Jon Wellner

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at December 16, 2007 - 9:34 AM GMT

Jon Wellner wears two hats at CSI: Crime Scene Investigation; in addition to playing Henry Andrews, the lovably neurotic toxicologist on the show, he also is a researcher, alongside David Berman, for the show, responsible for making sure everything that winds up on the air is accurate. Wellner took some time to discuss the two 'lab rats' episodes, "Lab Rats" and "You Kill Me" that turned the spotlight on his character and the other techs who assist the CSIs, as well as his experience doing research for the show.

CSI Files: You've been playing Henry for over two years now! How did you get the role?

Jon Wellner: I started in season five. I actually just auditioned like a regular actor. I actually was in "Unbearable" and I played Sam Tracy, who was a bad zookeeper! Then I figured, 'oh great, I did an episode of CSI; that's fantastic.' And then they called me like four episodes later and said, "Do you want to play the toxicologist?" And I'm like, "Cool, but I'm in jail probably!" They're like, "No, we'll give you a different character. We like you!" I was shocked and amazed and so grateful, and I've been Henry Andrews ever since.

CSI Files: Were they concerned that you'd just been a murderer in a recent episode?

Wellner: They didn't seem to show any concern, probably because they figured no one was going to remember me! I'm not a memorable guy! I didn't wear my glasses [as Henry] and I did when I was Sam Tracy, and I was wearing a hat, so you probably couldn't see me that well, and I was only in a couple of scenes. So I don't think I was fully established. And Archie [Johnson, Archie Kao] played a security guard in an episode. They were okay with it.

CSI Files:You also do research for the show. Did you start doing that before landing the role of Henry, or after?

Wellner: I started researching in season four before I got on the show. I met David Berman, who's the head researcher, in Jeff Perry's acting class. David and I became friends and he at that time needed an assistant, so I started out part time and quickly moved to full time. At first I didn't know what I was doing so it was pretty difficult, but now I have a whole network of people I work with and it's great.

CSI Files: What's your typical day as a researcher like?

Wellner: I wake up and usually there are questions that the writers have e-mailed us, and we just immediately get to work on who would be best able to answer these questions for us. If it's a law question, we go through our list of lawyers and figure out who might know it best and then contact them, put an answer together and send it out. We might be working on two or three episodes at a time, so we try to prioritize, too. Throughout the day we're getting more questions--follow up to whatever we send in--when there's actually writing happening!

CSI Files: Do you find it's a full day? Is it stressful work, or does it vary?

Wellner: It can be stressful because you can't ever get anything wrong. I feel like I'm back giving a school report except I have to get an A! It's a pretty full day. And sometimes David's shooting, so I'm working, and sometimes I'm shooting, so he's doing the research. We work together whenever we can, but when one of us is shooting, the other one picks up the load.

CSI Files: How hard is it to fit in both the research work and being in front of the camera as Henry?

Wellner: It's not because it's fun! It's so much fun shooting, so I don't feel like that's work, and then the research is work, but it's fun work. I don't ever feel like, 'Oh my god, I can't handle both of those things.'

CSI Files: So it never gets too overwhelming?

Wellner: It hasn't yet! When I shoot, I shoot one day usually. When we have a lab rats episode like we just did, then I'll shoot maybe five, six, seven, eight days. But that's once a season, so that's the only time it can get a little crazy, but other than that, I balance pretty well.

CSI Files: Are you and David the only researchers on the show?

Wellner: We are; we're the only two.

CSI Files: I imagine it's a lot of work, since CSI is a very well researched show.

Wellner: It's definitely research intensive. The writers know their stuff after eight seasons, so a lot of it they just know off-hand now. You read a script and you go, "How did they know that? They didn't ask that question! Oh, they knew it themselves."

CSI Files: In all your research for the show, what do you think is the most interesting thing you've learned?

Wellner: Oh man, that's a good question! It's been more just humorous things that have happened. We did a clown episode, so David and I had to call different clowns in Las Vegas to do our research. That was interesting! I had a question about how small a kid would be in order to fit him into a barbeque or would we have to cut him into bits? Could we use a barbeque or would we have to use a fire pit? So you call the barbeque manufacturer, and I don't know if they've the testing on what size child would fit in [the barbeque]. So you always get kind of a [hesitation]; I think people think I'm joking with them at first. I have a ridiculous question about how to kill people, and their products are usually not involved with that kind of thing!

CSI Files: Has anybody ever had a crazy response to one of your calls?

Wellner: I called one guy once who was in Media Relations and he said he'd never heard of CSI! His job title is Media Relations! It's not like we're some podunk show! The majority of the responses are, "Oh my god, I love that show!" and people are happy to help us out. And I think we appreciate that we're trying to keep it real. And also, if you work in some profession like watch-making or something, you're not getting calls from Hollywood all that often! It's probably exciting for them to be able to share their knowledge. Anytime you have knowledge and people ask you [about it], it's empowering to share it with them.

CSI Files: Is research your primary interest, or have you always wanted to be an actor?

