Interview: Elisabeth Harnois


After appearing in CSI: Crime Scene Investigation’s 250th episode as Morgan Brody, the estranged daughter of Conrad Ecklie, Elisabeth Harnois is joining as a series regular in its twelfth season. Introduced as a member of the Los Angeles Scientific Investigation Division assisting with the Nate Haskell investigation, the character instantly received strong praise from fans and producers alike. This past Friday evening during a break from filming this season’s fifth episode—one that heavily focuses on the new character—Harnois called CSI Files’ Shane Saunders to discuss her addition to the show.

CSI Files: First off congratulations on becoming a series regular!

Elisabeth Harnois: Thank you.

CSI Files: When you first booked the guest spot in “Cello and Goodbye” did you have any idea the role of Morgan Brody would turn into a full-time gig?

Harnois: I had been offered the part from Carol [Mendelsohn, Executive Producer] with the idea that she would maybe come back as a recurring [character] in the following season. I think it was just a great honor that they saw the work on the episode that I did and decided to make it official much more quickly. [Laughs.] But I knew when I signed up to do the guest spot that they were considering her as a potential recurring character.

CSI Files: And you did a guest role on CSI: Miami so you’re no stranger to the franchise. But did it seem a bit daunting joining a show that’s entering its twelfth season?

Harnois: Absolutely. Yes, yes, yes. [Laughs.] I think once it did become official it’s kind of like being the new kid in school and figuring out which lunch table to sit at. [Laughs.] Fortunately everybody on the show is all very talented and warm welcoming people, so there was nothing from them that made me uncomfortable. It was more just the idea of it; knowing that they’ve been together for so long and found a routine and they’ve got probably one of the most buttoned up professional sets out there in television. I’ve been doing this since I was about four years old, so I’m very serious. [Laughs.] But it’s an animal when you come into a family like that and you want to make sure that you fit in but without trying too hard. You know what I mean? [Laughs.] But I definitely felt nervous. Everyone put me at ease pretty quickly.

CSI Files: Well everyone at Talk CSI seems to have loved your guest appearance. You even have your own thread on the discussion board now!

Harnois: Oh really?

CSI Files: Yes. Everyone thinks you’re such a nice fit.

Harnois: Thank you so much! I feel so lucky. In fact I’ve had a lot of people say that to me just who work on the show and it’s a very flattering wonderful thing to hear. First off you want to do a good job more than anything, but where you can also fit in socially and share things in common with the people you’re working with. I think that adds to the chemistry on screen. I feel very lucky and feel like they wrote me a character I can identify with and sort of do something with. It wasn’t just fitting into a mold it was something that I get to create a little bit.

CSI Files: Were you a fan of the show prior to joining?

Harnois: I was. I watched it in its early years and I haven’t [lately] just because I haven’t watched TV much in the last several years, there’s been very few shows where I have time to watch at all. I haven’t seen it in the last couple of seasons so I had to do some catching up. I’ve always been a fan of the mystery genre—and I wouldn’t call this horror—but the suspense-thriller genre has always been one of my favorite things. I always go and see those movies. This show, the first couple years, were very much a part of my television vernacular. When I got hired on it was like all of a sudden I had to do a crash course again. I had to learn everything and they gave me a bunch of episodes and I got caught up. I sort of fell in love with it all over again.

And it’s really sad that Laurence Fishburne left because I really loved the work that he did on the show. The way that they introduced his character… I think they have a real feel on this show of bringing new people in and making it seem very organic. It doesn’t feel forced and awkward. Those kind of things are very hard to accomplish and Carol [and] her team I think do a really good job of figuring out who they hired and how to write for them.

CSI Files: Prior to Laurence Fishburne there was of course William Petersen (Gil Grissom). There’s been talk of him coming back. Have you gotten to work with him yet this season?

Harnois: No, but I’m so excited about that. [Laughs.] When I heard that that was a possibility I did a little cartwheel in my mind. I think it’s really cool to have that reunion type thing happening. Also, he’s sort of the icon of the show as far as I’m concerned, he and Marg [Helgenberger, Catherine Willows]. For me that’s the CSI that I watched. I’m really excited to get to be a part of… as much as it’s having a rebirth because there are all these new things happening with it, it’s also a wonderful throwback to what it was. I think he’s super talented and of course he never really left in spirit. He’s been involved as a producer.

CSI Files: Do you have an idea of when he might be coming on?

Harnois: I don’t. I wish I did! I feel like you guys will know probably before I do. [Laughs.] You guys seem to be really on top of your stuff. But I don’t know exactly when he’s coming on. But I do know that it’s—I think it’s a pretty strong certainty that he will be coming around at some point. I hope I’m a part of… well let’s just say I hope our storylines intersect.

CSI Files: How heavily will the events in Los Angeles weigh on Morgan in Las Vegas? Is it an amicable transition from Los Angeles SID to Las Vegas CSI?

Harnois: One of the things that clearly define my character is that she kind of follows her own rules a little bit. As much as she’s clearly like a younger CSI I think that she has a little bit more of a ‘I don’t follow the rules’ kind of mentality. The fact that she helped the Vegas team in the episode at the end of last season and went over her superior’s head to help them solve the whole mystery, that’s kind of her spirit. She follows what she thinks is the right way to go and she’s also very, very, very excited about what she does. She gets turned on a bit by the more twisted things that happen. So without giving too much away I think whether or not it’s amicable, I don’t want to give that away. But I think the transition is very much of her making.

CSI Files: You said that you watched the show in its early seasons and you just described Morgan and her mentality. Would you agree—and there’s a lot of discussion about this—that Morgan is similar to Sara from the first couple of seasons?

