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CSI Files

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Carmine Giovinazzo

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at June 29, 2007 - 9:10 AM GMT

In CSI: New York's third season, Carmine Giovinazzo's popular character, Danny Messer, moved beyond the emotional turmoil he went through in the show's first two seasons and found something incredibly rare for TV characters: happiness with another regular character on the show. Giovinazzo took some time out of his hiatus break to talk to CSI Files' Kristine Huntley about the relationship between Danny and Lindsay Monroe and his hopes for a return to his character's passionate roots in the show's upcoming fourth season.

CSI Files: How's your hiatus been going? Have you been working or just relaxing?

Carmine Giovinazzo: I've been in L.A. for most of it. I actually got a band together and have been writing a lot of music. [Our name] isn't definite yet. We're writing songs. We've got about eight or nine of them and when I get back we have to seal them up. So I'm really excited. That's what I ended up focusing on; I put aside business and decided this was what I was going to do. I've got a really good drummer and a really, really good lead guitar player. I'm playing guitar and vocals. It's going to be good.

CSI Files: You're headed back to work at CSI: New York soon for the show's fourth season. Do you know what's coming up for Danny this year?

Giovinazzo: They said they really want to pick up where they left off in season three, keep some sort of excitement like that going, really come up with bigger episodes, bigger pictures. That's all I know so far. Obviously, I'm going to come back with some continuity from the last episode (the third season finale, "Snow Day") which is going to be great.

CSI Files: So the the writers are going to follow up on Danny's injuries in the season finale?

Giovinazzo: I haven't gotten into it with [CSI: New York showrunner] Anthony Zuiker yet, but he told me some of the storylines, and they're really focusing on the story and the concept and ideas for the episodes. [Executive Producer] Peter Lenkov and I talked about carrying on Danny being hurt in the last episode. Obviously, we're going to have to deal with me and Lindsay (Anna Belknap) now; it's something they can't not deal with now, so I've already got those two things going in so that will have to be explored.

CSI Files: A lot of Danny's development last season was focused on this relationship with Lindsay. How do you feel about that?

Giovinazzo: I think it's good. I'm glad it got where it got and that we had a real, definite thing that happened between us. It was a little more there but not quite there [before], so it was good [that something happened]. It's fun to do.

CSI Files: Fans are very divided on the romance--some are thrilled with it and love it while other people think it's a bad development. How did you feel when the writers decided to play up this relationship with Danny and Lindsay?

Giovinazzo: I think it's something they don't normally do [in CSI shows] so it's good. I think it helps Lindsay's character. I think they're still trying to find more specifically who she is and it gives her something to hold on to.

CSI Files: Do you feel like Danny's character has been subverted or changed to prop up her character?

Giovinazzo: It's funny; I came out of the box like an animal [in the show's first season]. They brought Danny out [right away]. And I think by season three, they had to pass the cards around. I'm hoping in [season four] he's going to be attacking again. That's what I'm hoping, to have Danny get back into some dirty, gritty stuff.

I think the thing with Lindsay is good because it's going to help define her. I know how people feel about that, but it's tough because they have to spread out the cards for everybody. Maybe they'll focus more on her as a single character this year. They gave her the back home story, but she's a year behind us so maybe this is the year she grooves. But I don't mind being the utility guy--you can use me for what you need to use me for. The main characters are just all helping each other right now, and whatever way the [writers] have to do it, they do it.

CSI Files: So you don't mind that Danny has been used to prop up Lindsay's character?

Giovinazzo: Like I said, I feel like I came out seasons one and two and had all these storylines. I don't disagree with some of the things you guys [at Talk CSI and CSI Files] have said about [Danny in] the third season. To tell you the truth, I just kind of mellowed out in the third season. It was kind of a character choice in that he's got to evolve and not be this erratic guy and just mature, growing as a cop and a detective. But at the same time I do want to go back to him being a bit more passionate. But you've got to understand, we're doing a TV series--it's hard to do that every day. I think I came up trying to do that every time, every moment. It's not like a movie. It's not an easy thing to do and keep him normal. But I'm definitely going to attack it more this [coming] season again. That's what I'm hoping, that when I read the script there's something for me to attack. Because obviously I gotta do what they write.

At this point with Lindsay, I think it would be a little more cut and dry. But I have to bow down to how they want to carry this on. They finally got to the point [where something happened]. I was pretty happy with the finale episode. We're at another good crossroad; it's got to go in a certain direction now.

