Anna Belknap

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at March 13, 2006 - 3:07 PM GMT

Anna Belknap joined CSI: New York in the third episode of the show's sophomore season as Detective Lindsay Monroe, a young criminalist from Montana hand-picked by Mac Taylor to join his team. The CSI: NY producers selected Belknap, whose previous credits include series regular roles on Medical Investigation and The Handler, to portray the enthusiastic young woman. Belknap shared with CSI Files' Kristine Huntley her take on how Lindsay is adjusting to the big city and what the biggest challenges are facing her character.

CSI Files: You've been on CSI: New York for half a season now. How are you settling in? Do you enjoy working on the show?

Anna Belknap: I do, I like it a lot. It's the nicest crew, the nicest cast. It's really a great job.

CSI Files: What led you to take the role of Lindsay Monroe?

Belknap: Basically the way it works out here is that you get auditions and you go in. I knew Hill [Harper, Dr. Sheldon Hawkes] was on the show. I can't remember if I talked to him about it before or after I went in [to audition]. I was actually auditioning for Numb3ers--they needed somebody new on that show--and I didn't wind up getting that and then they were like, "Well, what about CSI: New York? So I was like, "Great!" So I went in, and I think they videotaped it and sent it off to [executive producers] Jerry Bruckheimer and Anthony Zuiker, and then I got it.

CSI Files: What was it like joining the show in the second season?

Belknap: Everyone made me feel really welcome. It's a little nerve-wracking because the show has a huge following and it's got this real New York fee. Luckily my character wasn't from New York. But to step in and know you're the odd man in the group--everybody else has this real New York energy but you're coming in as this other thing, it's peculiar. On the one hand it's great because everything I felt coming in was exactly what Lindsay Monroe would feel, sort of like she was coming in to something that was already established. So it worked out for the best. I purposefully didn't watch the show; I [got cast] over the summer and I could have watched the reruns but I purposefully didn't because I didn't want to try to fit in right away. I was afraid if I watched it I would carry the tone of the show with me, which I thought would be a mistake since I was supposed to be from somewhere else.

It was great--they made me feel really welcome right away. In fact by the time I was shooting [my second or third episode]. I felt like I had to remind myself that Lindsay was new and that Lindsay probably wouldn't feel as at ease as I felt by that time. It's really a great group. You spend so much time together that when it's not a great group it becomes so much harder to do the work, but Gary [Sinse, Mac Taylor] is a great role model, and so is Melina [Kanakaredes, Stella Bonasera]. They both work really hard, and they show up and they're professional.

CSI Files: What's it like working with Gary and Melina? Had you ever worked with them before?

Belknap: I did a play in New York with a woman who was in Steppenwolf, but I didn't know [Gary] and had never worked with him. But he's amazing! He is so good--he is really kind of unbelievable. I hadn't worked with Melina either--I had watched Providence before but not regularly. But I worked with Kelli Williams last year and she had worked with Melina and told me how nice she was.

CSI Files: You and Gary have had a lot of scenes together.

Belknap: Yeah, it's great. He's like a hero to actors because of Steppenwolf, which he founded right out of high school--that's like one of the premiere start-up theater companies in America. So he's really famous to all of us. It was great and just really cool to get to work with him. He's just so good! You come in prepared and you think you really know what you're doing and you open your mouth and you say your lines and then he'll just say one thing, and you're like, he's so prepared. He's a really deep kind of actor, even with simple stuff, he's on it and he's a good thinker on camera. He's an exceptional actor.

CSI Files: There's a really great dynamic on screen between your character and his.

Belknap: I didn't watch the show that much last year and I heard little bits and pieces about how they wanted to lighten it up a little this year. So I think Lindsay is a bit like a little guardian angel coming in and trying to keep it light with Mac, tickle him a little bit.

CSI Files: Since Lindsay is a country girl adjusting to the big city, what do you think the biggest challenge has been for her, adjusting to New York and her job at the crime lab?

Belknap: It's tricky because I would think that really her biggest challenges would be all the things that would happen off camera, like finding an apartment, things like that, which I know first hand are kind of a pain there. Because I was sort of like this when I moved to New York, she strikes me as just really excited to be doing something in the spot where everyone who's really good at it does it. New York sort of attracts the best of every field, so I think as far as what we've seen on the show has been hard for her, I think coming right in and being all eager and then right away they had that funny interaction with Danny (Carmine Giovinazzo), and she was like, "Oh no, this isn't how it was back in Montana!" Sort of having to show that she can hold her own and that she's really good at her job.

