myself that thin. I feel like if I went lighter on the show and had a couple episodes off I would be able to shadow. I’ve gotten encouragement from all the directors and producers here that I should do it and even the actors, which really shocked me. I’d hate to do it and let everyone down. I care about everybody too much to screw them over. I feel like there’s a part of me to direct.
CSI Files: You’re not on Twitter, correct?
Eads: No, but I thought about getting on there.
CSI Files: Let’s do it, c’mon!
Eads: Well, is it just me or does it seem like once you open that door providing access, you’re asking for some trouble? Is it weird to think like that? Council me on that.
CSI Files: I think a lot of people have gone through that mindset, but they’ve also seen how great of a tool it can be.
Eads: Yeah! I think it can be too if it’s used properly. [Laughs.] You better use it right or you’re gonna hurt yourself.
CSI Files: I know Jorja isn’t on there, but Liz Vassey (Wendy Simms) and several others from the cast are.
Eads: And Elisabeth Harnois, right? I’m sure Eric Szmanda is too. I’m going to think about it, I really might. It’s simple to do, right? But you know what I’m afraid, Shane? I’m a sensitive guy. [Laughs.] I’m afraid man that some of the harsh critics will spin me off and put me in a funky mood that I didn’t ask for. You know what? I’m thinking about it, man. When I go out to a meeting or something and someone has never met me before, if they IMDB’d me or went online, there’s just weird stuff posted about me: what possessions I have, my sexuality, and all this weird stuff. I’d like to just be able to clear up the smut. There’s stuff like me owning two Cadillacs and I live in Santa Monica–all this weird stuff that’s not true. I’m going to think about doing Twitter, I’m serious. I just think you can’t drink two bottles of Sake and get on there. [Laughs.]
CSI Files: But there are some celebrities who do that!
Eads: [Laughs.] I like my Sake, Shane.
CSI Files: 2012 will definitely be a new era for CSI. You have Jesse McCartney working with you on the current episode and the long talked about “love interest.” What else is coming up for Nick and the show in general?
Eads: I’d love to give an elaborate, cool answer on that. I just don’t know. I don’t know how the producers see me and what’s in store with me. I’d like to continue a bit and have an action level, like I said. I chased a guy from a convenience store one time, I had a shootout, I pulled a guy from a burning car; I like that kind of stuff. I would love to see over the course of the next four years, maybe in the final episode of CSI–which is hopefully ten years from now–Ted looking down and say, “I’m leaving, you’re the supervisor.”That’d be the end of the CSI series, I finally make the supervisor in the final scene of the last sixteen years. [Laughs.] I want Nick to be there and be able to tell people what to do, I think he’s earned the right to lead.
We’ve scratched the service on what potential my character has and what his abilities are. He’s a good leader, he’s fearless, he’s compassionate, and he’s old school when it comes to this whole fighting for justice. He’s a dedicated employee, I like playing him.
Shane Saunders is a freelance writer and reviewer. His work can be seen on EDGE Network and ShaneSSaunders.com. Twitter: @ShaneSSaunders.