CSI Files: Danny was being treated pretty poorly by Lindsay there for a while!

Giovinazzo: Yeah. That's another good thing about this. It's like, as an actor [the writers] making me do certain things that instinctively I don't want to do.

CSI Files: Is there anything you did object to this season, that you didn't want to do but had to?

Giovinazzo: There was. It was that courtroom thing between Anna and I [in "Sleight Out of Hand"] that we did get into some discussion about which way we should go with that. There was one episode that kind of ended in a weird way ("The Lying Game"). I thought it was interesting because I was becoming this punching bag. No matter what she did, I'd show up. So that was kind of a bug.

CSI Files: So were you wondering why he was going after her after she kept blowing him off?

Giovinazzo: I had a little trouble initially just trying to make that realistic. But I liked it because he is that kind of a guy. I think initially he was the kind of guy was just having a good time but he is emotional, so he does have that sensitive side. So you can look at it that way: here's this kid who used to be passionate and kind of wild and emotional that would not probably put up with someone making it difficult for him. But then I look at it as, this is an interesting side [to him]. That's my whole idea with this guy, to just make him round. He's this really distinct character that has his ways and here he is getting on his knees for this little, wholesome, sweet girl from Montana. She's not answering his calls, but he's still calling. I think that's the thing that people were like, "Why's he putting up with that?" I think in the bigger picture it's interesting. I think it showed a side of him that you wouldn't expect.

I think there was a scene in the courtroom at the end of ["Sleight Out of Hand"] where people are coming to take pictures and she grabs my hand and I turn around. That was something we discussed, how that should seem. Did that really show that she's coming to me, did we kind of have a small kiss--that was something that we discussed. It ended up kind of seeming neutral [on Danny's part]. It seemed like I was looking at her going, "Look, I'm here for you, I came here because you're in trouble and I came here because I care, but not more than that." I am reacting to the reality that [she] keeps steering away from me or not really committing to taking a step further.

CSI Files: You mean how she was the one who initiated their interrupted kiss in the courtroom?

Giovinazzo: Yeah. Now she's cleansed herself of the past, now she's ready. Now you're ready, so now I'm supposed to be ready. Not that direct, but the idea was that I'm not going to be like, "Oh, okay!" I got to the point where I don't know [for sure].

CSI Files: So Danny didn't give it up so easily after that? He didn't put out until that finale?

Giovinazzo: Yeah, yeah. I had to wait until the finale. I had to play a little hard to get. A little bit, you know?

But otherwise, besides that, with season three, I just took what they gave, because I really did get tired. I put so much work and so much rehearsal, so much battling in the first two seasons, with the brother Louie, and his fouling up and his problems with Mac (Gary Sinise)--all the things that made him who he was. By the third season, I was tired! So I think it was a combination of that and the writing getting a little bit more spread out. So I was like, OK, fine, take a breather, and now just come back in season four like an animal.

CSI Files: So we will be seeing more of the intense Danny?

Giovinazzo: Yeah, yeah, definitely, unless they just completely don't put me in those situations. There's nothing I can do about it [in that case]. I can't just go off and make things more important than they are. But I am definitely going to make a point to take him to another level and find that spark, and an even bigger spark.

CSI Files: Danny puts up with a lot from people he cares about. He did this past season with Lindsay, and did in the first season with Mac, even when he defied him. Do you think that unwavering loyalty is a trait of Danny's?

Giovinazzo: I think he is loyal. I think that's his contrast: he's definitely loyal to everybody but he doesn't necessarily want to agree with everybody. Those scenes with Mac, [he'll go], "I don't agree with you, I don't think it should be that way, I can do it this way." I think it's a combination of being loyal and wanting to learn and figure how to do what he's supposed to do while thinking really strongly and passionately and feeling that the way he is doing it is the way it should be done. So I think he wants to change things, but he's trying to figure out how he can change things. I think it's just the human element of life: you think your ways are right and you are learning constantly, so you're trying to figure out how to do it. But you have that side of him where he's not going to sit down and contemplate it and think, "Well, maybe I probably shouldn't do this." But I think that's what he's done and I think that's why he and Mac have kind of evened out. I think it has something to do with the writing, too--there are [fewer] stories about them getting into it, but there is always still that [dynamic].

Even in the last episode ["Snow Day," Danny said,] "It's my fault, Mac, that you didn't hear from [Lindsay about me taking her shift]." That's a scene Gary and I were doing and then we're walking down and I say, "It's my fault" and he's like, "Well, it's something you probably should have told me ten minutes before or two days before or yesterday." We did do that take a couple of times and in one of my takes at the end of it, Gary kind of threw his hands up and said, "Well, Danny, if you did something, you should tell me because Adam (A.J. Buckley) is at the crime scene by himself." And there were a couple takes we did of Gary where he wasn't having that reaction, but in that take with me, he got to that place again with me. I'm the young buck who you know is good and you know we love each other, but you threw your hands up at me. Let's not lose that. And then you see that in the episode because when we did it they felt like they should [use it]. You've got a little more of the fire, Gary's kind of fire, the mature, subdued kind of boiling. He did that. So I want to have that between us, but at the same time, you can't always [have them butting heads]. You want to have that [conflict] and I want to see it. It was off the cuff and it's been more casual, but it's still there.

CSI Files: Do you think Danny has matured beyond the point where he and Mac would really clash over a case or a decision?

Giovinazzo: It seems that naturally that wouldn't happen. It doesn't seem like that would make sense to happen just in the progress of his character, but at the same time, I kind of hope it does [happen]. But then, have I grown? That's the problem. I definitely don't want to be even-keeled; I don't like that, I think it's boring. I think a lot of the characters on the show are finding that same thing, not being [even-keeled]. [But] I don't know if I could go back there without seeming like I didn't learn anything. But if the story pertains--if it's something with my brother [Louie], who hopefully they bring back, or if they put me inside a case that I'm dealing with that I get emotional about again, that I can get really into where I lose my judgment, then it could happen again. I can't just do it like I've done before. "Oh, I just really want to go after this guy, I have a hunch"--I think I definitely have to not make that choice. But it helps if I'm in a circumstance where I see something that's really harmful to somebody that can justify me going off the deep end a little bit.

CSI Files: Speaking of Danny's brother, Louie, everybody wants to know what happened to him!

Giovinazzo: Trust me, they really want to get into these things and I think it's like, again, "OK, who are all these people on the show?" And there are so many people we have to deal with, so I think it's just a combination of that and them just trying to figure out how it comes in or what's important to the whole show. And I think they're aware of [interest in Louie's fate], but I just think it's a matter of when do we do it, do we do it, can somebody come up with a great idea for it? I would think if somebody comes up with a great idea of how to bring Louie back in, that they're gonna do it.

CSI Files: Do we at least know for sure that Louie is alive?

Giovinazzo: Louie's definitely alive. I just think we need to figure out how he plays into the story in an episode, not just an aside. With the last episode ("Snow Day"), I did talk to one of the writers about how that could possibly be connected to Louie since that episode was with the Irish Mob, and that they might know who [Louie and Danny] are. They might know who my brother is, so maybe those guys can bring him back in a weird way. Him coming in, knowing what happened with these guys, or them maybe wanting some sort of revenge because I obviously took these two guys down and kind of toyed with them, which I thought was pretty good. They kind of got the old Danny back a little bit. I was excited about that one. There could be some sort of connection there to bring Louie back in.

CSI Files: Danny went through hell in the finale! Did you enjoy playing that?

Giovinazzo: Yeah, very much. I was really, really excited about that episode. I was waiting for that because he's been kind of mellow so that was the old scenario to put Danny in to kind of get something stewing. I wish there [had been] more, and there actually might have been more, some things might have been cut out here and there because it was such a wide episode with a lot of things going on. But yeah, that was exactly what I want to do, to be in those situations. When they put you in those situations, it's easy. You can't just find that [intensity], you can't just make that happen. It's got to be a combination of what's going on in the episode and then what you can do with that.

CSI Files: Danny does find himself in those kinds of situations quite a bit; he's kind of the 'damsel in distress' on the show. He gets locked in panic room, he gets taken hostage, the Tanglewood Boys are after him and so on. Why do you think Danny so often finds himself in danger?

Giovinazzo: I think that was the character we wanted to create. I think it's both that and what I came in and did with this character. I think it's that combination. Like I said from the beginning, Anthony wanted me to be this kind of [guy]--it wasn't exactly this, but the idea was he's that guy. Everybody else was a little bit more calm. So I ran with that in the beginning and wanted to create a character that has this kind of temperature. So the writers sat back and went, "So this is who this sucker is, so this is where he'd probably go." I think that's why it happened. Hopefully it happens much more in this [upcoming] season. The writers do read [the site]. The writers will come to me and say, "This is what they're saying about that!" or "This is what they're saying about taking your clothes off." Peter obliges you guys! I'm like the whore of the show.

