During CSI: Miami's holiday hiatus, Rex Linn has set aside Det. Frank Tripp's badge to tackle the role of party planner, as the die-hard Texas Longhorn fan prepares to host the pre-Rose Bowl gathering. (You think we're kidding, but we're not. We've talked to the guy this thing is big.) Might some real-life lawmen need to break up the bash? TVGuide.com talked to Linn about his college-football loyalties, his fantastic deal on beef brisket and what the future holds for Miami's Frank.
TVGuide.com: So I'm looking at this picture your publicist sent me, of you coming out of a phone booth, all Superman-like, revealing a Longhorns T-shirt....
Rex Linn: Oh, yeah. [Laughs] That's an idea my photographer came up with. He said, "You consider yourself some sort of superfan? Let me work on that." He then called back and said, "Bring a suit and a Longhorns shirt."
TVGuide.com: What special Longhorns touches have you given your party?
Linn: Anybody who comes in this house is going to think that I'm a really big Longhorns fan or that I need to be committed to a psychiatric ward. Vince Young gave me his helmet and signed it, I've got orange all over.... But I'm going to make it slightly equal-opportunity I'm going to have some cardinal and gold streamers up, because a ton of Southern California [Trojans] fans who work with me at CSI: Miami are coming, and I want to make them feel welcome also.
TVGuide.com: I hear you were supposed to report back to work at CSI: Miami on Jan. 4, the day of the Big Game, and had to call in a favor?
Linn: When [University of Texas] won the Big 12 championship on Dec. 3, locking us into the Rose Bowl, that Monday I went to the producers and said, "You know, I really, really need to be off Jan. 4, if you could somehow find it in your beautiful, warm hearts to do that," and they said, "We'll see." So at our wrap party before the holidays, a line producer comes up to me and says, "Rex, I need to talk to you about some scheduling issues after lunch." As he's walking off, I said, "If I have to work Jan. 4, it's going to be on CNN because I'm going to come in here with a shotgun." [Laughs] He was playing a joke on me; they had given me the day off.
TVGuide.com: How good are your seats at the game? Fifty-yard line?
Linn: I am a very blessed individual because I'm going to be on the sideline. [The Bowl committee] cut the number of sideline passes from 100 to 60, and the Texas football team alone, with the coaches, trainers and assistants, took up 52, so [Longhorns coach] Mac Brown only had eight to shell out. This is one of the most anticipated college-football games maybe ever, but at least in the last 30 or 40 years. You've got two undefeated teams, one of which [Texas] hasn't won the national championship in 35 years and the other [USC] is vying for NCAA history by winning three in a row. It doesn't get any sexier than this. The end-zone seats are going for $5,000! I wonder what my sideline pass would go for, Matt?
TVGuide.com: Now, now, Rex. We can't think about such things.
Linn: No, we can't. We wouldn't do that.
TVGuide.com: New topic what's this about you being asked to drop out of your high-school production of Fiddler on the Roof because you were that bad?
Linn: On the day of the play, the guy who was going to be my dance partner fell down and cut his knee open, so I was the only guy on the stage. I guess adrenaline got the best of me and towards the end of the dance, when I was supposed to lightly throw chairs, I tore the bar apart, busting all the props. That night Professor Gill, the drama coach, told me that I should direct my energies in a different area, and kicked me out of the play. Ironically, 30 years later they asked me to speak at the high school, and there was Professor Gill. Basically, my message was, "Don't let anybody or anything deter you from pursuing your dreams."
TVGuide.com: You bio says your first acting gigs included some "very bad commercials." How bad were they?
Linn: Oh, they were bad.... In one, I stood on top of a fire truck in a fireman's uniform, with the siren and the lights going, holding up a big slab of boneless beef brisket. I say, "Boneless beef brisket for only 88 cents a pound now that is a hot deal." Just horrid. Now get this: That was in 1988 or something, and five or six years later, when Cliffhanger [in which Linn played a villain] came out and was the No. 1 movie in America, they started running it again! I called Safeway and said, "We've got to work out a deal for residuals here," and they laughed, saying, "That's not in the contract. Are you upset about this?" I said, "Well, considering the fact that I weigh about 230 lbs. and am standing on a truck yelling, 'Boneless beef brisket for only 88 cents a pound,' yeah, I kinda don't want that to run."
