The cast of CSI: New York shares their thoughts on what makes the show work and how their personal lives are reflected in their characters.
For the past six seasons, New York has concentrated on the crimes and the investigations each week. The characters get moments to show their individuality, but the show is centered around its CSI premise. “There’s always someone dead, and we have to figure out who did it, and we use science to do it. That’s the framework,” Hill Harper (Dr Sheldon Hawkes) told CBS 8 in San Diego, California. “One thing I really love about the show is that there’s always an opportunity to learn something new, and everything we do is pretty much real, it’s just condensed [in] time.”
The show may have a certain framework from week to week, but leading lady Melina Kanakaredes (Stella Bonasera) said there is no formula for success. New York was lucky to be born out of a franchise that was already successful, but the series had to set itself apart from the other CSI shows. “I think what’s really happened is we’ve become our own entity,” Kanakaredes explained. “New York is its own show. We’ve always said that the city of New York is just such an incredible place, and I think that our writers should get a lot of that credit for making it different and bringing it home.”
“We never know what the writers have up their sleeves,” Anna Belknap (Lindsay Monroe) said, adding that New York is an edgy show. “The stakes are always high. It’s always fast. In fact, we have to find moments to let it settle a bit because everything’s urgent.”
One way to bring the pace down a bit is with personal storylines. When Belknap got pregnant with her second child in real life, New York took the opportunity to have Lindsay and Danny Messer (Carmine Giovinazzo) become parents and get married. Although she is a mother in real life and on television, there are differences for Belknap because her personality and her job are so different from the character she plays on the show. “The mom on the show is like ‘cop mom’, so that’s totally different than ‘actress mom’,” she said. However, she added, “I definitely get to bring in some of the stuff I’ve learned about being a working mom into the role.”
Other actors have also brought some of their personal experiences to their characters. “I grew up in a blue collar world,” Giovinazzo revealed, explaining that he has cops, detectives and even bodyguards in his family. “I’ve been around these kind of people that pretty much go after the bad guy.” He never planned to go into police work, so playing a cop on TV was a great opportunity.
Another aspect of Danny as a character that reflects on Carmine are some of his physical problems. “Obviously my ailments have been brought onto this show,” the actor explained. “I do have a couple herniated disks and a bad back.” The show was able to incorporate Danny dealing with pain during his recent struggle re-learning how to walk after being shot in the season five finale, “Pay Up”.
CSI: NY hasn’t written in any physical ailments for Kanakaredes, but her past did give her a leg up during filming for a recent episode. In “Rest in Peace, Marina Garito”, Stella was attacked in a pool. “I was a synchronized swimmer, so holding my breath underwater and being strangled was no problem,” Kanakaredes said with a laugh. The plot was one of several over the course of New York‘s six years that found Stella in danger. “I always ask [executive producer] Pam Veasey if she really likes me or not,” Kanakaredes joked.
For Eddie Cahill (Don Flack), season six has included a lot of changes for his character. “Up until this season, my character’s kinda been snarky, snippy and able to find some laughs,” the actor explained. The death of Flack’s girlfriend Jessica Angell (Emmanuelle Vaugier) in “Pay Up” changed things. “Truthfully, this season’s been a little heavier for him,” Cahill added.
“[That] was an exploration of what happens when you take a guy who’s otherwise reserved, [or] at least gives off the appearance of being put together dealing with something where he simply couldn’t control it,” Cahill continued. “Something happened outside of his control and pushed him over the edge.”
Hawkes is the smartest character on New York, but his personal life has been flawed. “I really like the duality,” Harper said. However, it’s about time Hawkes got a girlfriend. “They promised me this season [that] I was going to get one, and it didn’t happen,” the actor continued. “Next year, I’m sure…Hawkes needs some love.”
What happens on screen is balanced by what happens off screen, and Harper said things work very smoothly behind the scenes. In fact, the cast and crew are like family after working together for the past six years. “For the most part, there hasn’t been a lot of change in the crew, so it’s a really nice familial atmosphere, which I love,” he said.
“Gary [Sinise, Mac Taylor] really sets the tone,” AJ Buckley (Adam Ross) explained, referring to New York‘s leading man. “He’s somebody that I’ve always looked up to as an actor prior to being on CSI, and just to get to work with somebody that has done so much in his career and has worked with so many greats, sometimes you just watch him and his process and what he does. You’re consistently learning. To say that I’ve got to work with Gary Sinise for the past five years is a huge blessing.”
To watch the original videos, please click the following links to KFMB Channel 8’s website: Melina Kanakaredes, Carmine Giovinazzo, Anna Belknap, Hill Harper, Eddie Cahill and AJ Buckley. Thanks to perlnoir on TalkCSI for the links!