Guest Actor Perspective: Deborah Fujiwara

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at February 28, 2006 - 5:53 PM GMT

See Also: 'Fare Game' Episode Guide

Longtime CSI fan Deborah Fujiwara never imagined she'd get to witness the filming of an episode of CSI: New York, let alone that she'd be chowing down on bugs at the L.A. set of the show with the cameras rolling. CSI: New York

But when Fujiwara spied an announcement in a CSI Files news bullet about a casting call for extras willing to eat exotic cuisine in an upcoming episode of the show, "Fair Game," Fujiwara found the opportunity too good to pass up. " "I followed the link on CSI Files to the Deep End Dining site more out of curiosity than anything else," Fujiwara revealed to CSI Files. "Once I read the Deep End Dining site I was kind of surprised to see I met all of the requirements they were looking for and I went, 'What the hell? I'd eat bugs to get a behind-the-scenes peek at my favorite show.'"

Fujiwara took the plunge, sending a picture, her vital stats and a statement assuring she was up for sampling the exotic cuisine the episode would require to Deep End Dining site blogger Eddie Lin, who also served as the technical advisor for the episode. " He responded right away and said I sounded perfect but that he didn't have the final authority on who got selected. He was just gathering people to forward onto someone at CSI: New York," Fujiwara said. "Three weeks went by and I didn't hear anything so I didn't think I was selected until he e-mailed me back a week before the shoot and asked if I wanted to do it. And I was like, 'Yes! Definitely.' There wasn't really a whole lot of notice, but it wasn't a problem."

Fujiwara and the other extras in the scene had to be on set at 4:30pm on the day of the shoot. The scene called for Fujiwara and her fellow extras to don formal wear for a fancy dinner at the Waldorf--a dinner which consisted of the aforementioned exotic cuisine. Before even filming the scene, there was three hours of prep work for the extras. "Wardrobe, hair and make-up took probably about three hours," she said of the preparation. "I was amazed. Someone from the CSI: New York wardrobe department contacted me the week before the shoot and got all of my measurements--my dress size and my shoe size. Someone from the show went out and got all of the outfits for everyone."

"A lot of it is just shuffling around the CBS lot," Fujiwara revealed of getting made up for the episode. "You go to the wardrobe trailer and it's in one location and you stand in a long line with all of these extras and wait your turn and go up and tell the woman your name, and then she pulls out whatever it is they've picked out for you to wear and then you have to take it way far down the lot to go to a different trailer to try it on, and then you come back to the wardrobe trailer to stand in line and have her approve what you're wearing to make sure everything fits and looks the way they want it to look. Once you get the thumbs up from wardrobe they send you over to the hair and make-up trailer and that took a really long time partially because they were making up so many people. So when I say it took three hours, it's not like I'm sitting there having someone work on me for three hours. It's more like sitting there, hanging out, chatting while they finish the girl they're doing before me. It took a while to get everyone all done. It isn't constant activity that whole time--you're also doing a lot of waiting in line. Then we went to a holding area at 7:30 and were there until about 9 when they started shooting our scene."

Though she approached the experience with gusto, Fujiwara was slightly uneasy about what type of exotic cuisine she was going to be consuming for the scene. "I was a little bit apprehensive because I had no idea what to expect," she admitted. "I knew I was eating bugs, [but] I had no idea when I was going to be eating the bugs or what I was going to be eating, so I was a little bit nervous about it, but really it's just mind over matter, so I knew whatever they were planning on having me eat wasn't going to be a huge problem."

The cuisine Fujiwara had to sample consisted of crickets and lamb brain. "Apparently people actually eat that in some corners of the world," Fujiwara noted. "But it wasn't at all Fear Factor-like. It wasn't nasty. The bugs weren't alive--they were dead. I think they were dry-roasted, actually. They were sitting on top of appetizers, so it wasn't like eating a handful of bugs. They were garnishes on top of appetizers that were actually pretty good! The crickets just had a little crunch to them, but no taste."

Similarly, sampling the lamb brain didn't prove to be an unpleasant experience for Fujiwara. "You could look at it and you'd definitely know it was brain--[it was] kind of grayish, squiggly," Fujiwara commented. "It looked like brain, but it didnít taste what I would expect brain to. It tasted like really soft tofu. When they busted out this tray of brain on toast, all I kept thinking was that the technical adviser (Lin) told me with a straight face that it tastes like tofu! Sure enough when I took a bite, it really did."

Lin himself attracted the attention of the CSI: New York writers after giving a radio interview on an L.A. station about his Deep End Dining site. "[He] was talking about his site and how a bunch of people in L.A. are starting to get really into [exotic cuisine]," Fujiwara noted. "There's a restaurant called Typhoon that boasts the country's biggest insect menu. Eddie was on the radio talking about this and someone from CSI: New York heard this interview and e-mailed him to see if he'd be interested in advising on an episode."

The shooting lasted from 9pm to 11:30pm and Fujiwara was impressed by the efficiency and dedication of the cast and crew of the show. "What most surprised me is how hard working absolutely everyone is," she said of the hardworking CSI: NY team. "I've actually never seen a workplace like that. In any job place, you're going to find people who are off task: people surfing the internet, people on personal phone calls, girls in the hallway chatting about how hot the UPS guy is, people who aren't focused on their jobs. But I was really, really impressed by how every single person from top to the bottom down busted butt all day long."

"It looked like a really, really hard life to me," Fujiwara said of the long hours she witnessed the cast and crew putting into making this show. "They are completely committed and work really long, really hard hours. It would be really hard to stay that focused that many hours of the day. If only every organization worked as well as this, the world would be so much more profitable. It really amazed me how hard everyone was working the whole time. That lifestyle involves a lot of personal sacrifice, working these really long hard hours. And for the actors you can see why they might be interested in doing that--it's so rewarding creatively and financially. They have the incentive to do it. But the hair and make-up people, the lighting guys, the whole crew--it was really impressive to me because for them, it's got to just be sheer love of their craft that keeps them going."

Fujiwara was likewise impressed with her fellow extras whom she found to be professional, and in most cases, in the entertainment industry. "Even the extras want to be actors and actresses and seemed to have their stuff down and be totally into it," she noted. "My date [in the episode], a Grammy-nominated composer for TV and film got drunk at a New Year's Eve party and got roped into doing [the extra work for the episode]! Even the extras were really professional. The [extras] came from the same casting agency, and they all seemed to know the same acting teachers in town, and they were talking about which classes they're taking and who's hiring."

Fujiwara was also surprised to learn that many of the people who work on CSI: New York donít actually watch the show. "I didn't encounter a single CSI: New York fan anywhere on set!" she said. "No one who worked on the show, none of the extras--nowhere. People share their stories about why they're there and just because I was so excited to be there I took every opportunity to chat up any crewmember who would talk to me. The first thing I would say was what a huge fan of the show I am and they would kind of react like, 'Oh yeah, I've heard it is a great show.' The way it was best explained to me was that they work so many hours a week that it really fills their lives and that if they did TIVO an episode and watch it later in the week, that's just one more hour of their lives that they don't have. But nonetheless, they're 110% committed to the show."

A definite highlight of the experience for Fujiwara was meeting her favorite actor from all three of the the CSI shows, Carmine Giovinazzo (Danny Messer). Fujiwara left the set impressed with Giovinazzo's focus. "You can see that aggression in Danny on screen," she said of her favorite character. "Carmine is an amazing actor because that intensity just fills the room."

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Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.