TVGuide.com: To be fair, 88 cents a pound is something to promote.
Linn: I didn't even get any free brisket out of it! I got $50 and they didn't pay me for 30 days.
TVGuide.com: In addition to Cliffhanger's Sylvester Stallone, you've worked with Val Kilmer (on Thunderheart and The Salton Sea), Harrison Ford (Clear and Present Danger) and Pierce Brosnan (After the Sunset). Who out of that group surprised you and in what way?
Linn: Harrison Ford. I pictured a little looser kind of guy, but he's not. He is one of the smartest, most intelligent guys I have ever been around. He's all business.
TVGuide.com: I interviewed Kilmer for The Salton Sea, and he's pretty intense in, um, his own way.
Linn: Val is just, like, "space, the final frontier" a bizarre dude, man. I'm a big fan of his, he's a really good actor, but he's not a social animal. Now Pierce Brosnan, this guy is good-looking any way you look at it and has every reason to be an egomaniac, but he is one of the coolest, most laid-back guys I have ever been around. He's like, "Let's go have a beer and talk about girls," or "Let's go to a baseball game and eat a hot dog." I was happy to see that.
TVGuide.com: Having appeared in Cutthroat Island, what do you think of Geena Davis as president [on Commander in Chief]?
Linn: I think she does a great job! And I'm not surprised, because she's a great actor and a really good friend of mine. I love her to death.
TVGuide.com: Regarding CSI: Miami, have you made the opening credits yet?
Linn: No, but they're negotiating to put me in the opening at some point in time.
TVGuide.com: Eh. People TiVo past that stuff anyway.
Linn: Yeah, but I think that I've earned my stripes. I'm not losing any sleep over it. I'm having a blast at work. I love working with David Caruso, and the whole crew is hip and young and cool. Everybody goes to work and has fun.
TVGuide.com: How do you see Frank's role in the overall scheme of things?
Linn: Frank Tripp is sort of the "balance," the smart-ass on the show. I don't have to talk about DNA and saliva like everybody else does. I can call somebody a jackass or whatever. David's been trying to get me more involved in some character stuff versus plot-driven things, and the writers have done that.
TVGuide.com: Have you imagined a pithy backstory for him in your head?
Linn: I have, actually. They did one episode called "Bait," which was about Frank's wife setting him up with a hired "prostitute" to see if he would go for the bait. He doesn't, but the girl ends up dead and my fingerprints are on her hotel card. So, from that point on, I figure he's divorced. I've talked to some detectives in Miami, and they're from New York, Alabama, all kinds of places, so I've got Frank coming from Texas. What's really cool is there's a possibility they're going to do a story line involving Frank and one of his daughters. Now watch, after I tell you all this, I'm going to get killed by a milk truck.
TVGuide.com: Maybe you're the big love interest they have in mind for Eva La Rue's Natalia Boa Vista?
Linn: Well, Eva's coming to my party, so I'll talk to her about that. [Laughs] She's awesome, I like her a lot. I'll tell you who else I like is Boti [Bliss], who plays Valera. She's just the sweetest girl on the planet and a really good actor.
TVGuide.com: OK, I have to ask will the police be busting up this Rose Bowl party of yours, Rex?
Linn: I hope not! Because I'd probably be the first to go, and I don't want that to happen.
TVGuide.com: You could always flash your prop detective's badge.
Linn: If this were a bunch of guys and girls just drinking beer and watching a football game, that's one thing, but having the Longhorn coaches coming adds extra pressure. I want everything to be great. This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing. Never are my Longhorns going to come in my backyard to play for a national championship against USC.
TVGuide.com: Sounds like you'd better splurge on the good Solo cups, the ones with the grip handles.
Linn: There you go!