Eddie Cahill

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at February 9, 2009 - 7:18 PM GMT

Eddie Cahill's character, Don Flack, has always been on hand to provide a barbed quip or an intense grilling, but in CSI: New York's fifth season, the brash homicide detective has moved into the spotlight. In the fifth season opener, "Veritas", audiences were introduced to Flack's younger sister, Samantha (Kathleen Munroe), and the siblings' contentious relationship when her name popped up during the course of an investigation. But it hasn't been all work and no play for the good detective--he also started a relationship with colleague Jessica Angell (Emmanuelle Vaugier). Cahill spoke with CSI Files' Kristine Huntley about the attention his character has gotten this season, the new relationships that have opened up for him and the hot spot Flack found himself in after a suspect died in his custody.

CSI Files: Fifth season has been a great season for you so far! We've met Flack's sister, he's got a love interest now and he had a bit of an ordeal at work. Why do you think the attention has turned to Flack this season?

Eddie Cahill: One, I truly don't know and two, I think it was just probably time. It was time. The character's been around [long enough] and the writers and myself have played around with him enough that we felt ready to get into some more stuff. I guess it just made sense. Everyone else was getting something going and they could put a little focus on Flack. From a personal standpoint, I don't think it could have been timed out any better because I was thinking about being in the fifth season of the show and suddenly, something that dawned on me [was that], more than any other season before, I'm less and less concerned with making mistakes. I might be at a point where I'm not worried about making a mistake with the character. To then have things like this thrown into the mix, I get to approach them from more of a secure standpoint, which just makes the experience more complete--when you're not self conscious, when you're not just focused on not screwing it all up! You're focused on it, but when you're not too concerned with f---ing up with it.

CSI Files: I imagine you feel like you know him after five seasons.

Cahill: I do, yeah. And that kind of snuck up on me and sort of took me by surprise. I mean it's been going that way probably for the last season and a half, but yeah I feel good.

CSI Files: We've seen Flack's younger sister, Sam, twice, and the two are definitely different. Do you think the dynamic is informed by the fact that Flack is something of the golden child, following in his father's footsteps?

Cahill: I think in some respects my opinion of that is that that might be the way she sees the situation. That question was asked from Sam's perspective in a way. I don't know that Flack is or isn't the golden child. I certainly don't think he walks on water. I think he might have less obvious issues. He's got his own way of dealing with whatever [those issues are]. She certainly, I mean she said it in so many words, that to Sam he is [the golden child]. And I don't think that's necessarily true. I don't know if we'll ever figure out why, but just for my own personal belief, I don't think anybody's perfect. But I do understand that in sibling relationships or even friend relationships, one or the other or both parties find themselves [saying], "I wouldn't have these problems [if I were you]." But I like the dynamic. And I think Kathleen Munroe is great. That's another thing, too--having the experience of doing this as long as I have, to have an actress like that come in. It was just so amazing how so much of it was unspoken. It just kind of clicked, and she just kind of fell right in stride. It gave me sort of a challenge and just informed the character so much to have a different sort of relationship.

CSI Files: There really is a great sibling-like dynamic between you two!

Cahill: That kind of surprised me. Because you read the script and you never know--it all moves so fast, you don't quite know how it's going to play out. That was a real pleasant surprise, when I got down there. I had this experience with a guest star the other day, this kid who was playing a Nazi-kind of character. This kid was so poised, he was fucking scary in so many ways, that suddenly I find myself five seasons into this show going, "What the hell do I do here? I can't just dance around this guy. I can't Flack him until the scene's over, it's just not going to work with him!" And it was really kind of fascinating. On the same token, to have someone like Kathleen come in, well I can't treat her [like some ordinary suspect]. A lot of experiences on this show are dealing with Mac, dealing with Danny, or dealing with any one of our other characters, and then dealing with people who he for the most part thinks are guilty or actually are guilty, and he's got kind of a way of doing that. There have been a couple of moments this season where I've been forced rethink [my approach], where maybe the snark's not going to work or the kind of just bearing down isn't going to work, where I have to change it up. So that's the joy of having different qualities of relationships pop up.

CSI Files: Obviously Flack had a turning point when he realized that Sam was struggling with an alcohol problem. How do you think that will inform their relationship on his part?