I think if you're coming into a new job, especially in this case where you would have been picked by Mac--and I sort of imagine he's a hero in the field--I think showing that you really deserve to be there, that you know what you're doing, and even though you're at a place where there weren't as many murders--you're still really observant, you still are methodical, you still know your stuff. As far as stuff we can see on camera, just showing she deserves to be picked is a big challenge. And I think also was I know I feel and so I would imagine Lindsay feels is New Yorkers are tough! I'm a petite person and therefore so is Lindsay, and in these interrogation scenes, [it's hard] really trying to get someone to know that they have to take you seriously, especially people from New York--like that episode ["Risk" where the subway driver said that word and she was like, "What?"--just trying to step and fill those shoes and be a good cop in the city.

CSI Files: What do you like best about Lindsay so far?

Belknap: I love how excited she is by the work. I myself could never do this kind of thing for a living, and I admire people who do it in the real world because it's a gruesome profession and I would think a really difficult one. So I like how excited she is about it. I like how she's kind of open--I know Anthony has hinted at a backstory that is sort of bleak but that hasn't turned her into a depressive. Instead it kind of opened her up to the world--she's an open person, willing to learn. And I like her sense of fun, and I think she and I are similar in that way because I'm always joking around on the set. I think she likes to have a good laugh.

Belknap: Her willingness to try things, like the bugs in Fare Game", is interesting!

Belknap: Yeah, that's great too. Anthony was really clear about that at the beginning. He was like, "I really want it to be like you just roll your sleeves up and try different things. And I think that's great, like when she went into the dumpster ["Bad Beat"] and into the K-Y Jelly ["Trapped"]. She likes doing that stuff even thought she makes little jokes about it, I think. She really likes that stuff.

CSI Files: You mentioned Lindsay's backstory. Do you know what her "bloody secret" is? Can you give us any hints?

Belknap: We've talked about it a little bit but not in detail; it's a rough idea. I honestly don't know that much more than what [Anthony] has already said, which is that it was something really bloody that she was a part of. I assume it was a personal thing, but to be honest I'm not exactly sure about that.

CSI Files: Do you know when her backstory is going to be addressed?

Belknap: No. It's funny, [Anthony] told me about it when we were doing episode five and so I was thinking, "Oh, in like three episodes I'll talk about it," but I still haven't, which I think is okay. About those backstories--I think it's neat when you kind of hint at them, but I think they have to arrive really organically or else they just seem like a chance for an actor to do a backstory. It's always much better when it comes out organically, so I'm sure that when they feel like the time is right [we'll see it]. And it's tough to introduce a new character and then try to sum everything that makes her tick, because then people seem less complicated in a way, to explain their behavior by something that happened to them a long time ago.

CSI Files: A lot of fans have picked up on sexual tension between Lindsay and Danny, and Lindsay and Mac. Do you think it's there, and do you have a preference?

Belknap: Well, I don't think I really have a say! I think from the very beginning Danny and I have this really great [dynamic]. It's funny because Carmine and I have it in a way too because Carmine's pretty cool and I'm so square, and he'll laugh at things I say even when I'm in my dressing room, like I sound like a little country bumpkin. So I think it just translated really fast and early onto the screen. And plus they gave him that great trick to play on me right off the bat [in "Zoo York", which just gets stuff going. In that same episode [when] we were working in the lab together, the director [Norberto Barba] suggested, "Why don't you kind of bump into each other?" And that wound up being this really great unspoken moment. Carmine is just great to work with and he's really good and I feel like he really knows his character, and it's really specific and he's really free, so he's easy to play with and it's fun. And then the writers keep writing little scenes for us to do. For us, those are so much fun and give us a little break from exposition or lab work. I think [it's] that teasing thing you do when you're not sure if you like someone or you don't like them. There's something going on.

CSI Files: Do you have an idea about how Lindsay feels about him and the situation?

