Carmine Giovinazzo

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at April 24, 2006 - 1:42 PM GMT

Danny Messer, Carmine Giovinazzo's popular character on CSI: New York, was put through the ringer in the recent episode "Run Silent, Run Deep", which delved into Danny's relationship with his troubled older brother as well as his standing with his supervisor, Mac Taylor. The actor took some time before a late night shoot to break down the "Tanglewood" conclusion, with CSI Files Kristine Huntley, and also reveals how he approaches each scene and what he thinks of the popularity of his lightning rod character.

CSI Files: The big talk right now is "Run Silent, Run Deep," the "Tanglewood" conclusion.

Carmine Giovinazzo: What did you guys think?

CSI Files: The reaction has been really positive! We heard the ratings were very high for the episode.

Giovinazzo: Really good--the best ratings since February or something like that. Everybody is so happy with the results of this episode, and me too. Anthony [Zuiker, CSI: NY showrunner and the episode's writer] came through for me and really cares about writing for this character and I like doing it, so hopefully we can do it more and more.

CSI Files: Do you think this is it for the Tanglewood storyline, or do you think it will be revisited?

Giovinazzo: I don't know. I'm not sure if it will exactly be Tanglewood or something in that direction, or maybe possibly something with my brother.

CSI Files: Do you know what's going to happen with Louie?

Giovinazzo: No, we don't know, but I'm pretty sure he's alive, so it gives us an open possibility to do something with him, which I hope they do. I'm sure they're all contemplating season three now, what we want to do and which way we're going to go so it's a possibility.

CSI Files: Were you happy with how "Run Silent, Run Deep" turned out?

Giovinazzo: Yeah I was. I think the way it laid out [was good]. Obviously you'd like to include more of the process of getting to where [Danny] got, to see every part of it. But if you think about it, it didn't happen in too many scenes--it's really just four or five scenes that make it all happen. Having to do it that way, I think it came out pretty seamless and it made sense and you got to realize the connection between my brother and I. I think [Gary Sinise, Mac Taylor] really played his character really great in this episode, with a good line of business and emotion and wanting to really bail Danny out but still staying stern, but not as much as usual in the situation. I really thought that was great and everybody came through really well.

CSI Files: After the dramatic end of "Tanglewood," was the conclusion along the lines of what you expected it to be? Were you surprised they brought Danny's brother in?

Giovinazzo: The way we left it, it could have went in any direction. You just knew something had happened with me and these guys that wasn't good, and it could have been anything. It could have been that they were my friends and I just want them [left in] my past and don't want anybody to know about that. I think Anthony messed around with the idea of my mom coming into play at one point in some way, shape or form, and then the brother idea [came up]. And I had no idea how we were gonna follow it up, but then we were trying to find a way to link the science into Tanglewood and this was the idea he came up with, with the cigarette butt. I just sit back and wait to see what I have to read. We definitely talk about it but I'm happy to be able to do any kind of storylines that get emotional and get outside the normal, conventional box of what it is we're doing. I'm super happy about it.

CSI Files: There's definitely been a lot of that for Danny.

Giovinazzo: I guess I've been really lucky that way and I don't know why that happens more so than not, but I'm glad and I hope it just continues to happen. It's kind of odd, though, because you do a lot of episodes that are very straight-laced and then all of the sudden you've got to do this episode that involves crying and being extremely angry, and emotional, and frustrated, and then all these deeper underlying feelings. And then it's all together in one episode! So I kind of almost wish it did happen more often. Every episode can't be that way but some sort of consistent underlying connection between the characters that can be played alongside the dialogue and the science and the crime and the scenes, which I think we've created.

The dynamic I have with Mac is clear in what he means to me and what I want to prove to him and how I feel about him. Even Anna [Belknap, Lindsay Monroe] quickly, we've created some sort of energy, things between us that's obviously something or not something--it's definitely something but who knows what it is. I think I've got that with Eddie [Cahill, Don Flack], too--we have the buddy vibe going. We haven't had that many scenes [together] to create something deeper, but there's definitely something there. So that would be great to have that to be more consistent, and I think that's where we're going. If people really like this episode, and Melina [Kanakaredes, Stella Bonasera] has got this next episode, [in] which she's going to be on her own storyline, which is off the beaten path and not something you'd see. If people really enjoy it, maybe we'll be able to go in that direction more so than not.

CSI Files: That would be great, since I remember that was Anthony's original intention with the show, to have it be more character-oriented.

Giovinazzo: It seems like the people like that, right? I do think they're always afraid to leave what made the show what it is, which is the science and the forensics and the mystery of it all. But I think we're kind of proving the fact that we [can] combine that with the character--you have your science that comes in, the crucial aspects of it, it doesn't have to be this long winded processing and what not. I think that's what we're trying to do--just trying to balance it and not cut it short because it is the initial fascinating part of CSI. But I always said if we can combine that fascinating thing that CSI is and why it's become so popular with old school NYPD or any kind of old school detective shows that are about the characters and walking the street and their dynamic with each other and the people that they interrogate and the people they talk to--if we combine those two then I think you have for an extremely unique show.

CSI Files: It does seem like New York is starting to distinguish itself that way, much like CSI: Miami did by becoming more of an action-packed show.

Giovinazzo: I've been putting on channel two more often; it seems like they've got some really big productions going on over there. [David] Caruso's always on the street with his gun, chasing people. I'm seeing Adam Rodriguez coming around the corner--he's got people at gun point, a lot of that, which is awesome. I think it's great--it's moving, it's live. That's a good way to go, but I think ours is a little bit more contained. It would be nice to get a little bit more into the minds of everybody and have this kind of specific thing that needs to be played between us.

CSI Files: What was it like doing that crying scene? How do you prepare for that?

Giovinazzo: Like I said, kind of being rusty doing those kinds of scenes, it wasn't easy at all. I kind of had to shut it all down, shut out everything else around me and just focus extremely on what I was doing. Working with Gary makes things easier, and Anthony also was really inspiring, because we talked about it and we went over it and I went over the scene a ton. I went over it and over it a thousand different ways, and there are a thousand different ways you can do a scene--it could go this way, it could go that way, you could cry, you could not cry, you could cry your fucking eyes out or just show that you're bothered. As much as it is specific and you prepare and you have a committed kind of way you want to do it, anything can happen. This is the way it happened.

CSI Files: Was that your choice or was it in the script?

Giovinazzo: We played with it, but [Anthony] definitely had it in the script that at that point in the end. Not specifically how it's done, but "Danny kind of lets it out," it said. That's it, I think it was "he lets it out." Then there was the idea that when I'm over my brother in the hospital, I could get teared up then, but maybe we shouldn't, maybe it should be between Mac and I at the end. It's just delicate, because you don't want to come out too harsh. For me, when you're doing the scene, what happens happens, knowing that you have these things you do specifically want to do, but what happens is just going to happen. We definitely talked this one out and bear down and focus and be there, and that was hard because like I said, you don't always have to do that on this show. It was definitely a challenge but that's exactly what I want to do. So whether it was good, bad, too much or not enough didn't matter--it was just like, I'm getting it out and hopefully it comes off real.

CSI Files: I think it did.

Giovinazzo: Yeah, I'm really happy with it. I think they really edited it well--there were lots of little things that were nipped and butted to keep the story not clear to the audience as to how I'm involved and what this means to me, but then at the same time to have the audience believe that there's this thing between my brother and I that would bring me to this place, because at the same time I obviously had animosity and hatred towards him and we had an estranged relationship. At the same time, you had to in a short time create that, even though I have this problem with him, that I'm still going to have this connection with him that I'm going to be extremely upset by what's happening. That was something I was kind of worried about--[Danny] tells this story about what his brother did to him, and how he kind of turned his back on him, and yet, still--he's my brother. That was something that convinced me all the time--this is my brother, so I don't care what's set up or not set up, if my brother's on a gurney and possibly going to die, I don't care what [happened between us], that simple fact alone is enough for me to lose my shit. Somebody [in your family] is in that kind of position, you've got the right to act any way you want to act. So I felt good about that--that's what convinced me to let myself go more so than not, and not worry about those things that you can worry about as an actor. It was like, no, this is my brother and he's in a situation, so you're free to be as upset as you want to be. That's the way I ended up convincing myself that what I do is okay.

