A.J. Buckley

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at February 27, 2008 - 10:10 AM GMT

AJ Buckley

A.J. Buckley has the best of both worlds: as the newest regular on CSI: New York, he's enjoying fleshing out his character Adam Ross, but he still has just enough time to sneak away now and then to do the occasional guest role or to shoot a movie. Just days away from returning to work, Buckley told CSI Files' Kristine Huntley about what he did over the strike-induced hiatus, what he thinks of Adam's new potential love interest Kendall Novack and who he'd really like to see Adam make a move on, as well as his dream storyline for NY's resident lab tech!

CSI Files: What have you been up to during the time off due to the writers strike?

A.J. Buckley: Traveling. My girlfriend was living in Australia at the time, so at the beginning of the season in between episodes or if I was shot early in the episode and had like five or six days off, I'd be on a plane and be in Australia. The ADs were awesome with working out the schedule so I could go out [there]. And my schedule is pretty light anyways compared to Carmine [Giovinazzo, Danny Messer] and Eddie [Cahill, Don Flack] and Gary [Sinise, Mac Taylor] the rest of the crew. I work a few days during the week; it's pretty phenomenal. I'm really lucky. I was basically flying to Australia to see my girl and so I was in Australia every two to three weeks. And while I was in Australia the strike happened and I wasn't in the last two episodes, so I ended up staying there for like a month and a half. Then I came back to LA and I was in LA for like two days, and then I went up to Canada [to see] my family and then I ended up in Mexico for three weeks.

And then my girlfriend flew over from Australia and met my family for the first time, and then my girlfriend and I flew to Thailand, which was unbelievable. Thailand is the most beautiful place in the world. It's really spiritual. You can't put into words how beautiful parts of Thailand are. It's just unbelievable; you're just in constant awe of what's around you. One night we camped overnight on Maya Bay where The Beach was filmed and we were only eight people on the island. We slept on the beach and it was a full moon, so it was my girlfriend and I under a full moon on this beach. A guy went out and caught our dinner for us--it was just such a beautiful experience. And then I came back here and the week after I got back the strike ended.

CSI Files: You really took advantage of the time off!

Buckley: Yeah. It sucked--I mean, don't get me wrong, I was pretty scared like, "God, I hope it comes back." And I was constantly e-mailing back and forth with [Executive Producer] Peter Lenkov, just touching base. And I finally got the word that the strike was over, which was such a relief. I go back to work on the fifth [of March] and I do the first two episodes, then I'm off [for] an episode and I go up to Canada to shoot Supernatural. They're bringing the Hellhounds back, so I go up on the 17th to Vancouver to shoot that for ten days and then I come back. CSI: NY has just been so great the producers have just been so amazing with allowing me to go and do [other things]. Right now I'm not in every episode. CBS has just been so cool to allow me to go to these other shows and films, which is great because it builds the profile of one of their cast [members] on the show. It works out for everybody.

CSI Files: You mentioned going back to work on the 5th. Have you seen a script yet?

Buckley: Not yet. I think we get them this week.

CSI Files: Have you talked to the writers yet about anything that might be coming up for Adam in the rest of the season?

Buckley: Not yet. I think we're just slowly over the season getting to know him more as far as his backstory, the whole abuse thing. There hasn't been any sort of concrete direction of what they're going to do, but I kind of like not knowing. I kind of like opening up the script and being surprised and going, "Oh wow, this is really cool!" It makes it more exciting if I don't know what's coming up. I've always played really dark characters, so I love to get into scenes and stuff where you really go deep within yourself and go on a journey. In the [third] season finale ["Snow Day"], when I read that I was so excited because I really got to act in it. It was great to do intense scenes with Carmine; I think he's such a great actor so to get to work with him on a script like that was really fun. And I actually had a lot of fun doing that. We both just said let's go for it.

So I'm hoping that Adam gets to go deeper emotionally into his past. Not that I don't feel challenged--the character's definitely challenging with the words and the science--but I definitely get excited when I see stuff where I get to be part of a moment. I would love to really have an intense moment with Gary. Gary's someone that prior to being on the show I looked up to so much, and I'm getting to know him now. He's just such an outstanding [actor]. Gary Sinise is Gary Sinise--he's just such a well-respected man. He's a family guy--family is so important [to him]--and yet he's so successful and always on point and always has a smile on his face. For the longest time I was so intimidated just being around him. He's such an intense guy when he's working because that's the character, and I was like, "Oh god, he hates me!" There's stuff he's done on stage in Chicago and stuff he's done as a director--I started renting all of his movies and just watching all of his stuff. They're just such great films.

