It’s hard to imagine CSI: Crime Scene Investigation without George Eads, but that’s exactly the question viewers were left with after the recent Season Twelve finale: is Nick Stokes really leaving the lab? Fortunately for viewers, the original cast member is back for Season Thirteen after a summer hiatus spent working on a new film project. Shane Saunders caught up with the humble and down-to-earth CSI star in Malibu, California to discuss his latest gig, upcoming endeavors, and his wishes for the upcoming TV season.
CSI Files: You’ve been working on a film, Gutshot Straight, which is your first film in a few years and also the first that you’re executive producing. What can you tease about your role?
George Eads: Oooooh, tease! He’s an alcoholic gambling addict who has given up on himself. A hustler whose speciality is reading people, kind of the nuances he’s able to put people in a box rather quickly. The mob is after him and he could lose his wife, child and life. It’s full of bad people [laughs] and he kind of falls in with them. I really kind of took a piece from a lot of different movies that I enjoy, like Jack Nicholson in Chinatown and Bruce Willis in Pulp Fiction. Hopefully I redeem myself in the film; we still have a couple of days left on it here in L.A., but it’s going to be gooood.
CSI Files: How refreshing of a change was it to be participating in a film project during the hiatus?
Eads: It was pretty amazing, really. I kind of feel like I was able to have more liberties with the dialogue and to have more of a hand when it comes to casting, re-writing the script, sitting in on auditions and just being a bigger part of the brain, instead of just the hands and feet; I realized I was good at it.
CSI Files: Was it challenging adapting to new tasks as an executive producer?
Eads: Well, when you do an independent feature, you gotta have a lot of patience. Since there’s a limited budget sometimes you’re changing in your own car, having makeup done in your own car, dealing with a lot of people in production that aren’t that experienced when it comes to timeliness, locking down locations and security. Any feelings you have of being pampered on the set of a TV show are realized when you come to an independent feature. I wanted to get a couple actors who are heroes of mine and that cost money, so thank goodness for all the hardworking years on CSI that I was in a financial position to hire some of my acting heroes in those pivotal roles for the film.
CSI Files: Do you foresee yourself producing more of these independent films, or do you want to go back to directing your attention to TV?
Eads: I think I could do both; work on a TV show and develop projects. As a matter of fact I’m taking a meeting next week with my agency to talk about deals we want to start developing. It’s nice having more of a hand in it than just the acting.
CSI Files: William Petersen (Gil Grissom) retains a producing credit on CSI, have you considered talking to CBS about doing the same?
Eads: It’s my understanding that that’s easier said than done. I think an actor being an executive producer, especially in the TV world, can sometimes cause problems for the producers of a TV show. I kind of get the feeling in the TV industry that they want actors to be actors, but if I was going to do another television project, it would be as an executive producer/actor. I feel like I work well with others, but I also think I’ve done this a long time and I’m just ready to have liberties with a script.
I’m starting a production company and I’m thinking about calling it Beat Goliath Productions. I’ve checked into it and the name hasn’t been used yet, so whoever is out there reading this don’t steal my name. [Laughs.] We’ll see what happens. I have a positive vision for the future and I’ll maintain that.
CSI Files: Last year was definitely a season of changes on CSI. What do you think were some of the highs and lows for Nick during Season Twelve?
Eads: I can really only talk about the highlights for me personally. I love Ted Danson [DB Russell], he is an awesome person and I enjoy working with him; he’s a consummate professional and really good actor. I’ll always have a crush on Elisabeth Shue [Julie Finlay]; it’s very G-rated since we’re both married, but still a crush nonetheless. I’ve suggested and I’ll suggest to you again that if Nick’s going to hookup with anybody make it Elisabeth Shue.
I just feel like Nick was a protégé of Grissom’s and I think Nick should have run the office when Grissom left, that would have been a highlight for Nick; a natural progression of things. I really liked the Nick-heavy episodes this season where they gave me something to do where I’m kind of running things. The lows would be when I’m not; when I’m in the background or rarely seen. I feel like the fans want to see Nick and when I’m watching, I know I certainly enjoy seeing Nick do his thing.
CSI Files: In the beginning of the series it was very clear that Nick was a scientist, not a member of the police department or law enforcement. Nowadays you see Nick kicking down a lot of doors and chasing after suspects. Which role do you prefer?
