BBC 5 — May 18, 2006

Simon Mayo has a talk show called “*star studded” on the BBC radio 5 for news, sport and in-depth interviews. On May 18th, he talked with Jorja Fox about ER, The West Wing, CSI and Dear Bernard.

Simon Mayo: Jorja Fox has sidled in stage left. How are you doing?

Jorja Fox: I’m doing great Simon thank you so much for having me.

Simon Mayo: Well thank you for coming on. We will talk about this play that you are casting in the UK and a few TV programs you’ve been involved with along the way. Just ahead of the trouble, actually, I like this, this is going to be the tone of a lot of them, I think this is a breathless e-mail.

Jorja Fox: Uh oh.

Simon Mayo: From Esther, ‘Congratulations on CSI. It’s terrific as have been all your other series. Can you tell us your favorite memory of each?’

Jorja Fox: It’s a very tough question. Thank you, Esther. For [[ER]], I think it would be, Tony Edwards, Anthony Edwards, directed his first show and I was lucky enough to be in the episode. He did all of act two of the show in one long steady cam shot.

Simon Mayo: Wow.

Jorja Fox: Which was amazing and brilliant. We went through about ten different rooms in the hospital. From the trauma rooms, back to the admit station, to the hallways.

Simon Mayo: The tension getting towards the end of that shot must have been extraordinary.

Jorja Fox: Yeah.t was —

Simon Mayo: Don’t mess up now!

Jorja Fox: — the most stressful day of my life, to be at the end of that scene you know? And If everybody else did it well, the pressure is on you to get through it. [[The West Wing]], there is several, but the one I think I’ll call out today, Martin Sheen. Obviously who played the president, very brilliantly on the West Wing. For at least the first couple of seasons on the show, when ever he would go to set or come back from set in the van he would request the actual presidential theme music that we use in the States when the President, you know, our official President, makes entrances and exits.

Simon Mayo: Right.

Jorja Fox: So for him to be getting in and out of the van with that theme music playing

Simon Mayo: He was joking.

Jorja Fox: I think it was for fun, but I think also it helped really get him in and out of character.

Simon Mayo: Hail the conquering hero?

Jorja Fox: Hail, yes, “Hail to the Chief”.

Simon Mayo: Hail to the chief, right.

Jorja Fox: And he would wave. He would have the window open and he would wave at folks on the Lot, or whoever might be passing by while he drove by in this car. And I hope, and I think, that my favorite [[CSI]] memory is still yet to come.

Simon Mayo: Very good answer.

Jorja Fox: Thanks.

Simon Mayo: On the subject of The West Wing, which of course just finished, in the States, even though it hasn’t finished here, yet. Martin Sheen did have something extraordinary about him didn’t he? And I wonder if one of the reasons, not just the fact the he is a great actor, but it started of as sort of an alternative Clinton White House.

Jorja Fox: Yes.

Simon Mayo: And then very much, certainly in Europe, and I imagine in democratic bit of America, became a sort of ‘if only’ presidency.

Jorja Fox: Yeah.

Simon Mayo: In a parallel universe.

Jorja Fox: Yeah, precisely. I think so and I was fortunate enough, I was there for season one, of the West Wing, which is the only season where it was sort of a Clinton-esque. White House on the show that was mirroring a Clinton presidency. So in many respects they were, they were golden years. And we were there through a Presidential election and I got to meet Chelsea Clinton. I was playing the secret service agent to the president’s daughter and so there was a comradely there and an invitation there that I felt was very extraordinary and special. Someone like myself would never have been a part of a social circle similar to that, had I not been able to be a part of that show.

Simon Mayo: I would encourage people to look at your extraordinary website. But just looking at some of the various bits and pieces are great fun including websites and areas that you would like people to go off and have a look at.

Jorja Fox: Thank you.

Simon Mayo: Would I be correct in saying that sort of politically you are with the West Wing? There is a link to Michael Moore for example, so you are very much of the —

Jorja Fox: Yes, you might put me …

Simon Mayo: … in the anti-Bush camp.