I really want to start directing--that's a passion of mine, writing and directing---that's a bonus of getting to be on the set so much, observing and getting to see all the process and how the writers work and their approach. The writers are so cool. Reading the scripts now--they're writing how I talk! How I paraphrase stuff or how I go, "What up?" They'll put that in there. A friend of mine, Jonathan Siegel always goes, "What up?" and I just thought one day, I was doing a scene and I [said it]. And in a script a while ago, I think [it was] Trey [Callaway] who wrote it [in].

CSI Files: Getting back to "Snow Day"--that was such an intense ordeal for Adam. Knowing his background, do you think there will emotional repercussions somewhere down the line for Adam?

Buckley: I hope so! I hope we go back there because it was such a traumatic thing. I love the storylines that [stretch over] three or four episodes. I love the whole Second Life thing [in "Down the Rabbit Hole"] how it [ended] with 'to be continued....' And not just because I was featured in that episode, I just love episodic television. It's not really solved at the end of the episode--it just continues on. I loved the 333 stalker; I love that stuff. Those were some really good episodes.

CSI Files: Do you think Adam was annoyed that after he saved the day by saving the cops, everyone rushed past him to get to Danny?

Buckley: Not at all. He shies away from [attention]. I don't think he realized he did that. Adam's in Adam's world, he's happy in there, his own jokes make him laugh. I think he still thinks Danny and Mac and Flack and those guys are the ones that save the day, and he's probably [feeling] guilty that he crumbled and gave up the codes.

CSI Files: Do you think we'll see more of that guilt at some point?

Buckley: I hope so. I hope they go into more depth about it. I've been talking with the different writers and discussing ideas. Peter [Lenkov] and [Executive Producer] Pam [Veasey] have really championed me on the show and have given me a lot of confidence in the character. I knew Pam back in the day; she really went to bat for me and believed in me. I feel really lucky; I feel like I've got the best gig in the world. I really enjoy Adam, I really enjoy all the people I work with a lot. I would love to work up the ladder and get to direct, to get to be behind the camera.

CSI Files: Would you like to do that on CSI: NY?

Buckley: Yeah! I don't think it would ever happen but [it would be cool]. I feel like I'm going to school right now. I'm trying to take in as much as I can. I would like to get into directing episodic television; I think it's really interesting. I just love the process of it; I'd love the producing side of things, the business side of things. I think that if, god willing, the show goes for another five years, I can just soak up the process. Because I really don't know the process--as much as I do, I don't know how it all works and that's something that I'm really passionate about, behind-the-scenes stuff. The next five years is school for me. It's a great opportunity to learn and to understand the business side of things and just kind of take it in.

CSI Files: So how did you end up getting regular status on the show?

Buckley: I knew at the end of season three. My agent had a conversation and it seemed like there was interest, and my agent had said, "Is this something you want to go after?" And I was like, "Oh yeah!" Without question I want to be a part of this. So many people are like, "You're not the star of the show, you're this, you're that," and they're good points to bring up but this is CSI and it's working with Gary Sinise. There are no preconceived notions of what my role is. I'm [not] caught up in this delusion that, "Oh, I need to be number one and I need more storylines and this and that." It'll come with time. It's more the opportunity than [me] in my head going, "I need more this, I need more that." And [it's] the bigger picture of being part of such a huge franchise.

Like I said before, the main reason why I ended up on the show was Pam Veasey. It was a hundred percent Pam. Pam and Peter are definitely two people [who championed me]. I remember talking to Peter and he said he was really excited. And I said, "You're excited? I'm fucking over the moon!" Pam and Peter are the reason it went [in that direction].

And Carmine, too. Carmine from day one always would take extra time. He could tell I was nervous and he would just take a beat or run scenes with me or we'd figure out certain things to bring light to the characters. He'd improvise and call me cupcake or he'd punch me in the scene. Carmine and I have become really good friends. He's fantastic. He's got a new CD coming out [Ceesau's Era of the Exposed]. It is awesome! And I'm not just saying that! There's this one song, track three, "I Wrote the Longest Word," it's cinematic. He's so talented. I remember talking to him and he was like, "I've got to do something creative with my music," and he totally applied himself, got the band together, redid his studio and for three months worked his ass off and really went after it, and at the end of the day, the product is awesome. And I wouldn't say that if I didn't think it was. This one song, it is so catchy!

