Interview: Jorja Fox


Anyone who knows Jorja Fox understands just how special of a woman she is. The Sara Sidle actress is not only amazingly humble, talented, and yes, beautiful, but she’s also incredibly brilliant, kind, and well spoken, which makes anyone in her presence feel special. After playing this one character for over twelve seasons, she knows the ins and outs of her character to a T, and is always eager to add new layers and nuances to her performance. Fortunately, for fans, this season will be a year of personal development for many of the characters on CSI, which will allow Fox to crank out some of those dramatic performances she’s known for. Which is the case tonight with the new episode “Code Blue Plate Special,” an installment that really hits close to home for Sara. Shane Saunders caught up with the actress earlier this week to discuss character growth, upcoming episodes, and yes, the state of GSR. Spoilers after the jump.

"Code Blue Plate Special" -- Sara Sidle (Jorja Fox, left) and Julie Finlay (Elisabeth Shue) look on as the team tries to piece things together at the crime scene on CSI: CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION, Wednesday, Oct. 10 (10:00 PM-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Sonja Flemming/CBS ©2012 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

CSI Files: As I watched “Karma to Burn” I really thought back to the beginning of the series, and really up until a few seasons ago, how Sara was at times moody, insubordinate, and slightly immature, but now she’s this completely new woman who, to me, seems to have taken over, in a professional sense, the ‘Mother Hen’ role from Catherine. There’s been this huge journey and evolution of the character, that, at least in my mind, seems to have taken this huge shift after she returned in Season Ten, announcing that she married Grissom. Would you say that’s one of the reasons as well?

Jorja Fox: [Laughs.] Oooooh. Marriage? Well, yeah, I think she’s aged, obviously, like everyone has and hopefully people get a little more mature as they age. I think that she needed to leave not just Vegas, but she had to leave that whole profession behind to just kind of really find her center and her balance. I think as a kid, having the experience she had with her mom and growing up in foster care, I think she had a drive that brought her to the field that she was in in kind of a blind, personal and passionate way. When she quit it and just left, started traveling around the world–and eventually Grissom [William Petersen] joined her–I think she found the love for what she was doing from a whole different place. She buried some ghosts and buried some demons, and was able to come back at it. And, yes, absolutely I think being in a secure and loving relationship with Grissom–I hope very much it’s helped her stability in that way. Although, I think, reading in between the lines, it’s really been awhile since we’ve seen Grissom so I’ve gotta imagine there’s got to be a little bit of tension there. But I wouldn’t know what it is yet because I’m not one of the writers.

CSI Files: I would imagine after playing this character for over a decade, portraying her in this new light gives you as an actress some fun things to do.

Fox: Oh, yeah, and I think we’ve talked about this before, but to come into Season Thirteen–really forget about of the same show, but of the same character–is something I thought I’d never experience in my life. If someone had asked me about it when I was younger, I could never have even conceived playing a character that long; it probably would have scared me and might have been something I wouldn’t think would be fun. But I can’t believe after thirteen seasons, like, I’m not bored at all; I’m still like, ‘Wow, what’s going to happen this year? Who are the people that Sara’s going to meet this year?’

It’s really exciting to have three new cast members kind of in one season. I could have thought that would be sort of disruptive and might shake the cast up in a way that–because we’ve always been so close and a really tight that cast that has always gotten along so well–to sort of three wild cards in there you’d think, ‘Wow… this can’t go well. It’s just a question of how badly this is going to go.’ And it’s been fantastic; I can’t even believe that we’ve been able to ride that wave and it’s just been so fun to have these people to work with, people that are amazingly cool and just incredibly kind and generous as actors and human beings. Of course I still miss Marg [Helgenberger, Catherine Willows], Billy and Gary [Dourdan, Warrick Brown] all the time.

We just finished Episode Seven and we meet Warrick’s son, who we haven’t seen since the funeral [in “For Warrick”], and his ex-wife. It was a really difficult and devastating episode to shoot. I know I miss him and I really wish we would have never killed him off–I feel like I really disagreed with The Powers That Be with that call. It was really hard to go back and shoot, but I really think it’s going to be a beautiful show.

CSI Files: One of the big takeaways for me from last season was the dynamic of DB and Sara. Those two really hit it off, and I think they can relate in a way that, for example, they both have so much going on in their lives and have to work this grueling and taxing job, and put it all on the back-burner. And from what I read most fans feel that way, as well. What have you enjoyed most about working with Ted Danson?

Fox: He’s really amazing; I’m not sure he’s human. People know him for ten minutes, but he’s the kind of guy that can show up and create chemistry with someone. You could look into his eyes in a scene and feel like you’ve known each other ten years. Most people that work with him probably feel that way. [Laughs.] He has that amazing talent to make everyone feel special and on top of that he’s just an incredible leader. No matter how long a day yet, he’s still got his energy and his optimism. He’s incredibly funny and it’s really nice to stay around at work–some of the days can be pretty gruesome and horrible–and just kind of laugh. I’m glad they’ve been able to put a little bit of that into the show; I think the show will never be a comedy, but we’ve been able to do more funny stuff in this last season than probably in all the years of the show combined.

CSI Files: From what I can gather, you’ll be doing a reduced number of episodes this season. Are we looking at doing more or less episodes than last season?

Fox: That is not always totally in form; it doesn’t really take shape until we get through the season. I know that I’ll do a minimum of fifteen, so probably somewhere between fifteen and seventeen. We sort of take a couple months at a time.

