Jorja Fox appears to have the golden touch, having starred in three of the biggest US TV hits of the last decade!
She played Dr Maggie Doyle in ER, guest-starred as Special Agent Maggie Toscana in The West Wing, and now plays ambitious forensic investigator Sara Sidle in CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, which begins its second series on 5 tonighy.
Jorja’s taste in film roles is just as inspired, having played Guy Pearce’s wife in critically acclaimed psychological thriller Memento. She also runs her own production company.
But it is CSI, which has become a cult hit here in the UK, which is currently making her name.
Despite spending most of her time on the set in Las Vegas, Jorja is more than aware of the ripples that CSI is causing across the Atlantic.
She says: “When I started on ER and The West Wing they were already huge runaway hits, but CSI’s really special in the sense that it was a roll of the dice. Who knew? They could have cancled it after three shows. It was magnetic — it just drew me to it …”
Jorja grew up in Melbourne Beach, a small town on the Florida coast, and was “spotted” in a model search at a local shopping mall.
“It was great — I got to travel. I was in Europe when I was 17, and I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. I was fearless then,” she says.
But she was as determined to act, a decision that soon paid dividends with some sensational roles: as well as the aforementioned parts, Jorja has starred in the groundbreaking “coming out” episode of Ellen.
Cult film Memento is also a career highlight. The movie’s baffling chronology leaves audiences uncertain as to what has actually happened ? so was Jorja let in on the secret, or did she construct her own theory?
“Not at all. If Chris Nolan [Memento’s director] knew, he wasn’t telling.
“When I went in on my first day, he could barely explain it himself! But, luckily for me, I didn’t really have to understand it,” she laughs.
“I heard that Chris had various different edited versions ? I love that movie for that reason. It was the same with ‘The Others’ when I saw that recently.
“I sort of like to go along for the ride, so I’m not really looking for clues, or trying to figure out the plot twists.?
CSI is now the top rated drama in the US.
Jorja explains: “We hoped that it would do well, but the bottom line was, it’s partly about death, which is not necessarily incredibly commercial.
“It’s also about these experiments, and it’s been a little surprising that so many viewers are prepared to ‘travel’ with us on subjects like, say, shoelaces!?
This focus on the characters’ work, as opposed to their personal lives, appeals to Jorja, especially in contrast with shows that run out of dramatic steam very quickly.
She says: “I think there is a tendency for people to think that you’ve got to make very high drama, but on CSI, we hope that people will always want to know more about the characters than they already do ? that’s sort of the goal.
“It’s almost like snapshots, which is fun because it helps us as actors to be mysterious for longer!?
There are exceptions, says Jorja, but generally, “The scriptwriters try and tie any personal stuff to a particular case.?
The actress acknowledges the team effort that goes into producing CSI, and reserves special admiration for Elizabeth Devine, a hugely experienced former crime scene investigator who is now a technical consultant and story editor on the show.
“I really admire what Liz did for a living ? there’s a very high burn-out rate. She’s very influential on CSI.?
It is understood that Elizabeth bases the plotlines featuring Jorja’s character (Sara Sidle) on experiences from her own early career, while Catherine Willows, the character played by Marg Helgenberger, is involved in stories based on her later cases.
But even the actresses don’t know if it is true.
Jorja says: “That’s so interesting. Certainly, I do often get to tell the stories that were Liz’s when she was around my age, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that were also true for Marg’s character.
“That gives it a whole new appreciation and depth.”
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, tonight, Channel 5, 9pm