CSI Files: Were you happy with how Danny and Mac interacted in the episode, and how things were left between them?

Giovinazzo: Yeah, I think so. That's why I like Mac so much in the episode, because there was a softer side to it. Generally with the situations I'd been in before, [for Mac] it was like, "This fucking kid!" kind of idea. Or I can't figure him out--is he a problem or is he not a problem, and I've just got to use the evidence to figure that out. Whereas this [episode], because the brother came into play and because there was an emotional tie and because I did open up to him in that scene in his office, when he says, "I believe you," I think that was a breakthrough in him showing it's not all about the evidence even though it is, he's saying, "I believe you, eye to eye, man to man" because we've gotten to know each other and we have this relationship.

So I think it was a big step in our relationship in that I'm not just this wild, rebellious detective, but I'm just very passionate about what I do, and I definitely have the boundaries that I break sometimes, but I think he showed a side that was a bit more tender. I think you're going to get that from Mac, too, in this episode we're doing right now, the finale. Slowly and steadily you're getting to see [not just] a strong ex-marine, unbreakable stoic man--we're showing some vulnerability.

CSI Files: We've heard that Flack is hurt in a bombing in the finale.

Giovinazzo: Yeah, yeah, exactly. That's a big part of what opens up Mac in seeing that side we're talking about.

CSI Files: How does Danny react to Flack getting hurt, seeing as they're pretty close?

Giovinazzo: We are, but there aren't too many scenes for Danny to show that in this episode. It's hard for them to give everyone their reaction time; you've got to kind of pull it off. Like we're going to pull Melina off with her boyfriend, and then maybe you can feel that between her and Mac, but you're not going to feel it between her and I, or her and Anna or her and Hill [Harper, Dr. Sheldon Hawkes]. So in this episode, it's more about Gary's reaction to what's happening to Flack--if I'm not mistaken. I'm in the middle of it right now, I'd have to look back at it, but it's more so that. I don't have a moment where I can really take and show you just what this means to me and develop Flack and I that way. But I think you know we have that kind of dynamic and that's yet to be delved into to another level.

CSI Files: Flack and Danny have kind of a unique friendship in the CSI universe, and it seems like Flack is often looking out for Danny. Do you enjoy playing that?

Giovinazzo: Yeah, definitely, I enjoy it. I remember [Eddie] telling me how monumental doing that scene in the diner was at the time [in "On the Job"], and how challenging and emotional and nice it was to do that, and how enlightening and how much we learned, It was the first time we got to do that. It's weird because in these kind of TV shows, a lot goes down in one scene--a lot has to go down in small doses because those are the only chances you get to do them, We definitely love doing those scenes. Like I said, you've just got to take them when you can get them.

CSI Files: What about Danny and Lindsay? They've been thrown together a lot. Do you think there's a romantic element there?

Giovinazzo: There might be a little surprise in the final episode that will give people some insight into their dynamic and can go a little further into how they're feeling about each other. That's all I can say is that there's definitely a part in this final episode that opens up Danny and Lindsay's relationship more than it has before.

CSI Files: Do you like playing that?

Giovinazzo: Yeah, yeah, of course--like I said, anything that can exist between two of the characters that can exist no matter what the crime is, no matter where they are, no matter what the evidence is doing, no matter what is going on in the show--that this is the dynamic that I have with Mac, that I have with Flack. If we can have that, it's great, and I don't think they should be afraid to play that. I think sometimes they think it's going to be all about that, but no, it's not going to be all about that. If there's a thing between Lindsay and I, we can play that, it will always be there, it doesn't mean we have to be not liking each other or liking each other, to be arguing or not arguing, it's there, so when we play a scene, that's the fact. We have this connection, and it's there. So that's a good thing.

CSI Files: It's always interesting when characters are brought together on a more personal level.