CSI Files: Whenever Danny is in danger, it seems like Flack (Eddie Cahill) is always there to help him out. What's your take on their relationship?

Giovinazzo: I think Eddie created a character that is much more mature and contained and cooler, so I think it lends to him being someone who can look out for me, because of those reasons, and because of our age. It's more apt for him to be that way than it would be [for Mac] because he seems to be caught in between. He's more mature than Danny, but he's still not [Mac], he's not a chief and he hasn't been around for twenty years. So I think it makes sense that he and I have this certain kind of commonality between us, so I think he's able to be that person. And I think it also reflects Eddie and my evolution off the set. We watched each other for a couple of years, trying to figure things out and I think we've kind of gotten to know each other so I think he's kind of the guy [to look out for Danny]. There's not that many people for that to be that way, so that's why it's happening.

I think [Flack's] gotten a chance to watch me be this guy who's kind of off the handle, and both look at it and be like, "Great! This kid is so passionate and so emotional" and at the same time he's going, "You know we're cops, and we have to be kind of stoic" and we have to have this way that Flack has more, which is cool. So that's how we look at each other, two different ends of a style, of a person in one sense, but both admire the other. So I think that combined with being peers in our level and who we are in the police force and the age that we are--all that, and the way the stories were written. [Hawkes (Hill Harper)] is more of the guy who's just come out of the lab. That's his schtick, and he's that guy who has to make that transition and I think Eddie and I, our characters [relate more].

CSI Files: There are people who say Flack would be better for Danny than Lindsay…

Giovinazzo: Flack is pretty cute sometimes!

CSI Files: Have you been given any hints about what might be next for Danny and Lindsay in the next season?

Giovinazzo:I did hear a little bit about there's going to maybe be some wayward Danny [behavior] this season.

CSI Files: Is there going to be another woman, or might there be a love triangle in the works?

Giovinazzo: I don't know if we've got to go so far as love--he does the things young men do.

CSI Files: Oh no! Is he going to cheat on Lindsay?

Giovinazzo: Well, you never know. I think that's a possibility, that maybe she wasn't all Danny thought she'd be. Maybe he's already looking elsewhere.

CSI Files: You recently shot a film called This Is Not a Test with Hill and Eddie. How did that turn out?

Giovinazzo: Hill put together this independent film and I went and did an English character. I play a young, English artist, a friend of Hill's character. [I haven't seen it] so I don't know how it came out, but that's what I did. So I don't know what's up with that film. Eddie also came in and played a character, but I'm not exactly sure [which one]. Only Hill and I [had scenes together].

I also have a film coming out that's titled Life Is Hot in Cracktown written by [my cousin] Buddy Giovinazzo, who is a writer/director. He's actually been in Germany for ten years but he finally got this little independent made here with a great cast, including Kerry Washington, Shannyn Sossamon Victor Rasuk from Raising Victor Vargas, I do a little bit in it, and Lara Flynn Boyle is in it. It's this cool cast, and they're editing it right now. I play a complete junkie, a homeless street junkie, cracked out. I have a decent sized cameo where I come into the world of the main guy and try to rob the place he worked at. It's a cool scene.

Hopefully [the movie] will run at the [independent film] festivals, maybe get distributed at some cool art houses. It's a very gritty, adult kind of film, so I don't know commercial it can be, but with this great cast it's got, who knows? The sky's probably the limit. They're going to finish the cut and once that's done, they're going to shop it or do the festival circuit. I think Buddy actually met with some of the producers from [CSI: NY] for a possible slot to direct a couple of our episodes, which would be fantastic: he's the greatest, totally a unique filmmaker.

So I have actually worked [this summer] now that I think about it! I did two little pieces in there.

CSI Files: You already touched upon my music question at the beginning, but is there any chance we'll see an album from you or the band in the near future?

Giovinazzo: We're at the point where we're just coming to terms with the songs ourselves as time allows. The next step then begins which is hopefully to play around town and then contemplate recording. As soon as we get to the point where we're happy with [the music] and we know the songs then we'll be able to do whatever we want, if we want to play or just record them.

Discuss this interviews at Talk CSI!

Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.

Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.

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