For my birthday, we all went go-carting, myself, Hill [Harper, Sheldon Hawkes] and Carmine and a bunch of my friends. On the way up we listened to [Carmine's] CD. We put the CD in and we didn't say anything to my girlfriend or her friend at the time, and we were like, "What do you think of it?" and they were like, "It's great, who is it?" And I was like, "It's Carmine!" And I kept wanting to play it over and over again, [but Carmine] was like, "A.J., come on, it's enough." I was like, "It's my birthday! I can play whatever I want!" He's really talented. I don't know if Carmine realizes what he did. That's not easy to do--to write it and to produce it. It's really good stuff. He did it and it sounds amazing.

CSI Files: So are you friends with anyone else in the cast?

Buckley: I'm friends with all of the guys. Eddie and Hill, too. Hill's another [talent]--he wrote that book [Letters to a Young Brother]. I read it, it's great. And just all the things Hill does with his politics and Barack Obama and how passionate he is about that. I hung out with Eddie a couple of times. He's Eddie! He's a good [guy]; we have the Irish connection. I'm from Ireland, he's part Irish. It sounds so clichť, but it's just a cool group of people.

CSI Files: Adam has something of a love interest now in Kendall Novack (Bess Wohl). They spent the night together in "Can You Hear Me Now?", but they didn't sleep together. What's with that?

Buckley: I wanted to know what was going on in there! Adam didn't close? Come on! She's on the couch. I think he had a glass of wine and passed out and she got fed up with him and kicked him onto the floor. I hope they go more into that storyline because it's really fun. And she's great. We had a couple of scenes together where it's just banter between us. She's really fun; it just breaks up just saying the science, a little nerd love in the lab.

CSI Files: So you think Adam definitely has a crush on her?

Buckley: Yeah, yeah. I like that. I think they should write more, make Adam a bit more of a stud with the lab techs! I think Adam really wants a gun and a badge. He thinks that's how he'll get the ladies. And maybe Detective Angell (Emmanuelle Vaugier) will see him mix up chemicals and that will turn her head and she'll say, "Wow, he's a sexy scientist!"

CSI Files: You think Adam could steal her away from Flack?

Buckley: Adam could? I don't know. Maybe he wishes he could! Every boy has to have a dream. I think he'd be really confident up until the point where she says hello to him and then he wouldn't be able to talk! He'd be like, "Ah, ah, ah!"

CSI Files: That would be funny!

Buckley: Yeah. I really liked where I got to dance in the lab. That was actually a fun day because Gary was laughing at it. It was in another scene and you didn't get to see it, but he turned to me and said, "You're in the background, so start dancing!" I was doing the moonwalk and spinning around. It was after Gary left the lab and I don't think the shot actually made it into the episode, but [he said,] "When I leave, keep dancing!" It was really funny. That's the cool part about Adam. He's very close to me and the way I live my life, but he always lightens up the mood a bit. I try to make one of the cast members have a smile on their face or make them laugh. It's always funny if Gary cracks up. He's not an easy guy to make laugh, but when we were doing the Second Life stuff, I got him a couple of times. During a couple of takes, he started laughing.

CSI Files: Did you enjoy the Second Life episode? Did you try out the universe?

Buckley: I loved the episode, but I didn't go in. There was supposed to be an avatar out there that was being created for me by two guys in Australia and I was supposed to do a Q&A as the avatar in Second Life, but it never happened.

CSI Files: Are you excited about the follow-up episode?

Buckley: Yeah. That's the cool thing about Adam--they've made him the go-to guy for all the new technology out there.

CSI Files: Anthony Zuiker described Adam as the "youngest and hippest" of the group. Do you agree with that assessment?

Buckley: Hip is such an odd word, I find. I think he just sees the world totally different. I think he's more privy to what the kids like, so to speak, or what the terms are or the technology that's out there. As far as fashion and stuff, they give me really cool clothes that I love. A friend of mine has a clothing line, TankFarm, and he gives me clothes to wear all the time. One day I get into wardrobe and see TankFarm stuff and I go to the wardrobe lady, "This is my friend's clothing line" and then they started sending them. What I wear on the show is pretty much what I wear everyday. Like my jewelry and all my stuff. My man-jewelry! My accessories.

CSI Files: So Adam would naturally most likely be involved in the Second Life follow up episode?

Buckley: I think, yeah. I would assume that with that world attracting this girl (the assassin) or any of the new technology stuff, Adam will be sort of heavy in that. He's just the go to guy with new stuff. Carmine's character makes fun of him for it, but at the end of the day, it's what got him there. I had so much fun filming that episode!

CSI Files: How was the big gladiatorial battle in Second Life filmed?