Wellner: I came up from Chicago because I wanted to be an actor. There's nothing to do in Chicago once you've done a couple of plays and improv. I studied theater in school, and television; I got a degree in television in school. Which is fun because I'm actually working in what my degree is! That's totally rare.

CSI Files: Henry has been built up as a character over the two years he's been on the show. He's a little neurotic! How did that aspect of his personality come about?

Wellner: It's a complete 180 from the Jon Wellner persona; I have no anxiety whatsoever! It's because I feel like I'm young for a toxicologist, and that some of that comes with just being young and eager to please. I think I'm more nervous around Catherine and Nick and Warrick and Grissom; it's fine for me to relate with Hodges and Wendy because I feel like they're my peers. I want to make sure that I do my job correctly; that's how I play it.

CSI Files: Did that trait of Henry's come from you or from the writers?

Wellner: It was probably a little of both. They write me little bits of character, and I get to show it off.

CSI Files: What do you think Henry thinks of Hodges (Wallace Langham), the self-appointed "leader" of the lab rats?

Wellner: I think he's a little bit like my older brother. I look up to him; he's been there longer than me. [Henry] respects his elders. But I think his jerky personality [bothers Henry], and his relationship with Wendy grosses me out! It's kind of like watching your parents make out; it's like, ugh please!

CSI Files: Hodges and Wendy (Liz Vassey) have a flirtation going on; what about Henry? Is there anyone he likes in the lab?

Wellner: Not that I know of. I know in "Lab Rats", I had an Icelandic pen pal I was working on, but I was telling her I was actually Warrick. I was sending her pictures of Warrick! I don't know how that would work out, because frankly I don't look that much like Warrick. But no, I don't know of any love interest for Mr. Henry Andrews.

CSI Files: Is there anyone you'd like to see Henry flirt with?

Wellner: Yeah, I think he's at work to collect blood, semen and urine. He's got a few science ladies back home maybe.

CSI Files: The two "lab rats" episodes were really fun. Do you know how they came about and how the decision to spotlight the lab techs was made?

Wellner: I had heard they had been wanting to do a "Lab Rats" prior to last season for a few seasons, to give the main actors a break, to show an episode of the smaller roles. And I think once they wrote it, it was fun for them. And I know we all had just so much fun that week shooting that episode. It seemed to do well last year, and the fans really seemed to enjoy it, so we chose to do it again this year [in "You Kill Me", and I think it went well again this year. It worked out.

CSI Files: Do you think it will be a once a season thing from now on?

Wellner: I can only hope! I love doing them, and I love working with all of those people.

CSI Files: Do you have a favorite between those two episodes?

Wellner: No. This last one was a little more intense--a lot of action stuff going on. I died, which was fun for me. I thought it was really cool to have the little characters [for Hodges' game] made of us. I got to do a body cast and a face cast, which was fun, so it was more intense.

CSI Files: Do you have a favorite episode of CSI, in general or for Henry specifically?

Wellner: Well, I love the [Quentin] Tarantino one ["Grave Danger"]. There are so many episodes I love! I love the one where Jorja [Fox] leaves, 807 ["Goodbye and Good Luck"]; I thought that was an amazing episode. Actually, the Liev Schrieber episode where he died ["Law of Gravity"] was a great episode. There's just so many!

As for me, probably "You Kill Me" was the most fun. I had a lot of fun on "Werewolves". That was the first time I got to shoot with David and Wally and Archie, so that was so much fun.

CSI Files: What was the atmosphere like for Jorja's final episode?

Wellner: It was really, really nice. They got everybody together on the stage and some people just said a few words and it was just really sweet. We shot her last scene and there were tears and hugs and it was hard, it was definitely hard. But it was a great goodbye.

CSI Files: Do you have a dream role as an actor you'd like to play?

Wellner: I moved out here to do comedy, so I still love that. Stand up and sketch comedy and improv--all of that is my love.

CSI Files: Of the roles you've already played, do you have a favorite so far?

Wellner: I love CSI. Gilligan was fun [in Surviving Gilligan's Island] because I'm Gilligan! It's the most fun when you have the most work. I've been in eighteen episodes of CSI, so I really get to work a lot. It's a lot better than when you come in and just work for a day. Ocean's 13 was fun because I'm on stage and Al Pacino's there, and Brad Pitt's there! It was like, 'Where am I?' I have the call sheet from that day; there were literally only two or three extra actors, so it says, George Clooney, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, Al Pacino, Bernie Mac and then Jon Wellner! That's my favorite; I love that call sheet.

CSI Files: What would be your idea of a dream episode for Henry?

Wellner: I guess I never thought about it because I don't ever expect that I would have one. More of me hanging out with Wendy and Archie and David--maybe us outside of work. I just love shooting with all of them! I'd like to see how Henry does at the craps table. [Or] he tries his hand at stand up on the strip.

CSI Files: He could have a secret nightlife--or rather, day-life!

Wellner: He drives a motorcycle and maybe has some tattoos--who knows!

Discuss this interviews at Talk CSI!

Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.

Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer