Jonathan Togo

By Kristine Huntley
Posted at April 17, 2006 - 4:56 PM GMT

Jonathan Togo is just about ready to wrap his second season playing criminalist Ryan Wolfe, who joined the CSI: Miami team in season three after the death of Tim Speedle (Rory Cochrane). The newest member of the team has been through a lot, from a nail to the eye to discovering that there's a mole in the lab. Togo sat down with CSI Files' Kristine Huntley to talk about the love triangles, lab tensions and betrayals, shootouts and sweater vests his character has endured and survived!

CSI: Files: You've had a great year on the show this season. It's been really exciting to watch what Ryan has gone through.

Jonathan Togo: I think the writers and Ann Donahue gave me some incredible opportunities. It's been a lot of fun! I'm glad people are responding to it because I'm enjoying it tremendously.

CSI Files: Were you surprised by some of the twists, like when Ryan was shot in the eye with a nail gun ("Nailed")?

Togo: The eye thing was awesome! It was terrible to wear--it really hurt. It was really distracting because I could see it out of the corner of my eye! It was the most fun, when you get to do that stuff as an actor. If the character was static and every week I had to do the exact same thing, it would start to get monotonous. Doing the show is a little bit like Groundhog Day because every week we solve a crime. It's a very similar formula we follow week to week but I think where our show is special and different is that the writers and Ann Donahue go out of their way to constantly try to reinvent the wheel. They take that formula for a procedural show and are constantly turning it upside down in one way or another. They make my job more interesting!

CSI Files: Miami does seem to have a different tone from the other CSI shows and procedurals on the air. How aware are you of what goes on on the other shows, and how Miami is different?

Togo: I've seen CSI enough to know how different it is. Ours is more action-packed--we do things like blow stuff up and have people shooting each other. I'm not super-aware because I actually don't watch the other two. When you live with the show every single day, you want to get home and be away from it. I do come home and my girlfriend will be watching CSI. When I come home and I'm like, "What are you watching?" she'll turn the channel real quick, like a little kid who got caught! Because we do it all day long, when you come home you don't want to hear it.

But yeah, we're doing something different, and it feels that way too. It's exciting. The writers are totally excited when we do something new and special, and Ann's totally excited about it, so the actors get really excited about it, too. I think people who watch the show like that, too. I think they like to know more about the characters. I think they definitely relish those moments. It almost seems like people have more questions for me about my eye or Natalia Boa Vista (Eva La Rue) than they do about the solving of the crimes.

CSI Files: The character work definitely distinguishes the show.

Togo: This year has been awesome. I'm really happy with the way the episodes have been turning out. Sometimes I'll be flipping channels and they'll having something from my first season [with the show, season three] on A&E and it seems like so long ago! We've come a really long way. There is a sweater vest coming up, though

CSI Files: Someone did post a promo picture from an upcoming episode with you in a sweater vest!

Togo: The sweater vest is in the house! I think that Ann Donahue loves the sweater vest on a man. She's pro-sweater vest. In her infinite wisdom, I have to trust her in her love of the sweater vest. She made the show as successful as it is, so I can't question her. I have to follow her into the fray. I have to put it on and wear the sweater vest like a good actor. We have a new costume designer, and in my opinion, she takes the sweater vest to the next level. Wait until you see it! She took the sweater vest where I didn't think it could go. All, I can say is it glows in the dark! It's made of fibers and hairs from crime scenes from the past four seasons.

CSI Files: You always wonder what happens to that old evidence--I guess now we know!

Togo: David Caruso knit it for me over the summer hiatus. By season nine of the show, I'll be fully outfitted by everyone from the cast.

CSI Files: What do you think of the love triangle between you, Natalia Boa Vista, and Eric Delko (Adam Rodriguez)?

Togo: I think it's great! It's hilarious to play--we all get a big kick out of it. I donít know what happens with it, so I'm actually as curious as everyone else. I donít know what will come of it, but I do love working with Eva La Rue. She's an awesome actress--so much fun to hang out with at work, and her daughter's so cute. Again, it's so much fun to try something new on the show, to stretch a different muscle acting-wise. I thought that Sam Hill who directed the love triangle episode was really happy with how it turned out. I'm totally excited to see how it turned out. I think it's episode 221 ["Dead Air"].

CSI Files: Can you give us any hints about what happens in the episode?

Togo: All I can say is that Delko and Ryan end up together in Brokeback!

CSI Files: Oh, wow!

Togo: No, all I can say is that it's not resolved at the end of the episode and that despite her best efforts, Natalia Boa Vista continues to be a divisive figure.

CSI Files: Do you have a prediction as to who Natalia will end up with?

Togo: I donít know actually. I think Ryan might be a little bit of a rebound [for her]. Unfortunately for Ryan, I think he's a little bit of a pawn in this game of chess being played between Delko and Natalia Boa Vista.

CSI Files: Ryan deserves better!

Togo: Does this mean he's officially broken up with Erica Sikes? I donít know if she's still in the picture or if it's an on-again, off-again thing. We always play it like they're very passionate--they fight at work and then when they hang out after work, they're very passionate. Maybe they're seeing other people.