Eads: Yeah, Nick has always had a macho element, at least that’s the way that I try to play him; a fearless foot soldier. Me and Billy used to joke that Nick was a good dog to hunt with and sometimes we’d call him “Bird-dog.” I liked being the bird-dog for Grissom, but being the bird-dog for anybody else doesn’t seem to make sense. I think it’s hard for him to find all these square holes when he’s a round ball, so he’s kind of bouncing around trying to figure out his way. In the end when we’re asked questions about the show or what our vision is for what we’d like to see, quite frankly it’s out of my hands. I like seeing him be aggresive, but what happened was this version of Nick that seems to be a character from a different TV show. If Nick’s going to keep doing this kind of stuff, I wouldn’t mind seeing him move into another department; work for Vice or become a police officer and wear different costumes to go undercover.
At the end of this season he’s quit and I would only assume, Ted and I have talked and Ted would like to do more work with me, that his character is going to have to ask Nick to come back and there’s going to have to be a showdown between he and McKeen [Conor O’Farrell]. What’s going on with McKeen didn’t have anything to do with the new players of the CSI team, so I would like to see Nick take McKeen down and have it be gruesome as hell. Be really gritty and awesome. A lot of the times I find out what’s going on with my character by tapping a few keys and going to CSI Files.
CSI Files: Were you surprised at all that McKeen, an old foe of Nick’s, was returning?
Eads: I was pleasantly surprised. I just wish I was a bigger part of the McKeen standoff because that’s between me and him.
CSI Files: McKeen’s return pushed Nick over the edge, causing him to quit CSI. Do you think the news of your new deal leaking had any impact on the cliffhanger?
CSI Files: Had you considered leaving the show at that point?
Eads: Well, my deal was done six weeks before that. I would have liked for that news to have not been leaked or broke, so we could have had a juicy cliffhanger that lasted all summer. That would have been fun to playout. I would have to appeal to the fans: did you think it spoiled the cliffhanger?
CSI Files: What direction would you like to see the writers take with Nick this season? If the producers are reading this, what is the one wish that you have that you’d like them to know?
Eads: Nick take control of the lab. He’s the most experienced Vegas forensics investigator that they have. He’s worked with everyone around the city from the cops to the fire department. Nick was made a CSI Level 3 in the “Pilot” twelve years ago, and I feel that he should work side-by-side in tandem with Ted’s character, clean the department up and move to Vice where he can kick-in more doors and clean that lab up. He can start a new division that’s cleaning up Vegas PD and even if it’s a B-story in every episode separate from an A-story driven by forensics, let him fly. I feel like he’s an eagle that needs to spread its wings.
CSI Files: Who would you like to see come back and interact with Nick this season?
Eads: Louise Lombard [Sofia Curtis]. I told Louise Lombard off-camera that, this is like our second or third scene together, I said “I think Nick has a giant crush on you.” And she says, “I don’t have a problem with that.” It was at this veterinary clinic where I was helping her clean up some mess and there was just all sorts of electricity, and it just never went anywhere. I thought Louise was beautiful, I think she’s a great actress and she’s a great person away from camera. She’s just someone that I can stand to be around all day on a set with.
But for me, we have a lot of great actors that have been with the show a long time and I would just like to see them have more prominence and more to do. Whether it be Super Dave [David Berman]; Robert David Hall [Dr Al Robbins] has been in the field a few times; Mandy [Sheeri Rappaport], I wish they’d let me walk in and sing every time I’m in a scene with her.
CSI Files: Besides working on a film, what else were you able to do over the hiatus?
Eads: I have a six-month-old puppy to go with my two-year-old, and I named him The Dude because The Big Lebowski is one of my top ten favorite movies. He’s been having me up at about 5:30 every morning; that dog has me not sleeping. [Laughs.] But on Gutshot Straight, shooting all night every night in Las Vegas, I saw more sunrises than I’ve seen in my entire life. I’m still a newlywed and I was away from my wife for most of the summer, I bought a house in Malibu on the water and I’m just spending time with my wife and my dogs. Now with my head in this development phase of my career, I’m getting excited about developing new projects. I gotta kick the dust off my motorcycles and take rides up Pacific Coast Highway and work on my golf game. Just really finding peace, joy, and happiness away from work I think is a key for not only being a better actor, but to also be content with my life and not restless about the future.