Belknap: Yeah, but I don't think I should answer because I think it will come out in the show. But I think she is definitely very intrigued by him. He's different than people she's known before. And he's cute! I mean, what are you going to do? She's just a girl after all, in a new place. Think about the fact that she probably doesn't have that much social life outside the lab, except she did have a date at the opera.

CSI Files: What episode are you shooting now? Can you share any details about it?

Belknap: We're shooting episode number 21. I think Kid Rock is in it.

CSI Files: There are rumors that your predecessor, Aiden Burn (Vanessa Ferlito) is coming back for an episode. Do you know if that's true?

Belknap: I did hear a rumor about that, but not from a writer so I don’t know if that's true. That would be great.

CSI Files: Do you have a favorite episode or a favorite moment for Lindsay from what you've done so far?

Belknap: I liked a lot the scene in the dumpster where she finds the rifle ("Bad Beat"). I liked a lot the scene where she took her shoes off outside the door ("City of the Dolls") before she interrogated the woman--I thought that was a good [glimpse] into her squareness. The thing that's kind of neat about playing Lindsay is that she's got a lot of layers. Everything is so new to her, there's a lot of role-playing she does to fit in. I feel like she's very kind of square and excited but she can kind of put on this banter, this attitude that's a little more New Yorky when she talks to Danny but then when she's with Mac it's really different, and I really like that about playing her. I thought it was neat that they had me be a little bit excited about the creepy factor of the sort of haunted house in "Cool Hunter". I like it when she gets a little tough or testy with people. I like doing the physical stuff so I liked checking that guy into the car ("Zoo York") and chasing that other guy ("Risk")--that kind of stuff is fun.

CSI Files: She definitely made an impression in her first episode when she stopped the guy from running after he hit Mac with the bag.

Belknap: They had worked out this really elaborate thing where I hit him against the car and then I took him down and then I rolled him over and then I cuffed him! I think everyone was like, "I think that might be a little bit too much!"

CSI Files: Before CSI: New York you worked with Hill Harper in The Handler. What was it like working with him on that show? Did you talk to him before you took the role of Lindsay?

Belknap: We did talk. After my first audition, I felt really bad about it, so I was like, "Hill, tell them I'm not that bad!" and he put a nice word in for me which was very sweet. He's fantastic and I loved working with him. We had a really good time on The Handler because we had a lot of storylines together. And the whole premise of that show was that we went undercover. So it was really challenging stuff--one week I was an Irish nanny, the next week we'd be this trashy bar couple. We got in this long bar fight in this one episode. It was a lot of fun and we got to work on a lot of different kinds of characters. We'd meet up outside of work to go over stuff. He's a really great guy--he's so committed to what he does. He works really, really hard. He's a great actor. I loved working with him on The Handler and I love working with him here, although we haven't had that much stuff to do together, which is too bad. But it's really tricky because we're both new, so it doesn't make that much sense for us to be on a case together. Maybe next year or later on. We do have a scene together that's coming up.

CSI Files: You've also done a lot of theater work. Do you have a preference between theater and television?

Belknap: I don't have a preference. I've done a lot of TV lately so I'd love to go back and do a play. It's funny, we all like to have an audience. I hate to admit it but it's kind of true of most actors, so I do miss performing in front of people and having that energy. I wind up performing a lot for the crew when we're not rolling, trying to crack everybody up. That's the thing I miss. I like the camera because I like how truthful it forces you to be. You can't fake anything so I like that challenge. But I do miss the real rapport with an audience, and the feedback and that electric energy of performing on stage.

CSI Files: Do you have a favorite role?

Belknap: You know, it's hard [to pick]. It's funny because you start to like the people you play, you start to really care about them, so it's hard to pick a favorite. But I like Lindsay. This character I played last year, I couldn't stand her at the beginning. I thought it was so far from me, this character on Medical Investigation and then by the time the season was over, I really liked her. And some stuff I've done in plays--I played Marina in "Pericles" and that was one of my favorite parts.

CSI Files: You mentioned you like to joke around on set. Have there been any funny practical jokes, or funny set stories?

Belknap: I don't know if I can think of any practical jokes. I feel like there have been some but I can't remember! We’re just always cracking each other up.

CSI Files: Is there a set jokester, or is that you?