Cahill: For my money, it sort of reinforced that his sister is a human being. It would be nice if we saw the payoff of that. You get into the habit of treating your siblings a certain way, maybe because we identify with the role we play in the family, but then as you grow up, you find yourself forced to rethink how you see people, people you are the most intimate with. And I think there's a great challenge in that, and I think he's now realized that his sister is not so easily dealt with, that he can't just kind of swoop in and say, "Hey, listen, do this, this, that and the other thing and all will work out" and she's just going to buy that. That's maybe what he did in the past and that worked. So [the realization] will force him to see she's somebody that's suffering and not just out there being a dip. She's hurt. Rather than having her being a disciplinary problem, he has to deal with it, or at least come up against the feelings of, "What do I do?" Not, "Oooh, Sam. Here you go again. Stop doing that or I'm going to tell Dad on you."

CSI Files: Didn't he threaten to tell Dad at one point?

Cahill: I think it was more a threat of "I'm going to cut you off like Dad cut you off." No more bullshit, no more exploiting us.

CSI Files: Do you think we'll see Sam again?

Cahill: I hope so. I don't know if we'll see her again this season. I kind of think [we'll see her again], but I don't have any word on it either way, but I certainly hope so. I have to believe that she will be coming back at some point because I know that everybody's on board with her and the relationship. I know everybody liked that relationship on the show. But as is the case [with the show], the first half of the season, we kind of got involved in aspects of my character's life, and then they move on for a bit, go away and then we'll come back. That's what they do.

CSI Files: Earlier you mentioned Flack's issues. What do you think those are exactly?

Cahill: I think part of [his strength] is compensating for something. That's as far as I can guess. I think he's an honest guy, I think he's an extremely well intended guy, but there's an air about him, too, where there's something he does to maybe keep his distance. He might be a little distant. And I don't know this--none of this is founded on [the character bio] but I sort of feel that, like he might be a little bit of an arm's length guy. He'll do anything for you but he'll never ask you to do anything for him. He'll get right in there for you, but he's not going to [ask for the same back]. And you may not ever know that you were left out. He sort of feels like one of those guys.

CSI Files: It's interesting because that seems to describe his relationship with Danny (Carmine Giovinazzo). Flack has been there for Danny countless times, but the reverse has never been true. Do you think that's more because of Danny or more because of Flack?

Cahill: I think it's probably more because Flack. I just think he'd be less inclined to make his things known, or more inclined to go, "I can help you, I can help me. I don't need you; I'm just going to do this all on my own." Which I think maybe over the course of the series will come and get him at some point, or he'll have to deal with that and maybe call for some help. That's another relationship that I really like. Big time.

CSI Files: We didn't even really see Danny reach out to Flack in "Rush to Judgment" after Flack was pulled off active duty under the suspicion that he'd possibly killed a suspect during an interrogation. Were you at all surprised that given the closeness of the two, that didn't happen?

Cahill: I don't know if it's a question that they didn't want to overkill it. I think there's just a structure to the show that in a moment of peril on the job, Gary [Sinise, Mac Taylor] and Melina [Kanakaredes, Stella Bonasera]'s characters are the figures in that respect. I don't think it was a comment on the relationship between Danny and Flack at all. I think they also felt in some respects that maybe there is a strong enough relationship between those two characters to let that be unsaid, implied that off camera they're working that out. But there was a lot going on in that episode with Angell, with Mac, with the kid, kind of working that out--they had other things to go with, too.

CSI Files: Danny and Flack have been bantering a lot together this season. Has that been fun?

Cahill: Yeah, that's fun. And even more fun by what I was talking about earlier, that as the time goes on, there's less and less you feel you can do wrong, so the banter becomes more and more fun. And there's an editor in there, too, in case it gets out of hand! You find the room to play. The playground gets a little bigger.

CSI Files: Flack has gotten into a relationship with Detective Angell this season. What do you think it is that draws the two of them together?

Cahill: I think quite literally [it] was the episode ["Dead Inside"], the second time Sam came around and Angell kind of got involved. What I chose to kind of go on with that was that they were brought closer by her involvement with his conflict with his sister. Like I was saying, he might keep things a little bit at an arm's length and she sort of found herself inside of that without him necessarily letting [her in] or including [her]. And I think there was that he might have been moved by her concern, that that in itself was a connection. And I think it was a nice moment at the end with the kiss and all that. I think in some respects he's not necessarily the wordiest of guys, so he's not going to sit down and pour his heart out, but he was overwhelmed with something and that was how he chose to cross that bridge.

