Interview: Wallace Langham

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When Wallace Langham first guest-starred in the Season Three episode “Recipe For Murder,” never in the actor’s wildest dreams did he think he would find a permanent role on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. As trace evidence technician David Hodges, the once insensitive character has transitioned from being the guy in the lab that would rub a CSI the wrong way to a professional reaching maturity, being the focal point of a series of “lab rat”-themed episodes and often concocting board game fantasies and scenarios to help solve crimes. This week’s episode continues a theme in Season Thirteen of shedding light on the personal development in the characters’ lives, and it’s Hodges’ turn in a case that sports–literally–several guest-stars from the tennis world and introduces a new female character who shares a very close connection with the former brown-noser. Shane Saunders recently caught up with Langham to discuss the latest happenings in the character’s life. Minor spoilers in the following exclusive interview.

David Hodges (Wallace Langham, left) with Elisabetta (Catrinel Menghia Marlon) in “Double Fault.” Wednesday, Jan. 23 (10:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Monty Brinton/CBS ©2012 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

CSI Files: Hodge’s vacation to Italy last season has some long-term effects for the character, especially with the introduction of Catrinel Marlon as Hodges’ fiancee, Elisabetta. What can you say about the new lady in his life?

Wallace Langham: In a word she’s stunning. [Laughs.] Obviously it was a big surprise to me. Whenever they write things for our characters to have some sort of love interest, you never know exactly how it’s going to go; for them to give me this beautiful present with Catrinel, Christmas came early.

CSI Files: There seems to be some jealousy on Morgan’s (Elisabeth Harnois) behalf as well. Though it started off as more of a charade, do you think Hodges and Morgan share some genuine feelings for one another?

Langham: I think that Hodges and Morgan definitely share some sort of connection; they haven’t quite figured it out yet. It always seems to be born of some sort of crisis or event, like Ecklie [Marc Vann] being shot [in “Homecoming”] and Morgan worrying about the loss of her father. I think that, yeah, there is something there, but I think both are really confused right now.

CSI Files: Between Wendy Simms (Liz Vassey), Morgan, and Elisabetta, Hodges sure has had a great amount of good fortune in recent years after being a single man for so long. He gives one hope.

Langham: [Laughs.] That’s good. I only wish you the best. [Laughs.]

CSI Files: But there does seem to be some surprises to the character lately, especially with Hodges and women. You never really know where the writers are going to take the character; he’s like an enigma.

Langham: Indeed. Yeah, it seems like the amount Hodges has difficulty relating to humans is balanced out by the plethora of beautiful women that come into his life and try to help him along.

CSI Files: The next CSI spinoff will be Hodges running a little brothel with all these beautiful women.

Langham: [Laughs.] Well he is in Vegas, so he is in the place for it, right?

CSI Files: Speaking of good fortune, it’s always been played that the character’s mother is an elderly nagging woman in a nightgown, but she’s a total babe! What was your reaction to the casting choice, and will Jaclyn Smith be reappearing as Olivia Hodges soon?

Langham: I had the same reaction. I always felt like Hodges had to get home to an ailing mother and then they graced us with Jaclyn Smith, who is far from ailing and is as energetic as ever and is as beautiful as she ever was. For me, the question was “is it OK to have a crush on your mother?” [Laughs.] As far as Olivia coming back, I hope she does. I think she’s mentioned in upcoming scripts so I really got my fingers crossed that they bring her back soon, and I imagine since Elisabetta is in America and on the scene that Olivia will have something to say about it.

CSI Files: I was a bit surprised to see she’s not in “Double Fault.”

Langham: Yeah, I know! That’s the one thing I never really know: when they’re going to grace me with another beautiful woman. [Laughs.] But Hodges and Morgan have been making some social inroads that work. We share a glass of wine in an upcoming episode. It’s nice to see them relaxing at work.

CSI Files: While Hodges is still known to be rather immature, blunt and nosey, there has been an evolution of the character to where he is more adult and professional. How do you approach portraying him now as opposed to when you first started on the show in Season Three?