Harnois: Yes. Yes I would. Sara was very impassioned by things and she got emotionally involved. She’d get in fights with Nick; “you don’t care”! Or “you don’t understand!” She had a very sort of… I guess the word is not sophomoric, but when you’re new to something and you’re very impassioned and driven by something. That’s very much the spirit of Morgan. She’s still very excited by everything that happens and she’s also very impassioned about making sure the right thing happens in the end. I think that’s a very good comparison and I’m flattered by the comparison actually. I think Jorja [Fox] is awesome and she did a great job with her character over the years.

CSI Files: Morgan is one of two new recruits to the lab this season, as DB Russell, played by Ted Danson, is the new grave shift supervisor. When the season starts does it appear Morgan and DB Might be outcasts? Is there any turmoil?

Harnois: I think that as with any change of hand or power, there’s definitely that. “So who is this guy?” kind of thing going on with DB. My transition is a little bit different; it involves my father and my complicated relationship with my father, Conrad Ecklie. Because these characters already know me I think I’m not being hazed quite as much. [Laughs.] But I think with Ted’s character he is a superior so there’s only so much they can do in terms of judgment, but there’s definitely that level of “who is this guy?”

Ted Danson is a wonderful actor both comic and dramatic. He always brings something unique to what he does and he’s doing that here. There’s this sort of mysteriousness as to who he is and sort of a quirkiness. He has a very different approach to the way that he looks at crime and how to solve crimes. He’s got a very interesting take on it and he’s a little bit offbeat. He definitely raises some eyebrows with his co-workers and there’s a bit of a transition that has to take place. But I think he navigates it well. It’s more about how everyone else reacts around him. I don’t think he’s as aware of what people are thinking about him. [Laughs.] As he should be, let’s put it that way.

CSI Files: You of course mentioned the family relationship between current under-sheriff Conrad Ecklie (Marc Vann) and your character. Now on the show your characters are currently estranged, but when things pickup in the premiere does it seem like the two have maybe reconciled?

Harnois: Not at all. I’m only in a couple of scenes in the first episode that are very sort of poignant scenes and they’re between me and my father. It’s really not about a reconciliation at all, in fact our relationship becomes business very quickly. I think for him he’s wanting more and I think that I resent him a little bit for the way things have gone over the years and the fact that he hasn’t been in my life much. I don’t dwell on that at all; I’m very much forward in my thinking. He’s the one trying to be more emotional about it. There’s definitely not a reconciliation at the beginning. It’s going to play throughout the season.

CSI Files: The Las Vegas Crime Lab has quite a few good looking employees. Is there a potential romance on the horizon for Morgan, or is a relationship out of the question right now?

Harnois: It’s as much a mystery to you guys as it is to us. The way the more personal storylines play out on this show, they kind of get woven in and are more subtle than most normal dramas. We find out little pieces each episode as to who is interested in who. I will promise you there’s a little bit of a triangle that goes on. There’s a little bit of curiosity between a couple different characters about each other involving me. [Laughs.] They’re all very attractive so any of them would be suitable as far as I’m concerned.

CSI Files: On a platonic level who is Morgan closest to?

Harnois: Gosh. I think probably… well we’re only going into episode five. I’d say at this point the people I work closest with are George [Eads, Nick Stokes] and Eric [Szmanda, Greg Sanders]. In this coming episode I get to work quite a bit with Ted.

Because she’s so very new I think that’s still being figured out who my buddy is going to be. But there’s definitely a really fun banter between me and Eric Szmanda that they’re writing. It’s really fun to play and we definitely have a good chemistry in terms of that. They’ve been writing some fun stuff for us. I’d say she’s probably closest with him right now.

CSI Files: You’re at work on episode five, which we hear is titled “CSI Down.” Have you been able to master the art of putting on latex gloves yet?

Harnois: Actually, I have. And it’s only because—and I think this is part of the reason I was even considered for this role—I did a show for CBS and [Jerry] Bruckheimer last year called Miami Medical and I played a first year trauma surgeon. So I was very experienced in the quick on and off of the latex glove… probably more than I ever will be with this show because they were constantly in surgery. [Laughs.] So I came in and that was one area I got to look a little bit fancy and like I knew what I was doing. They’re always sweaty and kind of uncomfortable after a while. [Laughs.]

CSI Files: And how is the forensic technobabble at his point?

Harnois: It’s okay. It’s pretty good. I haven’t had to do too many extra takes to mess up. Again, coming off the medical show shortly before doing this, there was a lot of technobabble on that. It kind of prepared me really well for this job. I enjoy it.

I did a ride-along with the cops. I got to watch several autopsies. I even got to hold a human brain. [Laughs.] There’s so much involved in preparing for this for me. Going and shooting guns for the first time. If I’m told something and I don’t know what it means, I will look it up and make sure I understand what it means, so that I’m not just in there regurgitating information. I want to know what it means and know what I’m talking about.

CSI Files: With the season premiere less than two weeks away can you maybe share a few teases to entice viewers to tune in?

Harnois: Well the premiere episode is pretty twisted. There’s a storyline in that premiere episode that I honestly… it’s territory that I didn’t think could be treaded because I didn’t know it existed. People are strange and this season is really going to delve into some of the darker sides of human behavior, even more than I think the show has in the past. Eyebrows will raise a bit at some of the storylines we have, especially with this premiere episode. Also, I think with the addition of Ted and hopefully myself, there’s going to be some humor. There’s going to be some levity as to what can otherwise be a very dark world; it’s going to be fun. There’s going to be some romance. I think there’s going to be a lot of new dynamics for the audience to latch on to.

I’m excited to watch it, shit… and I know what’s going to happen. [Laughs.]


Follow Elisabeth Harnois on Twitter: @ElisabethHarnoi


Shane Saunders is a freelance writer and reviewer. His work can be seen on EDGE Network and Twitter: @ShaneSSaunders.

Shane Saunders
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