Buckley: They had at the time only like thirty seconds of animation filmed, so they would cut to the animation and then pan over to me and then restart the animation and come back, so [my part] was all sort of improv. I was just making stuff up.

CSI Files: Is there any character you would like to see Adam interact with more?

Buckley: Sid (Robert Joy). I really like Sid. I think he's such a talented actor. And to be honest with you, I've never really had many scenes with Eddie. We've had maybe one or two lines. It's either Stella (Melina Kanakaredes), Danny, Mac or Lindsay (Anna Belknap) and Hawkes. But never Flack. I'd love to be in on an interrogation. I think Adam wants that toughness.

CSI Files: Who do you think Adam most looks up to?

Buckley: Mac. I think he sees Mac as a positive father figure.

CSI Files: Which character do you feel Adam is closest to?

Buckley: Carmine's character. As much as he picks on [Adam] and whatnot, I think they've got a good [friendship]. I don't think Danny's ever invited him out for beers or anything like that. I think Mac and Danny [are the two he's closest to].

CSI Files: You also had a big role in the 333 storyline coming together when Adam assembled the puzzles in "One Wedding and One Funeral". Did you enjoy that?

Buckley: I remember reading the script and going, "Oh god!" The prop guys did a great job of building the puzzle. I think they had to do it a certain way because of copyright [issues]. I looked at that puzzle and there was nothing about that puzzle that looked remotely fun to do! I was like, "Are you kidding me?" God bless anyone who looks at that and thinks that's fun. There are so many other things I would much rather do! It just looks painful! But we actually had fun when we were doing the montage with Anna and I. Rob Bailey was directing that one and we just had fun. Where I was actually closing my eyes in front of one of the puzzles, we all laughed about it.

CSI Files: Adam was on his own with those puzzles until the end, when Lindsay stepped into help once it became clear it was about Mac. Do you think that bothered Adam?

Buckley: I think Adam's character puts a lot of pressure of himself. When Mac came in and saw that he'd done it, how excited he was that Mac was like, "Oh yeah, good job, man." Any sort of compliment that he can get from Mac is great. I think he's always up for the challenge. He gets off on it. And if someone helps him, great and if no one helps him, he's just [fine].

CSI Files: What would your dream storyline for Adam be?

Buckley: For him to really save the day and to see a tough side to Adam, which I believe he has. I believe that if Adam's pushed, he would fight back. My dream role is a Die Hard character, an everyman, a blue-collar worker that goes on the impossible mission. Just your average guy who saves the day. In that sense, Adam has never been put in that situation where it was up to him to man up and arrest somebody or tackle somebody or fight somebody. I think he was probably put down his whole life and I think that's one of the reasons he'll never let anybody do that to him again. But some sort of action thing or maybe something with his father. Anything that's an emotional thing that I can bring the intensity that I'm used to doing when I act.

CSI Files: On note, going back to "Snow Day," Adam had to sum up the courage to go get the Marquis solution after being tortured. How do you think he was able to do that?

Buckley: I think he was terrified but when Danny said, "This is what's going to happen," he said, "Alright." As much as he's scared, when he comes down to it, he'll deliver or give it his best shot. He's the unsung hero: you'll never hear him talk about it again. He's not one to gloat or say, "look at me!" He's very under the radar. He comes in, does his job, goes home and feels good about it.

CSI Files: Of the episodes you've been in so far, do you have a favorite?

Buckley: Probably "Snow Day" and "Down the Rabbit Hole." Those are my two favorites. But I love the Tanglewood boy storyline. I love that. Both Gary and Carmine have such a cool storyline with that, especially when [Danny's] brother got beat up, that scene in the hospital, when Carmine and Gary were outside, I thought that was a really powerful scene. Which I think you need more of, because it makes the characters in the show more relatable and more vulnerable. That's the thing: the cast are all proven, prior to the show, to be great actors. Like Eddie, the work that he's done, the films that he's been in, Carmine, Hill, and Melina. Everybody's done great work, so when the writers write that stuff, you know you're going to get a good performance out of the cast. They've really got a great stable of actors. It's just great to be around.

CSI Files: So you're going back to Supernatural for an episode. Have you seen a script for it yet?

Buckley: The characters have a reality show now or something like that. I haven't read it yet. I just know that they worked out the dates. I didn't think I was going to get to do it, but then they called and said CBS had worked out the dates. But I love that character. He's such a fun guy. I kind of made him have whiplash in the neck with how he turns. He's always stiff. And I love when he got to wear the glasses and I came up with a voice for how he talks. And Travis Wester, the other Hellhound--we have so much fun together. When we were filming, Jensen [Ackles] and Jared [Padalecki] and I would start improvising and then we would just start laughing. Someone would crack up in the middle scene and they'd yell, "Cut!" We'd go again and, "Cut!" It took a while to get through.

CSI Files: Are you working on any other projects right now?

Buckley: I'm going to do a film called Hunger. I play this crazy scientist that does this experiment--he locks five people in a room with cameras and leaves them water and sees what they'll do, see if they'll eat each other. It's a really dark film. It's a horror thriller.

CSI Files: Sounds like a real villain!

Buckley: Yeah. I love playing the bad guys. That's my favorite thing to do.

CSI Files: Why do you like playing bad guys?

Buckley: Because I'm acting! Bad guys are the funnest. They get to do the best stuff! It's just something I find I can lose myself in.

CSI Files: You mentioned your girlfriend is from Australia. Does CSI: NY need to worry about losing you to another continent?

Buckley: No, she's actually moved here now! It's so much better. She's amazing. She's an actress--she was on a show, Home and Away in Australia. She's actually out here now pursuing her career. She's amazing! I'm very lucky I met her.

CSI Files: How did you guys meet?

Buckley: At my house at a fourth of July BBQ. She was over visiting a friend of hers and we were introduced.

CSI Files: You're probably not missing the commuter flights!

Buckley: It was a thirteen hour flight, but it really wasn't that bad! It was like, you get on, you sleep for five or six hours, you watch two movies and then you're there. It was hard coming back, but going there was fine. It was hard being away from each other, but actually doing [the flight] was easy. And I actually love Australia--it's one of the most beautiful countries I've ever been to. It's so amazing. And her family is really fantastic, too. It was really cool to get to see that part of the world.

CSI Files: Have you found since being on CSI: New York that you get recognized more often?

Buckley: It's weird--I'm kind of oblivious to it unless somebody comes up to me and says, "Hey, are you such-and-such?" Or I'll get a lot of, "Where do I know you from? Did we go to high school together? Did we work together?" I'll get a lot of that. They just can't quite figure out how they know me. And I never say, "Oooh, I'm on TV." No, I'm just like, "I don't know." My friends will always ask, "Do people recognize you?" When I was in Vegas during the VMAs, I came out of a hotel and there was a paparazzi there that started taking pictures and I was with a friend of mine and I stopped and turned around to look at who they were taking pictures of. And I was like, "Who are they taking pictures of?" and my buddy was like, "It's you, man!" And I was like, "What?" Even when I was in Australia, the paparazzi guys would follow me and my girlfriend and the headlines would be about our "romance." It's really interesting to see what people write about. I'm just like, "I'm really nobody. I don't know why you're taking pictures [of me]. There are so many other people you could take pictures of!" I'm just oblivious to it.

I mean, I'm flattered when people come up to me and say they're a fan or they like my work or when I check out [TalkCSI] and I see the people talking about [the show] or their favorite [character]. It feels good to read about it. A lot of the reason I became a regular was because [fans of the show] responded to me and talked about me in chatrooms, and that really led to the writers writing for me. Believe it or not, those things really have influence and help [the writers] get a feel for how hardcore fans respond to a character. So I'm very grateful.

CSI Files: So will we be seeing you in the opening credits soon?

Buckley: I think it's next season that I'm in the opening credits, or maybe the year after. I'm not in every episode. Bruckheimer does it where you do like the first couple seasons as [a special guest star]. I've never been in the opening credits of a TV show before, so I'm actually really excited for when that happens.

CSI Files: It must be nice to be on a show that you know isn't getting cancelled!

Buckley: Yeah. It's really changed my life in so many ways. I can do things I've always wanted to do. Prior to getting CSI: NY I was fully living out of my car. I was broke! I had $32 to my name and I was couch-surfing and sleeping in my car. It was the happiest I ever was, but [it was tough]. The show just opened up so many doors and has given me so much opportunity. I read an article in the New York Times that it was the biggest television franchise in history, so to be a part of that [is amazing].

And then that billboard! I've never been on a billboard before. My friends texted me when I was in Australia to say, "You're on a billboard." I knew when they took that cast photo [for season four] that it [was a big deal], but I didn't realize they were going to put the billboard up in L.A. right on Fairfax and Beverly! I remember coming home and I was in a town car with my girlfriend and I looked up and I was like, "Holy shit!" I got the driver to stop the car and I got out and I was like, "This is crazy!" And to be on it with Gary Sinise. It's just great.

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Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.