Langham: I think the one thing I try to bring more recently is really, deeply, just a deep, deep understanding of what Hodges is talking about and understanding, as best as I possibly can, the technical speak he has so I can relate that and sound credible. This season I try to make an effort for him to connect more with his fellow workmates–and it doesn’t always go well. But I think he’s trying whereas before I don’t think he wanted to invest anything emotionally as much.

CSI Files: Some major congratulations are in order. Not only did you last year sign a new two-year contract with the show, but you’re also in the middle of–and I’m not even sure you’re aware of this–shooting your two hundredth episode of the show. Episode Fifteen, “Forget Me Not,” is your two hundredth episode.

Langham: Is that right?! I had no idea. I just finished today. Thank you for doing that math, Shane. I appreciate it.

Wallace Langham stars as lab tech Hodges on CSI: CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION. Photo: Cliff Lipson/CBS. ©2007 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

CSI Files: Looking back to your first appearance on the show did you ever fathom this would turn into such a permanent gig?

Langham: Absolutely not. Truth be told the first day I got to set I had never seen the show and I had no idea what this show did or how it worked. I was very lucky to have Billy Petersen [Gil Grissom] be a fan of The Larry Sanders Show so he came to my rescue and said, “Guys, he’s never seen the show and doesn’t know what the tone is.” [Laughs.] He kept me under his wing. I had no idea it would last for ten years the way its gone. It’s been a gift the whole way.

CSI Files: With this new contract are you planning on staying until the end or are you sort of getting that itch to try new projects as well?

Langham: I’m super happy on the show. They’ve been really great about letting me go and do other things; I’ve been able to do some really fun parts in movies like Little Miss Sunshine and Hitchcock. It’s a really great blend right now; I don’t see any reason to leave.

CSI Files: You’re really close to Liz Vassey and her character shared such a huge connection to yours, both personally and professionally on the show. Do you think Hodges has moved on, or do they still keep in contact?

Langham: I think that Hodges has forced himself to move on. I think that Hodges still has to reconcile his emotional life and his work life, and I think that will always be a struggle for him. No matter whether it’s with Wendy, Morgan, or Elisabetta. I don’t think he’s ever really moved on from Wendy, and if for some reason she were to walk down the hall of CSI, I think his heart would skip a few beats.

CSI Files: We’ve seen Hodges in the field, but he prefers to stay in the lab, though he is very stubborn so I don’t think he’d admit it even if he did like it. Where do you see Hodges ending up eventually? Do you think he’ll want to take on a larger role, or is he content working trace?

Langham: I think he’s so comfortable in his little kingdom of trace that he has no reason to try to branch out from that. The heart of Hodges is a bit of a curmudgeon. If he were to die in the lab I’m sure he’d be a happy guy.

CSI Files: With Grissom gone from the lab who do you think he looks up to now?

Langham: He found a comrade in Ray Langston [Laurence Fishburne] and now that he’s gone, Hodges and Russell [Ted Danson] share a common sensibility and I think there’s an understanding between the both of them of how unique and quirky the both of them are.

CSI Files: So he’ll gravitate more towards the person with power then…

Langham: I think he ultimately knows where his bread is buttered. [Laughs.] But I think we’re seeing an attempt by Hodges in the last couple seasons to play nice with everyone.

CSI Files: Playing real-life personas in movies seems to be your thing. What kind of research goes into these roles?

Langham: It’s interesting. I try to do as much research as I possibly can. It doesn’t always pan out; some of these people are sadly no longer with us. For the Three’s Company and Charlie’s Angels movies, I was actually able to contact Jay Bernstein and spent a lot of time with him. He was so gracious with his time and really got to understand the essence of the man and how important he was at that point in television history.

CSI Files: One fun question to end things: Does Hodges still use a Sharpie to touch up his roots?

Langham: [Laughs.] I think he gave up that battle a few years ago. [Laughs.]

Shane Saunders
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