CSI Files: It sounds like Ryan's love life is complicated, at the very least!

Togo: Yeah, who knew! Another great thing the writers do on the show is that they only give you little snippets of what happens in these people's lives, so as not to overwhelm the audience so that they get sick of it. [You get] little windows into their lives other than at work.

CSI Files: A lot of it is definitely left up to the audience's imagination.

Togo: Absolutely, and I think people have very active imaginations. I really like that character, Natalia Boa Vista. I think Eva plays her wonderfully.

CSI Files: Will the feud between Ryan and Delko be revived over Natalia?

Togo: Yes and no. Men generally donít fight like that. In the love triangle episode, Ryan sort of comes to Delko and like asks permission to ask her out. And Delko sort of gives him permission. I think it has slightly more to do with Natalia and Eric's feelings for each other.

CSI Files: Poor Ryan really is kind of in the middle then!

Togo: Ryan's got other problems--he's got to worry about the eye, he's got to worry about the moleÖthis is just to relax and unwind. He's got bigger fish to fry.

CSI Files: Is there more coming up with Ryan's eye problems?

Togo: Yeah, but I think the eye stuff takes an interesting and unexpected twist. I think people will be surprised, but I can't say what [that twist] is. It's huge!

CSI Files: Ryan ended up as the contact person on the mole mystery--and is one of the only two people, along with Horatio Caine (David Caruso) that we don't suspect of being the mole.

Togo: What's funny is that people at work--people on the crew or the make-up artists--will go, "Are you the mole?" And I'm like, "Have you been paying attention at all? There's no way I could be the mole!" And they're like, "I think you're the mole." And I'm like, "There's no way I could be the mole! I'm the one who found out about the mole!" My mom will ask me if I'm the mole. I'm not the mole!

I don't know who the mole is to be honest. I have no idea--they won't tell us. Ann told me, "You don't know what's going to happen tomorrow in real life, so why would you know what's going to happen tomorrow in your character's life?" That way you don't play it as if you know it. The actors' themselves don't know it; that way it's really a mystery. We won't know until we shoot it. I can't tell you what's going to happen with the mole because I don't really know.

CSI Files: Do you think the mole knows?

Togo: Does the mole know who the mole is? I don't know if the mole knows who the mole is. If the mole knew, then I wouldn't know if they knew! If they do know, they're hiding it really well, and I'd think they're a really excellent actor. There are definitely a lot of clues, and they're trying to give some hints as to who the mole might be.

CSI Files: How did you feel about the idea of having a mole in the lab?

Togo: Again, I think the powers that be always do such a great job creating stories that travel throughout the season. I think it's interesting--there's always a lot of conflict in the lab of CSI: Miami, going on within the lab. I think it makes a lot of sense because a lot of what these people do for a living is that they make sense of the complete chaos that's happening in the world. That's what law enforcement is, the line standing between civilization and chaos, so it makes sense that it would be an environment conducive to backstabbing and subterfuge. It's the sort of place that would attract that kind of drama. What I really like is that the writers always seem to create these environments and situations that are so conducive to what the characters are going through.

CSI Files: What's your take on some of the other plotlines this season, like Horatio's involvement with Delko's sister, Marisol (Alana De La Garza)?

Togo: They're great. I think that David really shines in those moments. He does such a great job in creating this character Horatio, this very dynamic character. I think it's interesting to see how he reacts to those diametrically different situations [fighting crime versus romance]. Because the character is so dynamic and David brings such an unexpected energy to it, it's always exciting. You're always surprised by what David does. David is one of the most committed actors I've ever seen. Everything he does on the show is so thoughtful--he never wanders or wastes a single moment. I think you'd be surprised by how deeply he cares about the audience. He thinks about how the audience will react. I think he feels an enormous responsibility to the show and to his character.

CSI Files: It seems Miami is more popular than ever--it was just named the number one show in the world.

Togo: Oh yeah--that's pretty mind-blowing! In the worldÖbut not the universe! I don't think in my entire life I ever thought that I would be involved in something that was the number one thing in the entire world. I think it's great because when we do something, when we work on an episode, people's appreciation of it transcends culture or language. We're doing something that people are really connecting to. And that's so cool. I always think it would be really hard to be the number one show on television, and I give the people on CSI Vegas a ton of credit. That's a really tough position to be in a lot of ways. There's a lot of stake. To be number one in the world is different because when you start to think of the scope of that, it's pretty remarkable. It's pretty incredible. I donít know that I will ever again be part of something that's is number one in the world. We show up to work every day with the same crew, and we all know each other so well and we have so much fun and we laugh; it never really crosses people's minds--I don't think it can, I don't think people let it--that it's the number one show in the world, but when you actually think about that, it's pretty mind-blowing. Take that, Telemundo!

CSI Files: You've been on the show for two years now, and Ryan has changed so much in just two years. He's had some conflicts in the lab and now he's in the position of having to find out who is betraying the lab. Are you happy with where he is now as a character?

