George Eads

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at May 19, 2005 - 10:01 PM GMT

George Eads has been in the news a lot lately, and with good reason. In tonight's fifth season CSI: Crime Scene Investigation finale, "Grave Danger", his character Nick Stokes finds himself in an unenviable position: buried alive by a criminal mastermind who goes toe to toe with Grissom, who is racing against the clock to save his colleague's life. And with the action-packed two hour episode is helmed by none other than famed director Quentin Tarantino, there's little doubt that all eyes will be on CBS tonight.

But even before being buried alive, Nick has had a pivotal role in the show's fifth season, as one of the members on the newly promoted Catherine Willow's (Marg Helgenberger) swing shift team. Before the hoopla surrounding the finale kicked into high gear, Eads discussed the changes his character has gone through over the last five years and how Nick is adjusting to the new team dynamic.

Though some miss the dynamic that existed when the team worked on the same shift together, Eads found the chance energizing. "I love it. I think that change is good," he said. "Any time you put a cast like this in compromising circumstances or shake it up a little bit, I think we're all pretty close so we draw on real emotion."

Eads admits there was one major drawback: he didn't get to work with cast members he had become close with over the past years any longer. "I just saw Jorja [Fox]and Eric [Szmanda] and I said, 'God, I miss you guys!' And I don't think I saw Billy [Petersen] this whole year. So there are really true feelings there, and we put those on the screen," Eads explains. "That's what makes our show special—the unspoken communication. I like [the team split] but I miss Billy, I miss Jorja. I don't even work with any of the new folks, either."

The team split has put Nick and Warrick (Gary Dourdan) under Catherine's command, and Nick hasn't been thrilled with Catherine's new attitude. Fans noted Nick's dismissive reaction to Catherine's question in the episode "Big Middle" about whether or not he had a problem with her being the boss. "It was written that I was supposed to say, 'Not to your face,'" Eads reveals. "And then she was going to have a line, 'What, do you do it behind my back?' There was a whole conversation—that's another scene for another time and another place. Quite frankly, I have chosen that my character is kind of sick and tired of 'I'm the boss, I'm the boss,' from her. And so we had a line in that was much more tongue in cheek [in the episode]. I don't think that Nick has a problem with [Catherine being the boss], I just think he has a problem when she acts like the boss. He hasn't had any scenes where he's been combative with her, and I don't think he would be. I don't think he has a problem with authority, and he definitely doesn't have a problem with female authority, I just think he has a problem with people who act authoritative.

" That was the great thing about Grissom's character—he never acted like the boss. [He never said:] 'Cause I'm the boss and I say so!' Maybe it's a choice Marg's made with her character, to play [Catherine] very powerfully, [as] a woman that's very willing to take on responsibility, and I love the way she's played it. I think that's so smart on her part as an actress to personalize a promotion like that, because that's real—that's what people do. But for [Catherine] to look over her shoulder at someone who's been in the trenches with her—it's almost an insult. And problems arise when someone has problem with this shift in personality. It's almost like I want to look at her and go, 'Who are you? Remember I'm the guy that you were knee-deep in sewers with four years ago?' I could have just as easily gotten the promotion as she did. I think the boss stuff has been fun to play, I think we've played it a lot this year."

When the subject turns to romance—specifically, the budding flirtation between Catherine and Warrick, Eads states that his character isn't aware of their mutual attraction, and wouldn't approve of them acting on it. "Not only do I think he's not aware of it, but I think he'd disapprove only for reasons that relate to the job," Eads comments. "I think it would be odd for that to develop after all we've all been through together. One of the things I've really enjoyed about doing this show is that inter-office relationships [don't happen]. There are other shows where you can watch married women cheat on their husbands—you can get that somewhere else. I think you can find your smut somewhere else. I've always found Sara's fascination with Grissom much more real. I can understand that, but to fall into someone's arms and just start making out? So if they hook up, I look forward to the scenes I'm going to have with them (Catherine and Warrick), both together and separate, because I'm going to give them a piece of my mind. But again Nick has nothing to do with any of that."

Eads is much more in favor of the subtle attraction between Sara and Grissom, which has played out over the duration of the show. "I've enjoyed watching this crush—that's been really believable. I'm enamored of the characters—they're so fascinating. They had a really soft scene in "Snakes", during which she said something really poignant about being her own worst enemy. And she kind of asked him something and he didn't know what to say, and she was kind of like, 'well, that's okay.' I really think you could see how she had figured out what her feelings for him were and that she had worked it out and she was okay with it, she didn't put anything on him to say, 'Oh, I'm sorry, this is how I am.' She didn't do any of that which is again part of the coolness of those characters.

"I know they wouldn't hook up because I know Grissom. I know Grissom feels the same way Nick does about work. I think he has such a love for Sara that's so much more pure—it goes beyond a romantic love. It's really the same love that I feel for Catherine, for Warrick. I would push them out of the way [of danger], but I wouldn't sleep with them."

