‘CSI: NY”s Detective Flack discusses his character’s emotional journey this season with CSI Files’ Kristine Huntley in an exclusive interview. Light spoilers inside.
Eddie Cahill‘s character, Detective Don Flack, went through the wringer at the end of last season, when his girlfriend was shot and killed—and in turn, Flack killed her murderer. Cahill shares his thoughts on the storyline with CSI Files, as well as where he thinks Flack is in the grieving process.
CSI Files: This has been an exciting season for Flack so far. Were you surprised by the trajectory his grief and guilt after the death of his girlfriend Jessica Angell (Emmanuelle Vaugier) took him on?
Eddie Cahill: Maybe in retrospect, I’m surprised. I wear a certain set of blinders when I go in and look at things and it’s only after doing it, when it’s finished, that I look back and go, oh holy shit, that’s kind of different for the character and any sort of involvement that my character has ever had on the show. With some of the stuff that’s been going on this year, I’ve been slightly more included than I have been in years past, just in terms that people will mention, “Oh, something’s going to happen. This is coming up for you–we’re thinking of this or we’re thinking of that. We’re not sure how it’s going to play out but this is kind of what’s getting kicked around.” So by the time story gets to me, it just kind of feels, yeah, this is what happens next. But when I look back at it now, I’m almost surprised at the nature of this story arc. We do things so concisely–there’s very little room to put air in our show, so to get an arc across like that is a bit of an undertaking, and I’m quite happy with how it turned out.
CSI Files: Most storylines are resolved within the space of a few episodes–either in a row or spread out–but Flack’s ordeal really lasted for the first part of season six.
Cahill: Yeah, and I’m happy that they didn’t shy away from a fundamental component of it. At the end of last season, it was so obvious that this guy’s girlfriend had been killed that people kind of looked over the fact that he killed somebody! That, for my money, was really the defining moment going forward. Mourning the loss of anybody sucks, don’t get me wrong, and certainly the closer they are to you, the harder [it is]. That’s its own re-identification process in dealing with that. But killing somebody? That’s a line very few people cross. So in some respect—no disrespect to the memory of Jessica Angell, God bless her—that took a little bit of a backseat because it wasn’t a choice he made. People get defined by their choices, not in what happens to them.
CSI Files: Were you surprised when you learned that Flack was going to kill the man who murdered his girlfriend in “Pay Up”?
Cahill: No, not really. To me, Flack kept it together not because he was somehow morally superior, but because he believed that “that’s what I have to do, that’s the right thing to do”–and then suddenly all that gets thrown out the window. He’s not a psychotic person, he doesn’t wake up every morning and repeat the mantra, but he was doing what he thought was right. And he believed in it it. That was his way of doing things, and then that got shattered. And the cool thing about what happened at the end of last season was that we get a dramatic moment where everything changes in an instant. For me, I got to come and do some totally different things, entirely new kinds of stuff.
CSI Files: How did you feel about how he handled the repercussions of what was essentially a murder?
Cahill: I don’t think he’s done. I don’t know how we’ll see it. I don’t know if it will be addressed again—my feeling is that it’s put to bed for the series, but from just a human standpoint, I don’t think he’s done. I just think he’s changed. I think sometimes we tend to nip it up and close it, and we have to, I understand that, but from a personal standpoint, I think he changed and now he’s different.
CSI Files: He has a really powerful confrontation with Mac (Gary Sinise) in “Cuckoo’s Nest” after Mac approached him several other times to no avail. What do you think it was that got him to finally open up to Mac?
Cahill: I think it was Mac holding his own gun in his face. “I found this.” There again Flack had a moment where he couldn’t deny what he was doing. Before he could say, “Don’t worry about it, we’re good, I’m good.” Then that is that. I think it was that moment. If the character were to go in the other direction in that moment, then he’s really changed. Now he’s bad. Now you’re actually doing the wrong thing. For redemption, you gotta own up.
CSI Files: How do you think Flack reacted to Mac cutting him off in his office before Flack said anything about shooting Simon Cade?
Cahill: I think he knew what Mac was doing. In my mind, that’s better for both of them. Mac being who he is, he’s just letting it go: “I kind of know what happened, but if I hear any more about it, then we have to put it on paper. We have to do some things I don’t necessarily want to do.” That’s one of those moments where you really want to tell one of your friends or someone you really have respect for, but that person can’t know that information for whatever reason—then you just take the high road. “I badly want to get this off my chest but I understand how that puts both you and me in a terrible position, so I’ll just leave that one for the shrink’s office.”
CSI Files: Is there anyone you think Flack can confide in about what happened?
Cahill: I don’t know that he’s necessarily looking for a confidant. Yeah, I’m sure there is, but I don’t know why, apart from seeking professional help, he would tell anybody. Anyone that we know in his world kind of knows. There was that moment when it happened and Danny (Carmine Giovinazzo) passed by. I think everybody knows.
CSI Files: What did you think about the fact that it was confidential informant Terrence Davis (Nelly) who helped Flack out when he was in danger on the train in “Cuckoo’s Nest”?