Jorja Fox: Yes, you might put me in the category of liberal-leftist-freak. Yeah, that would probably be appropriate.

Simon Mayo: Okay, I was just checking. Now before we disappear behind a mound of CSI and West Wing e-mails, can you talk about this play that you wrote? Because you are over here to cast it and I just don’t want to loose sight of the fact that that’s what you’re here for.

Jorja Fox: Yeah, thank you.

Simon Mayo: Explain this play and what you are doing here, Jorja.

Jorja Fox: Well I’m lucky to be producing an original musical, it’s called “Dear Bernard”, we call it in the States. it’s quickly being renamed to “[[Dear Bernard]]” *pronouncing it Bernerd*. It’s going over at Riverside Studios, end of July, of this year, so.

Simon Mayo: In Hammersmith in London.

Jorja Fox: Yes, exactly. Same place where “Exonerated” is right now. Great theater space and we are here to cast. This is a musical we did in Los Angeles two years ago. We had a great success with it, it’s a lot of fun, it’s a feel good show. It’s fairly family oriented but it does have some edge. We’re defining it as a rock and roll musical, and I think that’s appropriate. And I’m just so thrilled to be here. We have been invited to put it up and, you know, it could be horrible, it could be one of the bigger, horrible risks of my life but I think it’s certainly one I couldn’t pass up. And one that I had to take.

Simon Mayo: And what’s this story?

Jorja Fox: The story is, it’s about a young girl in the late sixties who leaves a small town in England to seek her fame and fortune in America. So, it takes place in New York City the back drop is the fashion industry, it’s very Andy Worrall-esque. in the early seventy’s in New York and the music reflects that also. So.

Simon Mayo: And your roll is as a producer?

Jorja Fox: Yeah.

Simon Mayo: You say you’re casting, so is this your production company?

**Jorja Fox:**It is. Well it came out of, I’ve had a theater production company in Los Angeles for the past eight years called [[Honeypot Productions]]. It’s on off shot of that theater company. We put up eight shows in LA and this one, being a cast of about twenty-two people got bigger than our little company could do. We sort of joined forces with some folks and it’s definitely out of that. Sadly for me I just really didn’t have the skill set or the talents to be in this show, which is what I really would have preferred to do.

Simon Mayo: Yeah. Right.

Jorja Fox: So they’ve given me the consolation prize of producing. This theater company that I have in LA, we’ve done all of it. We’ve written shows, we’ve taken turns producing and directing. So my slot for this show is producing, which I’m very proud to be doing. It’s a learning curve. It’s kind of what I want to do when I grow up. So, I’m learning the ropes.

Simon Mayo: So having done ten years of prime time television on three different series might you get to a point where you think, I’ve had enough of fantastically successful, award winning programs? I’m going to ditch it all and-

Jorja Fox: Thank you.

Simon Mayo: -and make small musicals?

Jorja Fox: I think I worry more that everybody’s getting sick and tired of me. I think my face has been all over. Particularly in the States, CSI is in syndication now so you can catch the show about three or four times a day. ER plays about three or four times a day or so.

Simon Mayo: Yeah.

Jorja Fox: I get more afraid that people are going to get sick of looking at me. And maybe they will come out for something that I am involved in behind the scenes instead.

Simon Mayo: Yeah. You know that’s not true, don’t you?

Jorja Fox: Well thank you. That’s very kind.

Simon Mayo: Will that story transfer? The idea of British girl going to the States in the seventies, but you’re doing it in a British theater.

Jorja Fox: Exactly.

Simon Mayo: Does that change the atmosphere or the approach you are going to take?

Jorja Fox: Well it’s already changed the name of the show from Bernard to Bernard, so I’m sure we’re in for a lot of surprises.

Simon Mayo: Does it work the same way?

