Hill Harper

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at June 6, 2008 - 7:42 AM GMT

June is a busy month for Hill Harper. This past Tuesday, June 3rd, saw the release of his second book, Letters to a Young Sister, which follows up his 2006 bestseller, Letters to a Young Brother. Harper is about to kick off a book tour that will take him across the country, but first he's finishing filming the first four episodes of CSI: New York's fifth season. Harper took time out of his busy schedule to discuss the release of his book and what's in store for his character, Dr. Sheldon Hawkes with CSI Files' Kristine Huntley.

CSI Files: Your second book, Letters to a Young Sister: DeFINE Your Destiny is out this week! Congratulations!

Hill Harper: It's a huge [week] for me. I couldn't be more excited. I couldn't be more proud of the book itself. I'm really happy and excited about it. There are two pictures of me on the set of CSI: New York, so that's kind of cool. This time there's a picture of myself, Gary [Sinise, Mac Taylor], Carmine [Giovinazzo, Danny Messer] and [Executive Producer] Pam Veasey and then there's just a picture of me.

CSI Files: How was the experience of writing this book different from writing your first book, Letters to a Young Brother?

Harper: Since it's for young women, I spent more time doing research and interviewing young women as well as [going] out to a lot of surrogate sisters. I have a lot more contributors [in this book]. Women I respect are contributing like Alfre Woodard, Angela Bassett, Michelle Obama, Ruby Dee, Gabrielle Union wrote the forward, Sanaa Lathan, Nikki Giovanni--just an amazing group of women contributed to the book. It's why I love the book so much, because of the diversity and the intelligence of the women that contributed. It's not just me and what I say, it's what they say as well.

CSI Files: What do you see as the biggest challenges facing young women today?

Harper: The biggest challenge that came up [when writing the book] that I noticed when dealing with young women was self-esteem and self-worth, a lot of issues surrounding body image and their view of themselves. The reason why the subtitle of the book is "DeFINE Your Destiny" is you want to recapture that self-esteem. I capitalized the FINE of "Define" [because] I want young women to look in the mirror and say that they're fine. I want them to define fine by saying, "I'm fantastic, I'm interesting, I'm necessary and I'm exceptional." That's what the "fine" of "define" is. It's really helping restore their own self-esteem and self-worth because once you do that, you can talk about future-based things like financial literacy, HIV/AIDS protection, pregnancy protection--all these things that involve thinking about you as a future being. So you really have to talk about self-esteem and self-worth [first].

CSI Files: I know with the first book you faced the--as it turns out, erroneous--preconception that young men don't read. Were there any similar challenges with this book?

Harper: No, not with getting it published because the success of the first book was so great that that was not an issue. But the issue for me is that I want this book to make The New York Times bestseller list like the last one because it's so important to send the message again to the publishers that books like this--motivational books, where the heart of the book is in the right place--to show them that there's a real market for it, books for young women. That's what I want, go to Amazon.com, go to my website for my charity, my foundation, which is Manifest Your Destiny and click through it. I still want to see this book to do really well, to reaffirm there's a market. I know of three more books in pipelines, motivational books, that were done because of the success of Letters to a Young Brother. I'm very proud of that.

CSI Files: What are some of the valuable lessons in the book for young women?

Harper: I go through so many different issues, from dealing with depression to financial literacy to, again, body image to career to issues around sex and relationships and dating--a ton of different issues. There's not just one in particular. This book is 305 pages; Letters to a Young Brother was 196. So this one is much more dense and goes into a lot more complexity.

CSI Files: Did any of your contributors surprise you with their entries?