Giovinazzo: Yeah, it's like when you watch two brothers act together, you go, "Oh, okay, they're brothers," It doesn't mean that they're fighting or whatever--you can just see that in the way they look at each other. So it's like we're establishing that, and I think we've been establishing that. Like I said, we're establishing something between Mac and Flack in this episode, and who Mac is, and this last one for me and my brother, and me and the way the rest of the team looks at me and the way Gary is willing to open up and put up with me and what that means.

CSI Files: Danny's always been an emotional character; whether it's the smell of fish or his brother being in a coma, Danny is always reacting to something. Is that exhausting to play?

Giovinazzo: Yes, it is exhausting to play. I think it is something that I brought to the character and something I can't help doing. I'm quite the sensitive human being and I'm easily bored and not easily amused and I like to find that moment in every moment. And I realize you can't do that in ever moment but as much as I can find that kind of personal relationship or connection with what I'm doing, I do it. And again, that is simply being in the fucking scene and letting yourself be in it because you can just look at somebody and just the way they say a word to you, you can look at them funny. Or just the way they decide to hold something--what's that about? There's a fish on a gurney--I'm going to react to a fish on a gurney. I'm not going to look at you like there's a fish on a gurney. We're rolling a swordfish through a hallway right now, my friend. Anna talks to me and it sounds funny to me because she's cute and she's sweet and she's from Montana--I'm going to react to that. It's just natural--there's no contrived, premeditated decision-making or planning that. It's just if you let yourself be there and react and see what's in front of you, you're going to react. You just have to absorb and react to what's in front of you.

CSI Files: Is it true you ad lib a lot of the time?

Giovinazzo: I would say yes, that's definitely true. The Montana thing is something that I kind of helped [create], which some people like, some people don't, but I definitely [sometimes] add or start something different. If I feel something, I put it there. If I feel it, I put it in there, and it has nothing to do with anything but the fact that I felt it, that I felt that that instinctively was something I found interesting--it could be wrong, it could be right, it doesn't mean anything more than that. That's something I hope the writers understand because it's sometimes a touchy world there with the writers and people and their work and their material. I have the utmost respect for it and I write and I get it, but anytime I choose to put something in or change something or debate something, it's because instinctively when I read it, what they wrote won't come out of me the way I'd like it to come out of me so I mold it some other way. I have to say that they've been really cool with letting me do that, while at the same time sometimes it's an issue, but what needs to be known is that it's always about what I instinctively feel, what I think helps the scene as a whole, and it's nothing to do with anything but that.

CSI Files: So it's more about what feels natural and right to you, as opposed to not liking the material you're getting.

Giovinazzo: Exactly. Like I said, it's instinct. If the line says Danny picks up something and puts it in his pocket, if I felt I'd just pick it up and keep it in my hand, I'll just keep it in my hand. It's just that's what felt right to me. A lot of times when you make these moves, they lend to other things and tend to spring other things into action which are nice, which are real, which are moments that kind of are really natural, and those are really what it's all about. With movies, with acting, you stumble upon these moments. Those are the things that you want to have occur, and you have to have a certain level of freedom to have them come up. You have to walk this fine line on the show and anywhere you go to get that to happen almost by getting it by the people. If you do it right, they won't even say anything. If they do, that's fine, too. That's another thing with me--if you don't like it, say you don't like it. That's fine--I don't got issues. You could tell me, "You saying you aren't a fish guy--nah, that doesn't work." Okay, fine--you've got one [take] with it, you've got one without it. It's just all about figuring it out. Nobody knows what's right or what's the best until you see the different various ways it can be done.

CSI Files: Do you clash with the writers over that?

Giovinazzo: I have to say for the most part they've been really cool with me. I do work that way that I've been describing to you, so I'd have to say they've been pretty lenient with me and pretty nice to me. I'm sure there're a lot of other places where guys are very rigid and on a power trip--they're not even seeing what you're doing, they're just reacting because it's there work. And they're not even giving it a chance to see what it is you might have done. Here I think they actually do hear it out. At times I feel like they're kind of biting their tongues but for the most part they're pretty good with me.