Jorja Fox: I hope so. The show went off very successfully in Los Angeles. Which in some respects is an oxymoron. LA isn’t a really big theater town, people sort of, they grit their teeth to go see plays in Los Angeles.

Simon Mayo: Why is that?

Jorja Fox: I think we’ve evolved. Los Angeles is very much around film and television, it’s got a great name for itself in that area and most people that come to seek their fame and fortune in Los Angeles come, not only for the entertainment business but specifically for film and television. I think, in American ,when we think of theater we think of Chicago or New York. The theater company that I have, most of us are originally from New York City so that was always something that we loved and we did. In LA it became something to do really because it wasn’t what we were trying to do professionally. It was that thing that we got to do for fun and we got to do think that people probably wouldn’t pay us to do and be more experimental because we weren’t — It wasn’t even sort of a professional calling card for us. It was something to do on the weekends that we enjoyed, that we missed about New York.

We’ll do more in a moment, the news i coming up.

Simon Mayo: Well, how do you get time to run a theater company when you’ve been in TV shows for ten years.

Jorja Fox: I drink a lot of coffee.

Simon Mayo: Jorja Fox is here. Ben in London. ‘I would have never guessed that Jorja was a Pinko Leftist Liberal. Her character is CSI is so very different to this, her character which is very convincing. Would you ever have considered being a forensic scientist?’

Jorja Fox: Wow, uh, no. But thank you very much for saying that. I barely passed sixth grade science. I have a tremendous amount of adoration and respect for my character who is so much smarter than I am and I love the science of it. The forensics I think might really be too dark for me to handle on a daily basis.

Simon Mayo: Just looking at the biography your character has in Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia. It’s longer than- and I don’t mean to be embarrassing, but it’s longer than- it’s a bigger biography than yours.

Jorja Fox: I’m sure.

Simon Mayo: It’s absolutely extraordinary. Your early life, your education, ‘In high school Sara preferred to befriend teachers over students and she often ate alone in the library. Her physics teacher inspired her interest in science.’ Did you know that?

Jorja Fox: No, this is all news to me.

Simon Mayo: Um, ‘Sara’s personality is that of a loner. Her hobbies are all work related. She butted heads with Catherine Willows when they first met, but in recent season Sara seems to be in a downward spiral.’

Jorja Fox: Uh oh.

Simon Mayo: ‘Things are getting more difficult for her emotionally.’ Is that true?

Jorja Fox: Uh oh. Yeah. Sara had a bit of a rough ride for a while. I think this past season is probably the lightest season that she has had on the series, and it was kind of refreshing and fun to do. You see her smiling a lot more, for no particular reason, really, other than there is nothing extremely traumatic happening to her that particular week.

Simon Mayo: You ‘hate bees’?

Jorja Fox: Oh, is that true?

Simon Mayo: ‘You use to smoke but now you use Nicorette’?

Jorja Fox: Sara does.

Simon Mayo: ‘Vomited at first autopsy.’

Jorja Fox: That’s true.

Simon Mayo: ‘Generally wear slacks and tops. Likes Chilean sea bass. Puts sugar in her coffee,’ you know, quite frankly there is nothing to do for some people, this is quite extraordinary. So tell us about this series because you just finished, what is it, series six?

Jorja Fox: Yes, year six we finished several weeks ago and the season finale premiers in the States tonight.

Simon Mayo: Okay, so we get it when?

Jorja Fox: I think in a few weeks. Maybe six or seven weeks I think you get it.

Simon Mayo: Is there anything you can tell us about the end of the season?

Jorja Fox: Uh, it’s a shocker, probably, which we really haven’t done much of. We’ve never really been big on cliffhangers, season cliffhangers like a lot of shows do. The last two episodes are very very surprising and just when you think you’re done with the surprises at the very end of the last episode we leave you with something, uh, very different than anything we’ve ever done.

Simon Mayo: And why is that? Is that just the desire to up the ante? A bite, just the need ot do something exciting?

