Marc Vann’s Conrad Ecklie may have at one point been known for fracturing the CSI: Crime Scene Investigation team, butting heads with Gil Grissom on opposite ends of the political spectrum and trying to pin a murder on Nick Stokes, but in the most recent season of the CBS crime drama, Ecklie’s daughter Morgan Brody entered the picture bringing a whole new perspective to a character that has been dubbed by fans as one they love to hate. In “Homecoming,” the Under-sheriff found himself in a troubling situation with former Under-sheriff Jeffrey McKeen (Conor O’Farrell) and in an effort to protect his daughter, jumped in front of a bullet and left in a state of serious mortal jeopardy. Shane Saunders caught up with the actor to discuss his latest storyline.
CSI Files: Last season was one of your busiest seasons yet with the addition of Elisabeth Harnois as your daughter Morgan Brody. How did it feel exploring Ecklie’s more personal side as opposed to being the political, all-business under-sheriff?
Marc Vann: Fantastic! Any actor enjoys a more personal story line. I loved that I was able to show that Ecklie has feelings and a heart. Although playing the office obstacle is always a blast, too. It’s all good and each holds different acting challenges.
But, I was very lucky in Season 12. I got to do SO many things. Reconnect with my daughter, date Jaclyn Smith, give Hodges grief, interrogate witnesses, get into the field and shine a flashlight, shoot a bad guy and jump in front of buckshot to protect the person I love most in my life, and work A LOT with Ted Danson [DB Russell]. Doesn’t get much better than that!
CSI Files: Little is known about Morgan’s mother, Ecklie’s ex-wife, and the history between father and daughter is, in typical CSI fashion, being sprinkled out very sparingly. Did you have conversations with Elisabeth to create some of the backstory so the emotional scenes in which you two share are especially poignant?
Vann: Yes, we discussed it quite a bit but left room for our own interpretations of events as well. In a nutshell, Ecklie chose work over family when Morgan was young and was in denial about how his absence and tumultuous marriage was effecting his daughter. The result is now alot of guilt for Conrad and alot of resentment for Morgan. And a chance to repair the damage.
Conrad is a different person than he was in early CSI. Age and the lessons of life have brought regret, perspective and humility. And certainly parenting is the area where he has always felt the greatest vulnerability and sense of failure. But, he would give anything to be able to reconnect with his now fully grown, strong confident daughter of whom he is secretly SO proud. She is possibly his only family left in the world.
CSI Files: Is there an actress you’re fond of that you’d like to see portray the part?
Vann: Haven’t really thought about it. And I’m not sure if that character will ever turn up on the show. But now that you’ve put the thought in my head. How about Julianne Moore?
CSI Files: Unlike previous CSI predecessors, DB Russell and Ecklie share a common bond: being a father. What’s Ecklie’s take on DB, and what is it like getting to work with Ted Danson?
Vann: Ecklie brought DB to The Lab, so obviously thinks highly of him as a CSI and a supervisor. Knowing he’s a bit of a savant in his field with his own unique methodology, Conrad is also more patient with DB’s zaniness than most. But it’s not a “buddy” relationship. At least not at this point. I don’t think Ecklie has many buddies. It is currently a warm relationship of mutual respect and good working chemistry, strongly blanketed by the parenting bond. And, assuming Conrad lives, possibly moving in the direction of “war buddies” and all that entails given the way Season 12 ended. Most of the character friction they have given DB is with Brass and Finn, so it hasn’t been necessary to have more of that from Ecklie.
Ted Danson is inspiring on so many levels. He is a fantastically detailed, subtle actor who loves to pick at material till it’s as natural and loaded as it can be. And he’s a master at getting there in a collaborative, respectful way. He brings a positive lightness to the set, is a blast to work with because he loves to horse around, and is quite simply a lovely human being. I’ve witnessed him be gracious and generous to almost everyone he meets, which is no easy task when so many want your attention. Wally Langham [David Hodges] and I have coined the phrase WWDD (What Would Danson Do?) and we might manufacture some buttons.
CSI Files: The finale found Ecklie in a serious state of peril: shot and bleeding in the arms of his daughter. How far in advance did you find out about the episode’s final moments?
Vann: I had heard I was getting shot before I got the script. Then [executive producer] Don McGill called me to tell me what was going on.
CSI Files: What was your reaction to the news?
Vann: Fear. Excitement. Dread.
CSI Files: Do you have an idea of what his fate will be?
Vann: Yes. But I don’t want to discuss it since the interview may post before next season airs.
CSI Files: You have an independent film written and directed by Archie Kao (Archie Johnson) called Initiation still waiting to be released. Can you share any details on the project?
Vann: Actually, there is a link to it on its IMDB page, so anybody can see it now. It’s about an assassin and his trainee. Archie had a cool but challenging idea for a short. He got the pieces in place and we shot it, fleshing out most of the dialogue on set. I think we were all surprised it turned out so well. I’m one of two actors in it and also am the cameraperson.
CSI Files: Should the upcoming premiere be your final episode on CSI, what will you miss most about working on a series that has given you work for more than a decade?
Vann: I will miss things which you’ve probably heard many actors say are important to them. Going to work in one place for so long with people you know and love is virtually unknown to most actors. Playing one character for 12 years and experiencing all the unexpected twists and turns the writers are going to throw at you is an experience I’ll most likely never have again. I will miss working with such a high level of talent and with such an organized, calm and well oiled machine. The vibe there is superb, and that comes from the top down. But, mostly I will miss seeing my CSI friends. I hope we stay in touch. Whenever it ends for me, I will miss those connections the most.