Togo: The writers continue to surprise me and impress me. With the twists and turns they've thrown at me, I really made a decision to trust them and go with it and they've never let me down. They've always completely rewarded my trust in them, and that's a really cool relationship to have with people who write what you say. It's hard for some people to not take what happens to their character personally, especially on television because you become attached to that character. It's easy to want your character be infallible, but people aren't infallible. Most people make tons of mistakes--people can be really petty sometimes, they can be really selfish.

I do think [Ryan's] in a pretty good place. He makes a lot of mistakes and his journey is one of baptism by fire, but I would like to see what happens. I would like to continue on the path of playing him and see where it goes. He's also ambitious, and he's really starting to see what it takes for one of these guys to get really good at it--they have to make a lot of mistakes. I think in real life if you met a guy who had made as many mistakes, gotten into arguments with co-workers, had been shot in the eye, frozen up when they had to shoot--I think if you met someone like that, they would be a really dynamic, interesting person. You'd get a sense that they'd really lived. Ryan's personality is one that makes him really successful and yet, he's also his own worst enemy.

I'm a very easy-going guy, and I don't have a lot of conflict in my life. I've also been very lucky to live a privileged, great life. This guy goes through so much. I think when we started, he and I started in a very similar place. We were both new and we both naturally wanted to fit in and to do a good job. And we've traveled down two very different paths. It made it very interesting to me to go from someone who is brand new and learning, when in fact that was exactly what the situation was in my life, to be able to get to a place with the character--created by Ann Donahue and the writers--that I could take risks and feel comfortable doing so.

CSI Files: One thing about him that's really interesting is that in two seasons, Ryan has been developed more than other characters have been in longer time spans on similar shows.

Togo: Look at how much he's been through in just that short amount of time. He's been through a lot! It's funny because just lately I'm starting to feel way more in control of my work now. I'm really starting to get to know what I'm doing. The first year was just learning and figuring out [the character], and by the end of the second year, it feels like things are just getting started. It feels like the show could go on and on forever, which 95% of the time is a great thing, and 5% of the time is like, "Oh my god, when is it going to end?" I'm only saying that because it's the end of the year, and I'm a little tired. We're doing 25 [episodes] this year.

CSI Files: That's a lot--at least one more than the usual season.

Togo: It is a lot, but we're almost done with 24. Around 19, I was like, okay, six episodes, but then when you get to 24, it's like you get that second wind and you're in the home stretch.

CSI Files: Any teasers about the episode you're filming now?

Togo: Mala Noche returns and they end up murdering someone who is very close to the people in the lab. They end up murdering someone and making it very personal. It's pretty exciting. There's a lot of what acting teachers call motivation at the end of the year. I think it's a two-parter, although I haven't read 25 [yet].

CSI Files: Do you have any big plans for hiatus?

Togo: I was going to do a movie with a friend who was going to direct a film, but I haven't really heard anything about it. I was going to do it with two really great friends of mine, Justin Long and Sam Rockwell, but I donít know what's [going on with that]. We'll see what happens with that.

Otherwise, I'm actually going out and auditioning right now. I would like to do something very different from what we do at work. It's funny, I went to an audition the other day and I was in the waiting room with that guy from Grey's Anatomy, T. R. Knight and the guy who plays Joey's nephew on Joey, Paulo Constanzo. We were all in the waiting room--it's like all the fifth bananas on all the shows are here trying to get a summer movie! I watch a lot of TV. I love The Sopranos. I'm getting really into Big Love. I watch 60 Minutes each week. I'm really getting into the American Office--I know John Krasinski, who plays Jim. My girlfriend and I watch everything! I actually really like Law & Order even though I haven't seen it in a long time, because it's old school. I think Dennis Farina is for my money the best active cop on TV. Dennis Farina was a Chicago cop for a long time.

CSI Files: It sounds like you won't be taking any downtime over the summer!

Togo: I'm not as of right now, but I may be forced into it, which, you know what, in the end wouldn't be so bad either. Just to have a steady gig is all that matters.

CSI Files: It seems like, despite the long hours, the steady gig is working out well for you!

Togo: It's great--I wouldn't trade it for anything. I do not for a second miss bartending. It's still better. The perks are unbelievable.

CSI Files: Do you find yourself getting recognized a lot?

Togo: Not really, because I spend all of my time in L.A. and little trips to New York. I think it happens more than I realize because I'll be with friends who will [notice someone recognizing me]. I never see it, I never notice it. Sometimes when we leave L.A.--where [so many people are] actors or work on a show--it's pretty remarkable how many people recognize you. I gotta say, a lot of people think I'm Eric Szmanda (Greg Sanders) these days, which is nice! People always say the nicest stuff. It's great to work on a show that's popular because we really only do it for people to watch it and enjoy it, and if they do, that's really all the reward you want to get from it. People who work on the show care very deeply about how good it is, and when people actually respond to it and they like it, it's an awesome thing. The fans are who you do it for. They have a sense of propriety towards the show, and they should. It's their show--they're the ones who decide whether or not it stays on TV. It's a terrific feeling.

Discuss this interviews at Talk CSI!

Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.

Kristine Huntley is a freelance writer and reviewer.