Jorja Fox: I think that it was the writer ultimately, and we changed our season ending. We originally had a different idea and now there is this idea. I think the writers are excited to tell a story on CSI that we haven’t quite told yet. So if anything it may take next season in a slightly different direction than we’ve ever gone before. It’s not going to dominate the show by any means, but it’s something that the writers haven’t had the chance to let out of the bag.

Simon Mayo: It sounds as though you have quite a lot of input into the tone, the feel, maybe even the stories that are being told.

Jorja Fox: This particular story came from left field. I think for all of us, I think it was a complete surprise and yes that’s true. From the very beginning of the show everyone has had a lot of input. William Petersen, who plays Grissom, comes from theater in Chicago and it’s the only way the he attested that he knew how to work which is sort of in a communal collective environment, so at the beginning of the show he said I would love to do this show, but if I do it we are all going to have to work together and he set the stage for that and everybody ’s fallen in really beautifully. It’s very rare in television that, uh, actors and writers and directors get together and talk about things and try and try and come up with ideas that everyone likes. So, it’s great.

Simon Mayo: So, can you say ‘I don’t think so’ or ‘I’m not sure’ or ‘how about I say it differently?’

Jorja Fox: Yes. Absolutely. There is always that invitation and there is battles that you lose. I’ve certainly lost, you know, and it tends to be a little bit ‘majority rules.’ So if there is two of us you fight it out or hopefully till you come to peace. Sometimes it’s the writer the director and the actor. I’m happy to bow out if I’m the only one who has a certain feeling about something. But they are really great at letting us believe that we know our characters better than anybody else at this point because all we do is our characters.

Simon Mayo: Alan Alda was in here a couple weeks ago.

Jorja Fox: Huge fan.

Simon Mayo: And we talked about his book. It’s not an autobiography, it’s a memoir, but anyway. We talked about MASH and it was quite clear form the book and what he was saying that the more he got involved, the longer it went on, the more crucial he was. And he ended up writing, directing.

Jorja Fox: Yes.

Simon Mayo: Is there a limit to what you want to do with CSI? Have they said, ‘Jorja, how do you fancy directing an episode’?

Jorja Fox: Well, gosh, I don’t think I have any skills at all for directing. I would probably turn that down very flatteringly. I did, very early in the show, go to them and ask them if I could write an episode. And they kind of very naively, I think they said to me, ‘you know what, in season four you can write and episode.’ And I think they thought at that point that we would never have a season four. Season four came along and ironically enough I started on this play, “Dear Bernard”, so I opted out of try to write a show. It’s still on my list. It’s something I’ve been invited to do and I don’t know if it will ever make the air, but they are certainly going to let me write one.

Simon Mayo: Peter, on this e-mail, Peter McGraff says ‘My car was broken into recently and the CSI that turned up looked absolutely nothing like Jorja. I wouldn’t have smashed my own car window if I had known they didn’t all look like Jorja Fox. I’m not telling you where I live,’ says Peter, ‘in case the police come and get me.’

Jorja Fox: Thank you, Peter.

Simon Mayo: This is Richard in Brighton, ‘Great to hear Jorja on the radio. You must have a great agent to get you into all those programs.’ That’s true actually. To have been, and still be in, CSI and the West Wing and ER, do you have particularly good contacts?

Jorja Fox: I think I do. I have a manager in Los Angeles that I meet in New York when I was nineteen years old and we’ve worked together through out my career. I feel very faithful and loyal for that relationship. Certainly I think she has gotten me almost every I’ve ever had.

Simon Mayo: Richard continues, he says, ‘I watch all the CSI’s and of the franchise Vegas is by far the best. Two questions: Do you film your casino interiors in actual Vegas casinos or is it a sound stage?’ He sounds like he knows his stuff I think.

Jorja Fox: That’s one question.

Simon Mayo: I’ll give you both. You’ll handle them both together? ‘What was the deal with Nick Stokes moustache for a couple of episodes? That was weird.’

Jorja Fox: Oh.

Simon Mayo: Well he lots me on that, but I was with him on the first.