CSI Files: You took a break seasons eight and nine. Is your plan as of now to see the show to the end?

Fox: [Laughs.] I can’t answer that, Shane! Only because we always think, ‘Aaah, it’s probably only one more season. Maybe two more seasons.’ I sort of think we got to be coming close to the end, but who knows, right? Hopefully we can go another ten years. Yes, right now, theoretically, I think I’d like to see it to the end; that would be a really cool thing to accomplish. My goal as of now is to do twenty seasons in a row on primetime network television and this, for me, I’m starting season seventeen.

CSI Files: Oh wow.

Fox: Yeah. Some of those seasons I may have done only four or five shows, but I was in there; I snuck my face in there. [Laughs.]

CSI Files: “Code Blue Plate Special,” is a rather significant installment for Sara. How personal of a case is this to her?

Fox: Pretty personal. I think it’s going to be a really great episode; I haven’t seen it. [Laughs.] I totally expected it to be on last Wednesday–I was like, “Where are all the shows?” I enjoyed watching the debates but didn’t realize how much they would preempt everything. Not only does Sara know the victim, but she believes she knows the suspect. It’s pretty personal, I think. It’s certainly something that Sara is incredibly passionate about. You’re going to see Sara get very angry.

CSI Files: We’ve seen her look into cases of those she’s known in the past; how emotionally invested is she in this case, as to say from “One Hit Wonder,” when her friend Melissa Winters goes from victim to suspect?

Fox: [Laughs.] Oh, wow. That’s… thank you for mentioning that episode. [Laughs.] This is a person that Sara sees several times a week in her life. She knows the intricacies of this woman’s life and the suspect? She hates this guy. She hates him. He’s a really talented guy and he’s that guy I think where everyone wants to see him go down. I don’t know that Wednesday night’s episode is going to get 100% resolved.

CSI Files: Episode Eight is in production right now. What else is going on for Sara in the first run of episodes?

Fox: I have a really intense arc on Episode Seven which is the episode we bring Warrick’s son in. I think that episode, particularly for Nick [George Eads] and Sara, is pretty devastating and heart-wrenching. Almost every character so far this season–at least the six forensic investigators–have had a chance to really delve very deeply into a case or situation. Eric‘s [Szmanda, Greg Sanders] character has an episode that deals a lot with old Vegas and Vegas in the forties. Elisabeth Harnois [Morgan Brody] has a case that deals with human trafficking that we really follow her for most of the episode. Elisabeth Shue [Julie Finlay] in “CSI On Fire” is about to do that; that’s a cold case of hers that will also bring in her ex-husband. I think we’ve all been there supporting each other for a lot of these episodes, but there’s definitely one that is driving each episode. Russell’s son [Brandon W. Jones] is accused of murder. There’s been a real theme of personal intimacy this season. I don’t know–you tell me if you like them and if the fans like them.

CSI Files: Ted’s son on the show, Brandon, is a really good friend of mine and he was pretty excited about having a pretty big episode to work with.

Fox: He was amazing; he did a great job. He’s been a great addition to the cast. Of course he’s not there every week, but he’s got such a great sense of energy and great spirit. It’s great to get to know him a little bit.

CSI Files: There’s always the rumor mill circulating at the beginning of a season when producers mention in interviews that they’d like to see Billy return, and that they enjoy the two of you having a creative input in the story-telling of GSR. Have you had any meetings thus far? I know Billy stepped away from Hurt People, so is it looking more likely for him to make a cameo this year?

Fox: I didn’t know he stepped away from Hurt People. He did?

CSI Files: About a month or so ago.

Fox: I miss some of these important moments. Well, certainly if he steps away from Hurt People then yes, I’d say there is a good chance than there might have been a month ago. I think a month or two ago it appeared like he might have been a bit too busy for us, so that’s exciting. I wish I had more to say about that, but it’s definitely promising now.

CSI Files: Over the summer you launched an official Facebook page, but haven’t really used it all too much so far. Are you sticking with Facebook for the most part, or are you thinking about attempting Twitter as well?

Fox: Oh my gosh, well thank you for even seeing my Facebook. You see how neglected it is then you know that my obvious answer is I definitely can’t add another social media forum to my list. If I can’t even update–I thought to myself, “All you have to do is post twice a week! It’s fun and creative and whatever it’s going to be…” and weeks go by where I can’t even post anything. I’m an embarrassment to the online social media community, so yeah, no Twitter. [Laughs.] I still haven’t given up on Facebook. I apologize, and thank you for even caring.

CSI Files: This weekend you’re receiving two awards: one from ADI and another for your film, How I Became An Elephant. How does it feel to be recognized for your ongoing support of animal rights?

Fox: It feels amazing, but I don’t really feel like I earned it yet. I don’t know that I’ve really put the time and the energy into getting awards of any kind, but obviously to be recognized is an amazing feeling. I’m going to have a very busy weekend and I’m really excited to celebrate those parts of my life.

CSI Files: One last question just for fun. Your schedule is incredibly busy, but what shows are you watching during your downtime?

Fox: I love Modern Family. I usually wait a couple weeks to watch them on my Tivo or try to watch a couple in a row. I’ve been watching Homeland; I love Homeland. [David] Rambo‘s new show, Revolution, I’m watching. I love some of the NatGeo sort of reality programming–Locked Up Abroad. And I’m excited about the premiere of American Horror Story.

Shane Saunders
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