Eads is quick to acknowledge in no uncertain terms that he's not in favor of romance between the main characters on the show. "Is that what people want to see—does everybody want to see us make out?" he asks. "Change the channel, man! We're not going to make out. I'm not making out with anybody!"

Indeed, a scene where Nick and Catherine were making out was cut from the pilot episode of CSI. "We hardly knew each other," Eads says of filming the scene. "I had just come off a show called Grapevine [where I was playing] a womanizer, a sleeping-around kind of guy. Most of my stuff before CSI was kind of the jerk boyfriend, so I thought this was one of those deals, where these two have a thing going on, so we had a scene where they make out. But now I think our contributions are so much more substantial, behind the camera as well as in the front, that there would be three producers and myself discussing that if they wanted to do something that dramatic and that drastic."

That doesn't mean fans won't get to see any of the developments they long for. "I've seen things where people want to see my character in peril!" Eads reveals. "One lady wrote me and told me how she wants to see me get beat up and near death and that kind of stuff."

Eads himself has different wishes for his character. In the past five years, jovial Nick has been transformed by his job, and Eads believes the depressing nature of the crime scene investigator job has been eating away at Nick. "I think what's always been interesting to me than the science and the criminality with this job is what happens to your persona, your disposition, after day in and day out dealing with life and death," Eads says. "And not just death itself—I think that once your spirit leaves your body, it's just a shell. But day in and day out, how does that wear on you personally and how does that start to change even your tone of voice. Does it affect your patience? Do you start to drink away from work? Is there drug use? If you have a job like this, can you really see the good in a beautiful day, when the flowers are in bloom? I don't think so, not when you do this for a living.

"And that's starting to really formulate in my head a persona. I want to see Nick in a good situation and not see[ing] the good in it. I wouldn't mind seeing him so callous that he gets in trouble, to where he may need a break. To where Grissom may say, 'Hey man, you alright?' and where I'd say, 'No, maybe I'm not.' Or even to get some counseling and take a break, where I'd have to go away for a while to see okay, life's good, life's beautiful. I think my character's getting to the point where he can't even eat spaghetti with red sauce anymore, where he has horrible nightmares, he can't sleep anymore. He can't sustain any kind of relationships anymore, he's afraid to love something because he's afraid it's going to die. These are all things that I think of for my character.

Eads envisions Nick heading for a breaking point, with the job wearing him down. "I've even started to getting at the thing that scares him the most is that he might not care anymore," Eads reveals. "He used to care—then he was scared by how much he cared. And now he's come to the point where it looks like he doesn't care anymore because he's turned it off. I think that's sort of scary. Grissom's learned about it—somewhere along the way he lost it. It happens to a lot of criminalists—somewhere along the way, they go, I gotta take a break. Somewhere along the way [Grissom's] learned to handle it, and it would be cool to see him mentor Nick one last time, [give] one final lesson."

Though Eads hasn't gone through the dramatic change that Nick is coping with, he has learned first hand what it's like to be a star on a hit television show. "It was really fun at first. It was fun at first to just go out and you're like the prom king!," Eads exclaims. "But after that first year it went from man, this is cool, to now, I can't go into the grocery store."

Eads hasn't had all positive experiences, either. One night, he was out having a drink when a man came up to him and started a fight with him by throwing a salad in his face. "On nights where my buddies [were busy], I would go out by myself and have a drink. I used to do it all of the time," Eads notes. "And now I can't, not for fear that someone's [start something]. But some guys want to say they got into a fight with the guy from CSI—it doesn't matter whether they won or lost! Just to say, 'I whopped his ass' or 'he whopped' mine, or 'he's a big punk.' Then you're the big guy at work the next day. So [fame] makes you a little bit of a target."

The fan encounters vary, from everything to friendly greetings to people offering to buy Eads a drink. But Eads knows there's a need for caution. "I've gotten some letters from fans that [his publicists] won't let me read," he says. "So you never know, when you're out and somebody says, 'Oh, can I buy you a drink?' And you say, 'Sure, send a drink over. Thanks!' You never know. You don't want to live in fear, but there is some agoraphobia that comes with the popularity [of the show]."

Eads offers advice on the best way to approach a star: "People on TV shows, they can tell—they know that you know who they are. They know you know. Sometimes it's cool to not even come up—just give the thumbs up," he suggests. "Sometimes it's cool if you do walk up, just to say, 'Love the show' and go off. That's the coolest stuff. I saw Billy Crudup cleaning off his clubs after golfing and I walked by and said, 'Hey Billy, I love what you do, man, everything that you do. Just keep it up!' And I walked off. And he literally kind of almost jogged after me and said, 'Hey man, that was really cool, thanks!' And that was it—that was just a really cool way to do it."

Eads has nothing but gratitude for the show's many fans. "It couldn't be more cool. Really, this is awesome. Thirty million people watch," he marvels. "I love what I do and I love the fans. We've got fans who care about the show, and we've got work. I work so hard for the fans who watch our show."

Discuss this interviews at Talk CSI!

Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.

Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.