Belknap: I think it's kind of all of us! I definitely do my fair share of joking around, but so does Eddie [Cahill, Don Flack]. He's kind of a clown, and Carmine is too. Everybody is pretty funny. I can't think of a practical joke! Mainly we crack up when things go wrong or when lines are all wrong, blooper kind of things, which there are a lot of.

CSI Files: Is anyone infamous for flubbing lines?

Belknap: Not really on this show. I've worked on other shows where I could definitely say there were people infamous for flubbing, but on this show it's pretty good. Although you know what's funny--Melina has a tendency of being a little bit clumsy. I was in a scene with her where she was supposed to be throwing this ball back and forth from one hand to the other, just kind of thinking, and she dropped that thing almost every time! Even when it was just on my coverage and she wasn't in the shot, I'd be talking and you'd hear this THUD! Thud, thud, thud, thud, thud--over and over again. It was so funny!

Carmine had to say some slightly racy line the other day and we could not do it with a straight face. And we all were giggling. It's funny for us [but] I think the crew is like, "Okay, we're ready to go home now!" They work really, really hard. They work longer hours than anybody.

CSI Files: How long are the work days for you?

Belknap: It's anywhere from a 12 to a 14 hour day, sometimes they're even longer. For the actors, you're not in every scene of the day. So we usually get a much easier workday than the crew, who have to be there start to finish everyday, five days a week. They work really hard.

CSI Files: Had you seen much of the CSI shows before you got cast on CSI: NY>

Belknap: I had seen a little bit of the first one, and a little bit of New York, but I had seen last season where it was a little darker and bluer, so I didn't know exactly how they were going to change it. But I didn't really watch them, no.

CSI Files: Are you close with anyone from the cast or the crew outside of work?

Belknap: Not too much. We don't hang out. Carmine and I live near each other so I've bumped into him in a café, and Hill I see occasionally. If Gary's band is playing we'll all try to go. They played on the lot at Christmastime which was awesome. But no, we don't really hang out too much.

The four of us--Eddie, Carmine, Hill and I--all are in this little bungalow [which houses the dressing rooms], which is fun. It's like college. Eddie, Carmine and I were playing a lot [of guitar] for a while. And Carmine and I would sing our scenes, we'd sing the lines of the scenes, which is actually a good exercise. It frees you up a bit.

CSI Files:Do you all rehearse together?

Belknap: We do. There's not a ton of time. But this is one of the great things about these people--everyone really wants the show to be great. Nobody is like, "Oh, whatever, this is just my job." Everyone really works hard, so we work until we feel like a scene is in a good place. The way it works is that you usually go down and rehearse, but the rehearsal really means just a rehearsal for cameras so the camera is going to know where it's going to be, and the lighting guy can figure out where he wants to put the lights--it's not really about the acting. Then we always have about a half-an-hour after that where we'll run the lines. We'll already have done a lot of homework beforehand, but this is to just do it with each other, to figure out the momentum of the scene, the pauses, the structure, stuff like that.

It's nice to work on this stuff. It is a lot of work and so a lot times you can get a little bit lazy and sort of not really invest it with everything. But I think everybody in this cast really works hard.

CSI Files: What would you like to see explored about Lindsay in the future of CSI: NY? What kinds of stories would you like for her?

Belknap: I'd like to see a little bit more of why she wanted to become a CSI, her backstory, to see a little bit more of that come through. I'd like to see her grow into her own. One of the things I've been learning as I go, that's been a challenge for me, is figuring out the interrogation scenes, figuring out Lindsay's style in those. I think there's more to her than just being able to be tough. I think she has a kind of light-hearted energy that she can even bring to things like that I want to explore more. I think it will be interesting as she gets really comfortable in the lab to see even more sides of her--see that excited stuff, see that square side of her, maybe a relationship!

CSI Files: Do you enjoy the science in the show? Is there anything that's really surprised or intrigued you?

Belknap: It's pretty amazing, all the ways you can trap people. It's pretty difficult to get away with a murder, I think. All that stuff is pretty impressive. We have cops on the set and I love talking to them about stuff they've seen and the real world out there. I do like the science. I was always a science and math person when I was younger so I think it's really cool. Obviously the whole point of CSI is that they don't solve crimes by toting guns around and scaring people--they really use science, they use their brains. And that's a great idea.

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Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.