CSI Files: So you think that was definitely their first kiss, the first time anything like that had happened between them?

Cahill: I think so, yeah. Or maybe not. It was certainly the first time it happened with [Emmanuelle and me]! But maybe not. They had been kind of teetering on that. It graduated from the "well, maybe" into flirtation into "oh, okay, I like this." There might be something [here].

CSI Files: Their relationship was built on in this most recent episode "Rush to Judgment" when she went into testify to IAB and found out their relationship was public knowledge. Do you feel she was being unsupportive of him when she questioned him about word about their relationship getting out when he was focused on his ordeal?

Cahill: I think that's one of those [instances] where we're always the most focused on what's going on in our heads. And I thought that was a great moment at the desk where she comes in [to talk to him]. And I love the way that moment played, where she says to him, "Hey, how does everybody know about this? Now it's harder for me to help because this thing is public, which I think is two-fold. One, it makes it harder for me to help you out with IAB, and two, how the fuck do people know about this?" And in that moment, he says to her, "I hear what you're saying, but I have bigger things to worry about." And she gets that. I don't think the relationship is so polarized. That's what I like about the relationship: it doesn't necessarily have to be exclusively contentious or exclusively lovey-dovey. It's built on patience. It's like, "Hey, I feel this way" and then, "Listen, I can't really worry about that right now." They tend to come together well in that moment. I like that it's not necessarily either/or. When two people like each other, the intention is that they'll continue to like each other, and then when [problems arise], they'll try to work them out. Not, you went this way and I went that way, but more of, because we've engaged each other in this way, and we're in this situation, this is what comes up. It was a quick moment of priorities, and it was nice to have it work out. Emmanuelle and I, as well as the writers, are kind of careful with that. I want this relationship to be born out of something positive. It can get confusing and it can get all that stuff, but I don't want it to necessarily to be, "I'm going one way, you're going the other." Or we're both going exactly the same direction all of the time. But give the characters something to handle.

CSI Files: It's a nice contrast to the relationship between Danny and Lindsay (Anna Belknap), who seem to constantly be at odds. Flack and Angell seem more adult.

Cahill: Absolutely. It creates different relationships and different characters relate [to each other] differently. Just because it's a romantic storyline on a show doesn't mean it plays out exactly the same way or should be viewed in the same way [as other romantic relationships on that show]. It's different characters. I think in the moment, that the writers have managed to find a nuance so that the relationships don't look too much alike. So it's not like when on X show, this is what it looks like when you're in a relationship. You've got Danny and Lindsay, and Flack and Angell. And you've got all the other relationships that aren't romantic.

CSI Files: There does seem to be a lot of romance on the show these days. Were you surprised by the decision to put Flack into a relationship?

Cahill: Maybe a little bit. There were certainly rumblings--I think ideas had been kicked around--but yeah, a little bit surprised. But I didn't have the carpet pulled out from under me.

CSI Files: It is nice to see that side of Flack.

Cahill: Yeah, it is, and it gives him a different outlet, too. What I do like the most is that it was born out of a moment involving another relationship. So it kind of gave him a whole separate place to live in for an episode or two. When he's got the sister and then there are other things happening on the side, it didn't inappropriately interject [the romance]. There seems to be a bit of an organic lift to it all. The intention was there; you play with it and you play with it, and then when the door opens, you walk through.

CSI Files: How did you feel about "Rush to Judgment" when you first got the script?

Cahill: I loved the episode when I read it. What I liked about it was he had to come up against the bureaucratic machine, which he employs to his advantage at times, too, so there was great conflict in that.

CSI Files: Flack handled the situation very calmly and almost passively at some points. Is that how you would have expected him to react?

Cahill: Well, I think it's one of those moments where you can only do so much. There's just a way in which that machine works. It stood out to me in that scene where he's being interviewed by the IAB. He goes, "Well, wait a second--what about giving a guy the benefit of the doubt?" There was just one of those moments where you step slightly to the left of the line, and now you're being treated as if you don't have no past, as if you'd never done anything right. I think he was frustrated by being treated like a common criminal and that there was really no way around that. His record doesn't speak for him in those moments. Suddenly he was on the verge of losing maybe what is the most important thing he has: his badge. I also think he's one of those guys who identifies very heavily with the badge. It might offer him a sense of who he is. I don't get the impression that was he to lose the job, [he would handle it well]. I think this is what he does. I think the idea of losing that was terrifying to him. Where we saw that was in his anger and frustration. And had he lost the job, it would have been a whole different ball of wax. But I'm not complaining that it didn't go that way! I like my job on the show.

