Houston Chronicle

'CSI' star Jorja Fox focuses on another dream role — September 26, 2001

Jorja Fox speaks for many of us trying to work while also worrying about current events.

“I go from moments where you don’t want to come to work, to being very focused and concentrating, knowing there is something I’ve got to do, to other moments when I can’t seem to get it together,” said Fox, who plays Sara Sidle on CBS’ hot sophomore drama CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, *CSI *went dark for a week, and producers pulled an upcoming episode that didn’t involve terrorism but showed a small plane crashing into a casino.

When shooting resumed, Fox found comfort in “having a place where I had to go and something I’m supposed to do.”

Clearly, Fox was ready for CSI. But what about the rest of America?

High ratings indicate that Americans are craving entertainment, both drama and comedy. CBS’ Everybody Loves Raymond, NBC’s *Crossing Jordan, *ABC’s *Philly *and Fox’s Undeclared all received strong samplings this week, ratings show.

But forensic science may not be what the public wants to see right now.

“We’re obviously concerned whether people are going to want to turn to that for entertainment right now,” Fox said. “We don’t know what’s going to happen.”

On tonight’s season premiere (8 p.m., Channel 11), the son of an entrepreneur who helped build Las Vegas is found in his home, dead of an apparent drug overdose. But as the CSI team studies the scene, murder comes to be suspected, and every member of the forensic team is assigned to the case.

The episode was not available for preview, but if the show continues to exhibit hallmarks from its freshman series, it should go gangbusters again. As viewers have discovered, *CSI *is a mix of provocative plot lines, compelling performances by an ensemble cast and an irresistible Las Vegas locale.

Fox’s character, Sara, is as straightforward and complex as any on the show. Her compulsion for her work strongly suggests trauma in her past.

But like another strong drama series, NBC’s Law & Order, *CSI *does not dwell on the lives of the principal characters. It focuses instead on the cases. So we don’t know exactly what drives Sara.

Even Fox is not clear about Sara’s past.

“I may have alluded to the fact that there may be things in her personal life that definitely directed her to the profession that she’s in,” Fox said. “It’s not necessarily that she was the victim of something, but perhaps she was very close to someone, a family member (who was a victim).

“One thing about us, we were very plot-driven last year, and I think we’re going to stay plot-driven. Certainly the first six shows of the year are all about plot. There are tiny, tiny pieces of character in the shows. Our hope is that people always want to know more about the characters (than is revealed). It’s fun that way. You keep an air of mystery about yourself. It’s fun to play.”

Fox (her first name is pronounced “Georgia;” it’s a shorter version Jorja-Ann, the name given her by her French Canadian mom) is the person you want to stand next to during a lightning storm. Her credits include three seasons as Dr. Maggie Doyle on *ER, *a stint as a Secret Service agent on The West Wing and now a role on CBS’ top drama. She was the murder victim in the much-heralded movie Memento.

“I think it’s just been a series of personal miracles,” Fox said. “I do feel so very lucky about that.

“The only thing I know is that if I feel really nervous about a decision I’m about to make, it usually means I should pursue that decision. And all three of those (TV) shows, there was something about them that made me really nervous.”




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