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Jorja Fox goes three for three with CSI — January 24, 2001

Jorja Fox is on some kind of new career trajectory.

The actress moved from E.R., TV’s most popular series, to The West Wing, TV’s most critically acclaimed. She departed West Wing for C.S.I., the show that has turned out to be this season’s highest-rated new drama.

Is it even possible to improve on good fortune like that?

How about CBS moving CSI next week from Friday nights to Thursdays, where it will follow Survivor: The Australian Outback, almost guaranteeing it a spot in TV’s Top 10.

‘Huge surprise’

“CSI was a huge surprise,” says Fox, who was hired last summer well after the show began shooting. Canadian actress Chandra West‘s character had been killed off in the second episode, but the producers still wanted the show’s forensic investigation team to have a young, female member.

“I had to make a decision very quickly and not really knowing if (CSI) would succeed,” Fox was recalling recently, on the phone from her home in L.A.

So she took the leap. But not the fall.

The most obvious exit for her West Wing character, the Secret Service agent assigned to the president’s daughter, would have been for her to take a bullet in that attempted assassination cliffhanger.

Instead, “I walked away without a scratch,” Fox says. “That’s an Aaron Sorkin trick. I guess typically he doesn’t write characters out. So I just kind of disappeared into thin air with The West Wing. That’s good because there’s a door open for me sometime to return.”

The 32-year-old has been on the move much of her life. She was born in New York to Canadian parents — her late mother was a Francophone, her father an Anglophone — and she grew up speaking “sort of French-lish.

“Whatever was easiest to say. Growing up, it was very common that one sentence would be French and the next would be English,” Fox says.

When she was three, the family moved to Florida. At 15, she won a shopping mall model-search contest and began a New York-based career that lasted through her teen years.

“I didn’t feel like I had a real natural gift for modelling,” she says. “I was messy and scruffy and a tomboy, so it wasn’t something that came as naturally to me as it did to other kids. But to be 18 in Italy having cappuccinos by the ocean getting your picture taken and getting a cheque was quite nice.”


Determined to act instead, Fox bartended, waited tables, worked in a kennel, checked coats at a nightclub. Her breakthrough came playing a rookie cop on Missing Persons, a short-lived 1993 TV crime drama starring Daniel J. Travanti. She joined ER as Maggie Doyle in season three.

“It was a massive success. It was huge. I was very intimidated by that,” she says. “I got the job at seven o’clock at night and I went to work at seven o’clock the next morning. It was good in a way because I didn’t have a lot of time to think about how scared I was going to be.”




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