From my standpoint, what's been great about this season in particular, it's nice to not always win. That's informed decisions as well. As an actor, I play every scene to get what I want. However small, however big, whatever the moment, you're playing it to win in some respects. To get information, to get an answer--whatever it may be. And it's really intriguing to pursue something and not get it, especially having been in the habit of getting it all the time. So it was fun to live in that space for a minute.

CSI Files: How do you feel about the end of the episode where Flack is packing up in the end to go right before Mac approaches him? Do you think Flack would just give up that easily?

Cahill: I think he was probably going to go to watch the Ranger game! I don't think it was a matter of quitting, it was just a matter of, you know what, enough's enough for today. I'm not doing this. I'm not going to hang around here and do nothing. I think a lot of stuff, [it helps] if you see it as smaller moments in time and not these pivotal decisions. It was just, I'm not doing this today. I'm out of here. I'll try this again tomorrow, and to see if I can find my place.

CSI Files: So it wasn't a moment of Flack going, "I'm done forever."

Cahill: No, no, but I think in that moment it was exactly that. "I'm done today. I can't get the better of this situation today, so I'm out." There was defeat in that moment, but I don't think it was a giant statement. And the Rangers were playing.

CSI Files: Flack has places to be! Did they put the Rangers reference in for you?

Cahill: Yeah, they did! There has been a nice run of Ranger mentions, which is fun. That's stuff that's been born out of ad-libs, too.

CSI Files: Mac never really doubted in Flack's innocence at any time, whereas in the past we've seen him question other characters like Danny and Hawkes (Hill Harper) when they fell under suspicion. Why do you think Mac was so certain of Flack's innocence?

Cahill: There's a level of familiarity between those two characters that has almost existed since day one. I think that although they're entirely different in a lot of ways, in some respects they're cut from the same cloth. I've always felt that in that relationship, there is less that needs to be said. There's just an inherent understanding. He may go this way, I may go that way, but we're going to end up in the same place. And I've enjoyed that played out with Gary, too. There's a respect born out of understanding there, there's just something very similar. One is just smarter than the other, or he knows more, I should say. Maybe it's one of those [relationships] where Mac sees a little bit of himself in Flack in a way. You know how some people you meet and it's just like, I get that, when there's something really kind of similar.

CSI Files: So you think that's why Mac didn't doubt in Flack's innocence at all?

Cahill: Yeah. And maybe he chose not to doubt. There's no history in the playing of the show that he'd have any reason to doubt. I think there's enough experience that the two have together to kind of know. You know somebody. We all have different kinds of friends. When someone comes to you and says, "Bobby just held up a bank." And you say, "Well, alright, yeah, I know Bobby held up a bank. He's been stealing Tootsie Pops from me since I was six. So that makes sense to me." But I think it was so out of character. Essentially that would have been a straight up homicide. If Flack were in fact guilty of killing that kid, then that's just a straight up killing. There's no reason why he would have, and I think that Mac has dealt with that temper enough--and I think that Flack does have a temper--that there was just no reason to [think Flack was guilty].

CSI Files: Would you have preferred the episode had been played more ambiguously? No one in the audience thought that Flack killed this scrawny, scared 17-year-old kid, but what if it had been the big guy jumping on Angell's desk? Would you have rather seen it played out where it was a question where maybe Flack had snapped or been in a situation where he had to get violent?

Cahill: Yeah, I mean, I think certainly living in ambiguity is more compelling in that way. But it's also hard to do with the show. I couldn't pretend to know how to accomplish that and make the audience believe with something that big. But then if we do see the character make a mistake on that level, that's game over. You no longer have a job. Whether it's a big guy or a little guy, it's hard to create that situation where you believe the character is actually endangering everything. I wouldn't know how to do that off the top of my head. I think that's what we go for, and I think we accomplish versions of it, but that's really hard to do.