There is a lot of rewriting--a lot of writers go through bunches and bunches of rewriters. Whether it's a disagreement from the network or whether it's a disagreement with another writer--I think they have a lot of people involved so there are a lot of times where things are rehashed and then become something else, which many times is good and many times is bad. All that matters is that it's happening for the right reason and that we're all trying to figure out the best way that this can work out. A lot of times what we'll do is we'll do it two ways, so then you've got the option. Anthony always gives me that note even just with the acting: "Give me a couple different responses, give me a couple different looks, give me a couple different ways of taking this" because then when they're in the editing room, there are three or four different choices. It's weird--in television, a look changes the whole thing. There was a look in this last episode that if they used that one it meant a whole different thing about how people are looking at Danny and what the Tanglewood boys mean to Danny. If you take this look out, we're still not sure what that meant to Danny or if it means anything. It's very thin, it's very delicate.

CSI Files: Danny always seems to find himself in trouble--he's been trapped in a panic room, he got into a shootout in the subway, his past came back to complicate things. Why do you think Danny is such a magnet for trouble?

Giovinazzo: Right off the bat there was an episode that got me into trouble ("A Man a Mile"). So I don't know if that's spawned from early on, he was that guy that had a very strong view of what he thought happened or what he thought was right. I don't know where it began, but it seems like I'm the go to guy if somebody's gonna disagree or somebody's gonna stir the pot, or if somebody's going to have a [controversial] comment. I think I've kind of been the writer's tool to be like, "Okay, that's Danny." There's going to be a certain level of conflict in certain ways that it just makes sense that Danny's the guy to do that. I'm super happy about that. That's exactly what we discussed in the beginning when we were creating the character that he's a kid that came from the wrong side of the tracks and has this kind of a street mentality, but enough of an intellectual mind to be in the world that he's in, so that's a conflict. That doesn't usually happen--you don't usually find a golfer who paints. It's just a rare thing--certain things don't usually go hand-in-hand, and I think that's what's good about him. These opposing things are one person, and that's human to me. That's what I think makes him interesting.

CSI Files: Why do you think Danny is the most popular character on the show?

Giovinzzo: I'm pretty quiet, I keep to myself--I try to just do my work and do it the best I can. To try to humbly answer that question, the only reason I can say if people think that what I do is interesting or good is because I work my ass off. And that's the only way I look at it. Everything I do I care about so greatly that that's how I do it, whether I'm playing ping pong or I'm fixing the rug on the floor a certain way or I'm putting on my roof, whatever I'm doing, I just have this competitive edge in me and this passionate way that I just want to figure out how it works and how to do it the best way. I think people can feel that drive, that people can see that. That's the only place I come from--there's no hidden agenda. I'll never do a scene where I'm trying to step in front of somebody; I'm not doing a scene where I want to solve the case, I'm not doing a scene where I'm the one that wants to find the fucking clue. If I'm not supposed to say anything in the scene, I don't say anything. It's just about really caring about what you're doing and wanting to learn and figure out how to do it the way it can be done.

CSI Files: How do you feel about being the sex symbol on the show?

Giovinazzo: I don't know if I really think about it too much. I really don't. I'm pretty nonchalant about how I look on the show. I do have a great pair of boots that I wear on the show--I don't know if people have noticed my boots. It's a great pair of black zip up boots that you might not notice that I keep forgetting to bring back to the set because I wear them home. Again I think all that shit that people dig on, a lot of Hollywood crap that people are symbols because they're pretty or they do this, but I think that cats that you could find attractive that aren't really conventionally or typically attractive is because they got balls and passion and come from a gut kind of place and what they do. Like the Gary Oldmans and Daniel Day Lewiss and the old DeNiros and Brandos and the Johnny Depps--they commit so much to what they do that that's sexy. When you see a person be honest, that's sexy. When you see someone that's really into what they're doing and have that kind of determination and focus, that's sexy. I don't really think about playing that role too much on that surface sense, if I am that guy.

CSI Files: I think the fans have decided you are.

Giovinazzo: People are so, so, so supportive of me, it's great. It means a lot to me, it really does. I don't count people out--it doesn't matter just what the biggest director in Hollywood thinks. These people really appreciate what I'm doing and it means a lot. My mother reminds me of that; she'll look at this stuff and be like, "Look what people are saying, how they get what it is you're doing--appreciate that." And I do.

CSI Files: You have kind of a unique relationship with the fans in that you've exchanged e-mails with them. What made you decide to do that?

Giovinazzo: Again, it's kind of like everything I've been talking about, it's not deeply planned. I go on my website that my cousin made for me and all the sudden there's e-mail! It's like, "Well, let me see," and then, "Wow, okay, thank you very much!" The times that I do pop on there I [like to] say thanks. It's not really that grand of a scheme. I react; sometimes I'm like, "Whoa, this is a little too much," maybe I shouldn't because there's a certain line that I'm learning about between fans and people that are in the public eye that you've got to be careful about, but for the most part I'm not dwelling on it too much. I just kind of read them and responded to them. But I actually haven't been able to access my website in a long time to see that. There's some problem and I'm just too busy to even try to get into that; I'm just trying to finish up the show right now. [But the feedback] is much appreciated.

CSI Files: Do you have any plans for hiatus?

Giovinazzo: I've been trying to take meetings for films, and it hasn't worked out right now. I'm kind of frustrated and angry about that on one end, on the other end I'm like, well, just relax and take a break so you're strong and ready to go for the third season. I would love to be doing a good movie right now and playing something interesting, and it still might happen. I gave up on trying to raise the money for my film, The Brink of Black that I wrote. I had that going for a while, but I had a couple of close responses and it fell back to the name game, which it always does--if I had one more name attached, people would be more willing to give me the money to produce it, and I haven't got that yet. So [I decided] to try to just focus on getting a job as an actor in a movie over the break, and we've been trying, but it's a short two months to find something that happens to plop right in there that not only is in that time frame that is also something you're interested in and you like, so that's where I am at the moment with that.

CSI Files: Have you given up permanently on making The Brink of Black?

Giovinazzo: Definitely not. Just for a moment because I was trying to just meet people [for roles] as an actor and do that. I've been trying to put this thing together for six years. Unless I drop everything and go out hunting, running around trying to put this movie together, trying to get a line producer, figure out how it's all going to take shape--you might as well not do it. You gotta focus on one thing at a time if you want that thing to really happen. So I still definitely want to do [the film] and maybe after the third season of the show, people will be more apt to put some money behind me and do the film if the show continues to do really well. And I think we're kind of on an ascending plane here--it seems like we're growing and getting better and better. People are getting into it more and more, which I hope continues.

CSI Files: Where would you like to see Danny go next season?

Giovinazzo: I think he's got to mature without losing that side of him that we find interesting. I think he does have to even out a little bit and become a guy that can make it up a grade as a detective, and find that side. I guess I'd have to say it's really about the relationships between us all that need to evolve and continue with good storylines--that's the most important factor of the show. Personally, I think that's what drives where we go when that's done right. I'm really happy with where he started from and where it's gone--like you said, it's been a lot of diving into who he is and all that. I've been more than fortunate in having enough to be as a character to grow and change. I think in changing, he might have to simmer down a little bit and become somebody that could eventually be in Mac's position, eventually be the head of his department.

CSI Files: How long do you foresee staying with the show?

Giovinazzo: Right now, as long as they'll have me and as long as I'm happy and as long as I have the energy and strength to keep up the day to day grind of it all. It's very day-to-day--I don't have a master plan of when I should stop doing this or when I should keep doing it until. I'm working--at the bottom of it all, I'm happy to be employed The fact that all of these other things are happening around that, they don't not mean anything to me, but at the same time they're peripheral elements. Coming from the core that I'm working, I'm employed--that's huge. That's great, and that's all that matters at the bottom. Until I'm not happy doing what I'm doing, then it's an issue. It's really about keeping that interest and that drive to do what I'm doing, as long as that's there, then I'm going to keep going.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.

Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.