Carmine Giovinazzo

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at October 21, 2004 - 1:33 PM GMT

Carmine Giovinazzo plays abrasive young criminalist Danny Messer on the newest CSI spinoff, CSI: New York, a character the 31-year-old actor can relate to. Both are native New Yorkers and share a curiosity about the forensic science the show delves into on a weekly basis. Giovinazzo has done both film and television work, with roles in movies such as Black Hawk Down In Enemy Hands and For the Love of the Game and guest roles on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Providence and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. His starring role in the comedy series Shasta McNasty as a slacker musician was a far cry from the role he would eventually take in CSI: NY. September saw the launch of the actor’s official website,, which features exclusive photos and the actor’s own artwork. Giovinazzo took a few minutes out of his busy shooting schedule to talk to CSI Files about how he's adjusting to life on the set of a hit television show.

CSI Files: Congratulations on the success of CSI: New York! Did you predict that it would do as well as it has?

Carmine Giovinazzo: No, I didn't have any predictions. I was just kind of happy to have a place of employment. It was more people around me were reaffirming that this was a really solid project to be involved in. So I didn't really think about that much; I was just more worried about what I gotta do with it.

CSI Files: Were you familiar with the CSI shows and how popular they are before taking the role?

Giovinazzo: Not really. Somewhat. I have a friend or two who were really into it and I had done an episode of the Vegas show ("Revenge Is Best Served Cold"), so I kind of knew what it was from working on it. That was a good time and a good experience. But that was the extent of it.

CSI Files: What drew you to the role of Danny Messer initially?

Giovinazzo: When the character came through, it was first and foremost being a native New Yorker. You'd be surprised how rarely those parts come along for me. When that came through, it was very exciting to see it. I couldn't wait to meet for it after I saw the character description. You're rarely in a position to pick and choose [roles]. I was up for a couple things around that time, so I was just looking for a job and this one was the most appropriate.

CSI Files: Do you find the forensics in the show interesting?

Giovinazzo: Fascinating, fascinating. That's a good word for it. It really confirms one's own ignorance.

CSI Files: So you're learning a lot?

Giovinazzo: Yeah. It's been really hectic and I haven't had time to take each thing that I'm learning and really understand it to a level that I should, but just enough to understand how it pertains in the episode or the scene. But yeah, I'm blown away by the science--it was never my thing.

CSI Files: What case surprised you the most?

Giovinazzo: Well, the one we're doing right now ends up being a case of schizophrenia. It threw me for a loop when that came out at the end, that [our suspect] had that disease, that was kind of a factor behind what was going on. That was interesting. Every episode blows me away, every episode has some sort of interesting way of committing a crime that's always unusual.

CSI Files: Is there anything going on between Danny and Stella Bonasera (Melina Kanakaredes)? Some viewers have noticed a bit of tension between the pair. Are the writers trying to develop that?

Giovinazzo: No, not that I'm aware of. If that's happening, I think it might be just somebody's perception or maybe the way it happens to be coming off. There hasn't been any of that in the text.

CSI Files: What do you find most interesting about your character? What aspects of him would you like to see explored on the show?

Giovinazzo: I think his hotheadedness. Like Anthony [Zuiker, CSI creator and CSI: NY showrunner] said--he called me the Sonny Corleone of the show. I love that and I'm looking forward to really having a chance to let that come out and really express that kind of passion and frustration and eagerness to get things done and to do good work. I think that he wants to do good, this kid, he really wants to do the right thing and always has the right motive behind anything he does.

I think there's going to be an episode at some point where he kind of gets himself into a little trouble just being so outgoing and sometimes too talkative maybe. I'm just really looking forward to playing that out because it's nice to be able to be really outspoken and kind of on the edge when maybe [you're right about] what you're coming at people for. Maybe you're a little out of line, maybe the way I do it isn't so mature and so perfectly, eloquently done, but I like that about him. He's really righteous about things. That stuff gets him into trouble but it also makes him an interesting character.

CSI Files: What's next for Danny in some of the upcoming episodes of NY? Any good cases or revelations about the character?

Giovinazzo: I'm actually kind of light in this next episode [the one currently filming], so beyond that I haven't read one. But like I said, there is a big episode about him where I believe I get into some sort of trouble with the department for doing something out of line. That's as much as I can say.

CSI Files: Do you know when that one is coming up?

Giovinazzo: It's probably going to be one of the episodes in the second half of the season. When, I don't know.

CSI Files: Do they have a script for the episode yet?

Giovinazzo: They do, but I haven't read it. I think it was written a while ago. Initially it was going to be earlier, but they kind of want to open us up a bit more slowly. That's why if people are expecting, "Oh, where are the characters?", it's like there's five, six, seven of us and then there's the stories at hand.

CSI Files: So they're slowly unveiling the characters, primarily focusing on Mac and Stella?

Giovinazzo: Yeah, they're the two leads of the show and hopefully we'll all evolve. Even as far as seeing who Mac and Stella are, I think it's going to take a bit of time to get into a groove where we're flowing smoothly and we can tell you a little something about [the characters] outside the case or somehow incorporating it within the case. That's kind of a difficult thing to do.