CSI Files: We really saw Flack's temper in "All in the Family" when he was chasing Danny around Manhattan after Danny's gun was stolen by Rikki Sandoval (Jacqueline Pinol). Why do you think that got under Flack's skin so much and really set him off?

Cahill: Probably fear in that moment. Speaking of tense, that was actually well done in terms of keeping it going, because anything could have happened in that moment. It's always a question of what is justifiable homicide in that realm. But I think it was fear. I think there was a bit more of a crisis going on. It was less of a feeling of what we didn't think this person did do, but what she may do. I like it when we have serial killers or people who need to be stopped. It brings out a whole different [aspect]. Before the fact things get a little fiery--when you're scared to lose something, a friend, or scared for somebody else, it's pressing. So his frustration might come out a little bit harder, your fear might come out a little bigger. It was a crisis moment.

CSI Files: During the stand off between Rikki and Ollie in the alley in that episode, when Danny got in between them, do you think Flack would have actually shot Rikki if he thought she was going to fire on Danny?

Cahill: Oh yeah. Without a doubt. But I say that very easily, but I don't think that's a light decision. That's the most interesting [dilemma]. You hit on what's the greatest thing about those moments when you do pull your gun. Nobody wants to shoot anybody, but yeah, I think so. I'm sure he didn't know it!

CSI Files: It was a really a great scene--you don't usually have tension like that where you care about everybody who's involved.

Cahill: When you want everybody to win, those are the compelling situations. You know someone's going to lose. You create that good Super Bowl intensity, then you've got a great episode.

CSI Files: We've heard that Flack is going to be speaking Gaelic in an upcoming episode!

Cahill: Yeah, I speak Irish!

CSI Files: Do you really speak Irish?

Cahill: No, I don't speak Irish. I've been around people who actually speak Irish, but it's not a language I speak.

CSI Files: Is that going to be a big challenge for you?

Cahill: We just shot it. We had guys on set who knew the pronunciations. There's no phonetic reference for that language at all, so it would have been an immense challenge were it not to have help. But I'm nervous about it! After a couple of takes, I looked at the writer and said, "Does that even sound like a language?" But it was fun. It is an odd skill, shared by Flack and .05% of the world's population!

CSI Files: So Flack has hidden talents!

Cahill: I like that. I do think there's something kind of eccentric about Flack that I really appreciate.

CSI Files: Yeah, he'll sometimes bust out something really quirky, like the Dr. Who reference he made in "Time's Up".

Cahill: Same writer as a matter of fact--that's Trey [Callaway].

CSI Files: Can you tease anything that's coming up for Flack in upcoming episodes?

Cahill: You've kind of seen it! There's nothing Flack-wise that I know of. It was a real Flack-heavy start to the season, so I don't know. In terms of the relationships we've opened up, I don't know what's coming with Sam or even Angell. I don't think anything new is coming. Now they're breaking that critical point in the season, those last two or three episodes, so anything could happen.

CSI Files: Is there anything you'd like to see at some point for Flack, even if it's not this season?

Cahill: One day--and I'm in no rush for this to happen--I would like to, when the time is right, [see] the father. I think there could be something in that. Like every other relationship we've seen, I'd like to see it done in a similar way. The nice thing about having Sam there is, certainly she's been involved in the case. I would just like that done the way we've done the other two [relationships]. But that's one thing, since season one, episode one, I've been curious about the dad. I'd want to hold out to get the right actor and really figure out what [that relationship] would be.

CSI Files: Do you have anyone in mind that you'd love to see to play Flack's father?

Cahill: I'm wide open, but I love the idea of Brian Dennehy. He's great. I would love Brian Dennehy to play Flack's dad. He did Law & Order recently. I don't know why that's one guy who's always stuck out to me. He's a big, imposing Irish figure. Maybe there's a scene where the two of them are speaking Irish back and forth!

CSI Files: Where would you like to see the relationship with Angell go?

Cahill: I don't know. I like how it's moving. I'm a big fan of patience, to let it do what it [will]. I have no idea what their plans are at this point. I like where it's at. I think where it's become a part of the life but it's not the focus. I don't think it's gotten to a point where it's pulling unnecessary attention. There's an organic way in which it's moving. I don't want to force it any which way. I don't know where they [will] go, but I like that it's there.

Discuss this interviews at Talk CSI!

Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.

Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.