Stepping Out

Jorja Fox Shines On TV's Hottest Show — April 29, 2001

No stranger to television, Fox also starred on NBC’s top-rated series “ER” as resident intern Dr. Maggie Doyle prior to her segue as Secret Service Agent Gina Toscano on Aaron Sokin’s Emmy Award-winning drama, “The West Wing.” Additional credits include guest turns on “Law and Order” and the historic coming out episode of “Ellen.”

Fox has also managed to carve out some impressive film credits that includes this year’s Sundance Film Festival dramatic competitor “Memento.” This marks Fox’s third foray into Sundance. She has previously made the trip in conjunction with her roles as sister to Clean Duvall in the quirky comedy “How To Make The Cruelest Month” and as the town gossip in “The Kill-Off” which was based on the book by renowned author Jim Thompson (“The Grifters”): More recent feature credits include the comedy “Forever Fabulous” with Jean Smart and ‘Down With The Joneses’ opposite Joshua Leonard (“The Blair Witch Project”).

Having appeared in numerous stage productions, this New York born actress continues to work tirelessly in conjunction with the theater company which she co-founded, Honeypot Productions.

The following is an up-close and personal interview.

Chauncé Hayden: You’ve starred on “ER,” “West Wing” and now “CSI.” All three have been huge hits. Are you just lucky or is your agent a genius?

Jorja Fox: (Laughs) Yeah, it’s been crazy. With “ER” and “West Wing” the difference is that they were already humongus hits when I got the job to be on them. But “CSI” is a nice surprise. I mean when the first show airs you just hope that all your friends will watch it.

There are so many bad shows today. I mean some are really horrible. Don’t you agree?

Yeah. The same thing is going on with movies. I think films have a really short window to be successful. There’s just so much to chose from it seems.

The critics say the “CSI” pushes the boundaries of what we’re used to seeing on network television.

That’s true. I also think what makes “CSI” a hit is that it’s a story that hasn’t been told that much. So hopefully it’s a little different.

For people that haven’t seen “CSI” how would you describe the premise?

The premise is that we’re the people that come in to a crime scene who aren’t cops. We’re scientists’. And when something happens and there’s pieces of the puzzle missing and they’re trying to figure out what could of possibly happened to some poor person they call us in. We’re crime scene investigators who specialize in forensic science and criminology.

Would it be fair to call “CSI” a spin off of the “X-Files”?

I’m a huge “X-Files” fan, so I love all those elements about “CSI” that could be compared to the “X-Files.” But we don’t’ dabble that much in mysticism. But of course that door is always open because we’re dealing in the unknown.

Some of the episodes are based -fairly loosely on true stories. Actually, I just finished a show yesterday where a tech advisor wrote the script of an incident that actually happened to her in real life. I can’t tell you what it is yet but I will tell you that it was really cool to do knowing that this event really happened to somebody.

I like how you spell your name by the way, Jorja.

Thank you! My mom made it up.

So that’s your real name?

(Laughs) Yes!

Why did you leave “ER” when it was doing so well?

“ER” kind of just fizzled out. There was some room for me to come back, but I thought they had played out the story with me.

I heard Eric LaSalle is really hard to work with. Well?

(Laughs) Did you know he’s a black belt in karate? He really is a very grounded guy and I think that can be intimidating to a lot of people. But he’s really really nice. What I loved most about Eric LaSalle was that he and I weren’t that great at the technical stuff back when the show first aired. So we were always having to do extra takes to figure out that medical terminology.

**He actually told me that. Well you both convinced a lot of people that you actually knew what you were talking about. **

Most of the time! In fact it got so bad that friends starting calling me asking me what to do for a headache. I would just say, “I don’t know! Go to a doctor!”

Do people really expect you to know how to treat their medical problems just because you play a doctor on TV?

Occasionally! Which is very funny to me! One time there was an accident on the road and thank God nobody was hurt. But this guy was hit by a car so I stopped and called 911 and waited for someone to show up. And when the Paramedic pulled up he said hi to me like he knew me as a fellow paramedic. But then he realized I really wasn’t.

Do people usually recognize you on the street?

Yeah, sometimes that happens. I wouldn’t consider myself famous really. But occasionally people will talk to me and be really nice. I find that very flattering.

Is it true that you also appeared on the very last episode of “Ellen” with Ellen DeGeneres?

Yeah! It wasn’t really the last show but it was the one hour long coming out show that I was on.

Did you play a lesbian on the show?

I had a small cameo and yes it was as a lesbian. Toward the end of the show Ellen drives to a lesbian bar for the first time in her life. Once she’s at the bar I approach her but instead of asking Ellen out I ask her friend out. So, the joke was, even as a lesbian, Ellen still couldn’t get a date.

I always thought it was a big mistake for Ellen to come out. Her career took a nose dive right afterwards. In fact I was really surprised that her show didn’t work after she came out. If anything I thought it would help.

I was surprised too. I was actually really proud to be a part of that historic episode. I think it was really bold and cool for her to do it. There was so much pressure on her. Actually my character on “ER” was gay. That’s why they asked me to be on that special “Ellen” episode. That show was full of so many huge celebrities, Jay Mohr, Billy Bob Thorton, Opra Winfrey and so many others. I couldn’t believe I got to work with so many talented people.

So why didn’t the lesbian angle work for Ellen?

I don’t know? But it didn’t open the flood gates for shows like “Will and Grace.”

I agree. Before I let you go, I have to ask you this. Is it true you were run over by a limousine?

(Laughs) Yes! How did you know that?

I have my sources. It happened while you were doing “West Wing.”

Right! I was run over by the presidential limousine! It was the last night of last season’s show. We were shooting the scene where we all had to duck and run because the bullets where coming at us. It was very choreographed. We did it a couple of times and everything seemed fine. So I was lying face first on the ground then all of a sudden I felt something very heavy on my leg. So I turned around and it was this weird limousine running over my leg. I was really lucky I didn’t break anything.

Did you cry? I would have.

(Laughs) I think a part of me is still in shock over it. I was shocked that it happened and shocked that I walked away from it. It was very strange.

Is that why you left “West Wing”?

No! It just seemed that “CSI” came out of nowhere and I was very interested in it. Plus I thought the story line to “West Wing” might of played itself out. Plus it’s not really about the secret service people anyway. Being one of the secret service people on the show I just didn’t think my character had too much room to grow. But it was really a lot of fun to be a part of such a great show. I’m a hardcore liberal person and I liked that on the “West Wing” the good guys win. I experienced a lot of joy being a part of that show.

Well I don’t think anyone would disagree that you made the right choice moving over to “CSI”. The show is the most watched show on television. Three shows, three hits. You’re batting a 1,000.

Thanks! I’m just lucky I guess!




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