CSI Files: Have you drawn on your family's background in law enforcement at all for the show?

Giovinazzo: Most of my family are cops and I've talked to them about things in the beginning, questions I might have had [about] the way things are done and how to approach certain suspects during an interrogation--things like that.

CSI Files: Did you ever want to be a cop?

Giovinazzo: No, I let my sister do that! It was never really something I thought about doing.

CSI Files: How does the cast of CSI: NY get along?

Giovinazzo: It's actually rare that you get a crew together [where] everybody's grounded and [they're all] nice people, top to bottom. Gary [Sinise, who plays Mac Taylor] and I joke all the time and have a great time. Melina's a sweetheart, Eddie [Cahill, Don Flack] is sweet. Hill [Harper, Sheldon Hawkes] I don't see that much but I'm getting to know him. Everybody's pretty much eye-to-eye.

CSI Files: You worked with Melina in an episode of Providence previously.

Giovinazzo: It was a long time ago. It was kind of funny--she actually recalled that after the first episode or two and brought that up and we were laughing about that.

CSI Files: You had a part in the pilot of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. What was that like? Did you have any inkling then that that show would be a hit?

Giovinazzo: No, not at all. That was just another job; I was just excited to be working. I had no idea. That's kind of around the time I moved out here [to Los Angeles]. It was kind of a catalyst--I got this little [role] that let me go out there and check it out.

CSI Files: So that was a catalyst for you for moving out to L.A.?

Giovinazzo: It was a little bit. It was that and other reasons, but it was nice to say, I'm gonna move out there, I'll shoot this and give it a shot.

CSI Files: Was it a fun set to work on?

Giovinazzo: Yeah, that was fun, but that was seven years ago. I've got flashes [of memory] of that--I remember being on set, breaking a window, going into the school. It was fun.

CSI Files: Do you have an input in shaping your character on CSI: NY?

Giovinazzo: I think [the writers] are very open to feeding off who you are when they get to know you. Anthony has always been that way since the beginning. He always brings up things like, "that's something you'd do; I think we can incorporate that." They're always open to discussion. It's not rigid thing, "this is what you are, this is how you are." I think everybody's figuring it out and we've got a good sketch of what it is and then it's a matter of somehow putting it in there and keeping what we have to deliver as far as the show is concerned. So yeah, we talk about it.

CSI Files: Fans have taken note of Danny's new glasses, which he didn't wear in the CSI: Miami episode ("MIA/NYC--NonStop") that introduced the NY cast. Why the change?

Giovinazzo: That was part of the character. We're creating a character and I think [the addition of the glasses] worked out for the best. They might come off at some point. I've kind of gotten used to them. Once [I] put those on, you know who this guy is. It's not me, although I do wear glasses.

CSI Files: Did that have anything do with the addition of the glasses?

Giovinazzo: No, no, it was completely a decision that was made as we were beginning to do the show. [Though i]f I took them off, I couldn't see things. I'm blind without them.

CSI Files: It sounds like it was a good addition then.

Giovinazzo: It's nice. I don't have to do [the show] with my contacts on all the time. I can let my eyes breathe.

CSI Files: How would you like to see the show utilize its setting?

Giovinazzo: I think everybody's just trying to make a decent show right now and make sure that everybody's on the job and doing it well, but beyond that, hopefully we'll shoot in New York. Hopefully we'll shoot there much, much more. We are going to go back soon enough, but I'd love to be on the streets of New York as often as you possibly can. And if the show takes off and people dig it, I think that will give us more opportunity for the producers and the people involved to make that happen, to say, "we'll allow you guys to do that because you're making something good here." Right now, I think we're just trying to get it off the ground. Going [to New York], I don't think that's an easy process for the producers to get everything organized and do that as much as we'd like, so I think that once there's some security about the show maybe we'll have a bit more freedom to do that.

CSI Files: What has been the biggest change in your life since getting this role?

Giovinazzo: The fact that I'm now waking up in the morning, putting on a suit and tie and grabbing the briefcase and going to work. That lifestyle--that's probably the biggest change I'm adjusting to. It's kind of a claustrophobic feeling for me, the idea of committing to [that lifestyle]. It's not even 9-5 when you're working [on a television show]; it's 6am to 6 at night, or 9am to 9 or 10 at night. So that's the biggest adjustment. There's a grind and it's a lot of waiting--sure, you get a day off here and there--but I have to be here [on set]. Then beyond that, there's delivering this kind of material, which is a real challenge itself, this style of acting, which is its own entity. For the most part, it's just the challenge of the schedule.

CSI Files: It's interesting that you used the word "grind"--Rory Cochrane (Tim Speedle), who recently left CSI: Miami, used the same word to describe it.

Giovinazzo: Yeah. You know, it's a test. I know the world does it every day and my hat goes off to them. How they can consistently do the same thing day in and day out and walk that same road day in and day out--it's an amazing discipline that you have to have to do that and do that with your head up. For us, in our own little specific area [television acting], we have to do that and then you have to look at us! We have to do it and we can't hide the fact if we're having a bad day. So it's kind of a trip. It's a nice challenge for an irresponsible guy like me.

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Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.