Cahill: I really like working with Nelly—he’s a lot of fun to have on set—so selfishly speaking, I thought it was great that it was Terrence. And with regards to that relationship, what a great payoff from that first storyline (in “Turbulence”). He’s truly a great guy to work with, a lot of fun to be around, and the whole crew of us just [love working with him]. He brings an energy that just makes the day a little more fun. And he’s very good in the role. That role paid off from the end of his first storyline when he said to me, “You and I are going to be friends.” I love it.
CSI Files: How do you think Flack felt when he sobered up and was fully aware that Terrence had really helped him out?
Cahill: If we really want to dig into it, there’s that moment where Flack is cleaning himself up in the mirror and he starts to make digs at Terrence. I think he was embarrassed by it. He would have to be. I do believe there was a way Flack might have held himself a little bit above people. I don’t think he was very excited about it.
CSI Files: Flack has hit the bottle a few times this season on his own. Do you think Flack has a problem with alcohol?
Cahill: I think he has a complicated relationship with alcohol. I think that this was a perfect time in his life for him to seek the comfort of our fermented friend. I don’t think he’s still struggling with that. I don’t think that was part of the problem yet. It wasn’t like whatever happened to him happened and he fell off the wagon–he wasn’t a sober guy. He had that relationship with booze.
CSI Files: He drank afterwards in “Manhattanhenge” when the team went out to celebrate at the end of the episode.
Cahill: You know, I brought that up, kind of half as a joke, and then it became a little bit of an issue. But if you had the character drinking a diet soda at this moment, then he’s an alcoholic. You’ve just said he’s an alcoholic.
CSI Files: Was there ever any talk of Flack becoming an alcoholic over the course of the storyline?
Cahill: No. There was mention of using alcohol as the device, like the scruff. When the scruff was on, the drink was an escape. I think it was just a device. And it’s a good one to show retreat, to show withdrawal. We don’t have a lot of time to put a lot of air in, so sometimes you have to go big, carnival big almost. You might think, oh wow, I didn’t realize he drank at all and now suddenly he’s got a full beard and he’s drunk on the F-train. Well, we gotta do it, because it isn’t going to be around in the next episode.
CSI Files: In addition to Angell getting shot and killed, Flack’s best friend Danny was shot at the end of “Pay Up.” What was Flack’s reaction to that?
Cahill: It’s almost unfortunate that so much happened because it just drove a wedge between characters. Not intentionally, but from a story point, we had to focus on Danny’s shit or we had to focus on Flack’s shit, and the two never really came together. Because we didn’t have storylines where it ever played out, I don’t really know. I didn’t put any thought into it, just because the two experiences were so mutually exclusive. I think because the storylines were so focused on each character, with their own separate worlds, that there was no opportunity to bring it together. But if we did bring the two characters together, then we would have two characters consoling each other, and you’d lose the experience of what happened to them as a result of [the separate incidents]. If he gets shot and I lose my girlfriend, and then in the next scene we’re there having moments over it, then you start to think they’re dealing with it. As oppose to this guy spun off this way, and this guy spun off that way and look what happened. If they were leaning on each other the whole time, it takes some of the severity out of the journey. And then Mac has that half-disciplinary thing with all of us. That character can kind of step in and say, “Hey guy, watch yourself.” With Danny and Flack, there are no checks and balances in that relationship.
CSI Files: How serious were Flack and Angell at the time of her death?
Cahill: I chose to just play it as if they were a lot further along than any of us ever knew. It was somehow more effective. It helped the ending of it play. In some ways it felt like I met Emmanuelle three days before she was shot and killed on the show! There was very little interaction between the characters. Suddenly we flirted and then the next thing I knew we were talking to IAB and our relationship came up, and then she’s dead. That was pretty much the extent of the relationship in a nutshell. Sometimes you have to exaggerate on things to get the personal storylines. So I just chose that whatever happened between the characters happened off camera. And then there was that intimate moment towards the end where they were making out to bring the audience there. We kind of teased the idea, we played with it, so here’s where we are. I think they were together. They were three months away from being engaged.
CSI Files: They were a fun couple, but the audience didn’t see much of them on screen.
Cahill: No, you didn’t. It was a shame, too, because it was kind of getting fun.
CSI Files: What was your reaction when you heard the plan was to kill off Flack’s girlfriend?
Cahill: Honestly my first reaction was for Emmanuelle. I felt bad. It’s so nice to have a job, but they’re all going to end. That’s the nature of what we do; all these jobs are temporary. When you see one end prematurely for yourself or a colleague [it’s sad]. So that was my first reaction, the one that really hurt and stayed with me. I think she was great, I thought she was really good on the show. But from a dramatic standpoint, it was great.
CSI Files: Where do you think Flack is in the grieving process right now?
Cahill: I think he’s in the grieving process. Something probably reminds him of her everyday, but that doesn’t necessarily ruin the day. He’s probably got a couple somber breaths throughout the course of the day. He’s not one to burden the world with his feelings.
CSI Files: Can you tease anything that’s coming up for Flack or on the show in general?
Cahill: To be honest with you, I think we’ve gotten through most of what’s big as far as I know. That was a lot for the character. I can pretty well guess based on what’s coming up, I think Danny might find himself in a precarious spot based on something. But I think the attention will turn away from Flack for a minute.