Harper: Three were really incredible. One, Nikki Giovanni. Now Nikki Giovanni is a legend, perhaps one of the greatest poets, one of the great writers of all time. It's like having Michael Jordan join you for a pick-up game. So for her to allow me to republish one of her most famous poems called "Ego Tripping," which is a poem is about affirmation, and dignity, and love of self and self-compassion that begins the book, and for her also to contribute an original writing that I end the book with really makes me feel great. And then Michelle Obama's contribution I love. She contributes to two different areas of the book, but the one on page eleven I think is fantastic, where she answers a question from a young woman about getting teased because she's smart. The way she responds to it is amazing, and it's also one of the first times I've ever seen Michelle talk about potentially being First Lady. The other is Gabrielle Union's forward, where she gets extremely personal and talks about things that she's gone through, like [being] raped, issues with having dark skin and hair issues--all the insecurities that you wouldn't necessarily ascribe to such a beautiful movie star. Those really are important.

CSI Files: Will you be touring to support the book?

Harper: Yes. You can get my tour schedule at my website, Manifest Your Destiny. [I'll be visiting] Raleigh, St. Louis, Memphis, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Detroit and Atlanta. I'll be all over the place.

CSI Files: Are you filming CSI: New York in New York right now?

Harper: Yeah, we're in New York.

CSI Files: You're getting a jump start on the fifth season right now, aren't you?

Harper: Yeah, we're shooting the fifth season. We just started the fourth episode of the fifth season.

CSI Files: How does it look so far?

Harper: It's going to be great. It's going be a great season. The last episode [we worked on] had some really cool stuff. It's pretty exciting.

CSI Files: Anything especially good coming up for Hawkes?

Harper: There's always good stuff for Hawkes! They always put me in situations to do the most technical, intricate things. I get the chance to do all the technical stuff and I really enjoy it. The new room that we have that got teased a little bit with the virtual autopsy [seen in "Hostage"]--we're going to do more of that. I really like that--I think it's really cool.

CSI Files: So will we see Hawkes showing off his medical skills more in the next season?

Harper: I think it's always a combination. Hawkes certainly at the crime scene will take the lead with the body. That's his area of expertise. But Sid (Robert Joy) is the ME and will continue to be. Hawkes is not going to go back to the medical examiner's office.

CSI Files: Can you preview anything coming up for Hawkes in the fifth season?

Harper: I can say that one of the central characters has their life put in jeopardy and it affects Hawkes in a real specific way. Presumably all the time with these characters, they work a job that's precarious and their lives are always in jeopardy but in this case it really gets close. But I can't say who! It will be within the first five of the season.

CSI Files: And after you shoot those first episodes, you'll go on hiatus?

Harper: Yes. We'll be off about two months, which is a month shorter than usual, because of the [WGA] strike. We're obviously hoping that there is no SAG strike.

CSI Files: What are your thoughts on that? Do you think there will be a SAG strike?

Harper: I don't think there will be. I just don't think it makes sense. You can't have major work stoppages by two different unions in the same calendar year. It wouldn't make sense. I don't think it could happen.

CSI Files: What did you think of the fourth season of CSI: NY as a whole?

Harper: I thought the fourth season was good given all the obstructions and hurdles. You're talking about being interrupted in the middle by a protracted strike, a set of episodes that were shot without any writers on the set--so given all that, I think the show has found a rhythm, it held up pretty well, and the scenes held together pretty well.

CSI Files: Hawkes seems to have found a nerdy buddy in Adam (A.J. Buckley). Do you enjoy their interactions?

Harper: I agree! I like their interactions. I also like A.J. So that's fun.

CSI Files: Hawkes picked up Danny's nickname for Lindsay (Anna Belknap) in "Personal Foul". Is there anything behind that?

Harper: I think was just for some fun, and just a little bit of a memory to remind her. It was a nice little moment of connection, how you have a have a nickname that's a term of affection. So I think that's what it is.

Coming up, there's a good chance you'll see Hawkes have a love interest!

CSI Files: Really?

Harper: And I have no evidence to that. I'm just making that general prediction without any evidence. I've never heard that it's going to happen, and I haven't even seen a script that reflects that. But I think it's going to happen! I'm usually pretty good with my predictions.

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Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.