Jorja Fox: Well the casino, well most of them we do. We shoot in Los Angeles primarily and we go to Vegas four or five times a year. So most of those casino scenes do happen in Vegas, and we are very grateful for that because it’s a lot of fun to go there and break it up. Although we don’t stay there for very long, because if you stay to long you get into trouble and you lose a lot of money and stuff like that. As far as beloved George’ns fashion choices this year and style choices, I shouldn’t really speak to them at all. I think that they-

Simon Mayo: So what did this moustache look like?

Jorja Fox: You know I thought it, you know I’m from the South, in America, and I personally thought the moustache was very sexy and a lot of men in the South sport moustaches actually in a lot of rural areas all over America they sport moustaches.

Simon Mayo: I never realized it was a kind of rural urban thing.

Jorja Fox: Well …

Simon Mayo: If you’re out in the country you wear a moustache if you’re in the cities you-

Jorja Fox: You just don’t shave.

Simon Mayo: You just don’t shave at all.

Jorja Fox: Yeah.

Simon Mayo: Okay. So you quite liked his moustache did you?

Jorja Fox: Yeah I thought it was great. It was amazing how shocking it was. We got I think more responses about George’s moustache than a lot of other stuff we have done. I certainly respect your opinion about the moustache.

Simon Mayo: Susan in Holland Park said, ‘We you are wadding thought’, well, she says ‘bowls,’ but it might be ‘bowels,’ anyway, stomach contents on CSI, ‘do you ever start gagging?’ Because it’s pretty gruesome. I know sometimes when it’s on I’m eating dinner and I have to stop. ‘Great show,’ Says Susan.

Jorja Fox: Thank you. Uh, I never eat and watch the show. You’re very brave, and the same time. I think I’m the most squeamish member of the cast and it’s come to a point where people play jokes on me and I think they do give me some of the gorier story lines because they know I respond to them so strongly. And it’s funny because it’s not really the actuality of what I’m looking at that disturbs me so much, but it’s really how the people died, which is violently. You know, that’s really the part I think that gets to me.

Simon Mayo: Rod in Bradford, ‘in CSI why don’t you all turn the lights on when you’re in a dark room? You might get clues. All you use is torches.’

Jorja Fox: Yeah. That’s a popular one. But the flashlights are so cool right?

Simon Mayo: They do look good. Boy that’s a powerful torch light you got there. Um, is true that, uh, not only have more women wanted to get into this as a proper career as a result of the TV series, but also US juries are wanting higher standards of technical proof because they know what is expected on CSI?

Jorja Fox: It’s my understanding that yes, both of those things are true. There’s pros and cons to it, you know? As far a juries, there’s stuff that used to take lawyers several days to describe to juries or for them to understand and comprehend that now they can explain in ten or fifteen minutes because of the show, and, uh, and then there’s thing were people in the States of how, you know if they are a victim of a crime then things are going to happen much quicker than they think or for instance this gentlemen whose care was broken into, everyone expects the CSI to come out and kind of get to the bottom of that in an hour or two, so that’s been a downside to it.

Simon Mayo: Because people now know exactly, having watched your program and others and British versions of it we’re all now experts.

Jorja Fox: Yeah.

Simon Mayo: In this evidence. We could probably tell them what to do when they get there. Um, your “Dear Bernard”, “Dear Bernard”, when does it does it start, when can we get to see that?

Jorja Fox: Premiers at Riverside Studios July 21st of this year. We will be there for at least a month and, uh, come see it. It’s going to be a lot of fun.

Simon Mayo: And then what’s next for you?

Jorja Fox: I’ll be back at CSI early August, definitely doing another season of that. I’m playing kickball with Eric Szmanda in an adult league that’s been a really fun thing the last couple of months and that’s about it.

Simon Mayo: Okay. Well that sounds plenty. Jorja Fox great to meet you and thank you very much for coming in.

Jorja Fox: Thank you so much for having me.




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