How's this for a twisty turnabout: Even though Sara Sidle survived her run-in with
CSI's Miniature Killer in last night's gripping season premiere, her time on the show has nonetheless come to an end. Multiple sources confirm that Jorja Fox - whose contract expired at the end of last season - will depart the hit procedural this November after failing to come to terms on a new long-term deal. And although Fox doesn't outright confirm her exit in the following exclusive interview, the actress did open up about the difficulty of keeping Sara's fate a secret all these months, her residual "hurt" feelings following her firing in 2004, whether the conclusion of the Sara-Grissom love story will be satisfying to viewers, and why she will never address those persistent tabloid rumors.
Congratulations on surviving the Miniature Killer.
Thank you! It wasn't easy! [Laughs]
Was it as physically grueling to shoot those scenes as it appeared?
It was so much more fun than I thought it was going to be. Traditionally, I'm the wimp of the cast. I'm the one who's more sensitive to the blood and stuff. I was so happy to get through it without even a scratch. Of course, everyone took such amazing care of me. I really do believe that we have the best stuntpeople and the best special-effects people in the business. I knew I was in very good hands, but I was nervous, for sure.
I imagine it had to have been pretty hot, shooting in the desert.
I think it was more grueling on the crew. I had a couple of days where I got to the desert at around 4 or 5 in the afternoon. By the time I got there, it had cooled off to around 104. [ Laughs] We sent one person to the hospital the first day with heat exhaustion, but he was fully recovered by the next day. I was lucky because I was wet for a lot of the episode, and that really took the edge off.
Was it always the plan for Sara to survive? Reports surfaced last spring that Sara was actually supposed to die in the finale, but you had refused to show up to shoot your death scene.
Well, you know, Mike, you can't believe anything you read in those gossip magazines. And for all of us who were invested in the integrity of the story, we didn't want to say yes or no to any of those reports, because we didn't want to [ruin the outcome for viewers]. But none of that stuff is ever true. I was really flattered that people were that interested in me, though. [Laughs] The biggest challenge was keeping my mouth shut. Whenever you start reading stuff like that - especially if it's not super-flattering - the first thing you want to do is defend yourself. So it was challenging to sit quiet and wait. I'm so thrilled that the wait is over. I had to lie to my relatives, I had to lie to my friends. It's hard.
Well, since you don't have to keep the secret any longer, can you state for the record that there was no truth to reports that you skipped work because you didn't want to shoot a particular scene?
The reason I'm going to barely answer this question is because I made it a point in my life not to address anything that's written in those magazines. And I feel like if I start now, there's a whole litany of stuff over the last seven years that's been written about me, and I don't want those guys to think I'm ever going to answer to them, because I'm not going to. It pertains to CSI, it pertains to my personal life And I decided a long time ago that I was going to stay out of it. I was going to let the fiction that they print read like fiction. I know people enjoy those magazines, but I'm not going to engage. So in that way, I'm going to almost not answer your question. But what I can say is it was true that my contract was up, and so CBS and I had been in active conversations since about January of '07.
We're hearing that you are leaving the show after only a handful of episodes. What happened?
Again I can't answer those questions right now. I would love, at some point in the future, to talk with you again. Because I am under contract with the show at this point, I'm not actually allowed to talk about storylines that haven't aired yet. So since I've already been sitting in a pile of secrecy since last April, I'm going to have to keep the secret a little longer. I apologize. [ Laughs]
OK, well, let's discuss the fact that your contract is up. What's been going through your mind?
It's interesting, I've never had a job in my life where my contract ended. In TV you're so lucky if you can be on a show for two years. It was a really sort of profound and strange feeling to be coming - at least contractually - to the end of a run. My contract was the first to come up. The contracts for all the other regulars on the show will be up at the end of this year.
Why did yours come up sooner?
As is tradition in the business, every couple of years, people put in for a raise. And a couple of years ago everybody put in for a raise, and I decided not to take the raise that was offered me. And If I had taken that raise, it would've added a year to my contract. I'm the only one who didn't take the raise.
Did you want to keep your options open?
Not at all, actually. Doing this show has been one of the most rewarding things in my life. It's almost intangible to be able to describe how much I love and respect everybody over there. At the time, there was a lot of drama at our show. A lot of people had been put through the ringer, and to be perfectly frank with you, I was uncertain at that point [about staying]. There were some hard feelings that went around, and I didn't want to enlist for any extra time at that point. I was feeling a little hurt and angry by some of the events that happened a couple of years ago that relate to the firing of myself and George Eads. And so, at that point, I wasn't sure if I wanted to give anybody any extra time. And the raise was terrible, to be frank. An extra year for that amount of money? No thank you. Thank you very much, it's very flattering, but no thank you.
Were you ever bored by the constraints of acting in a procedural?
I never was. I've been one of the luckiest people in the history of TV getting to play the character of Sara. Almost since Episode 10 in Season 1, I've had a lot to do. My character has had a very full personal life. I've gotten to have several boyfriends. I've had a couple meltdowns. I was almost killed a couple of times. They almost blew me up once. I feel like the writers have been extremely generous in terms of giving me a lot to do, especially all the interesting relationship stuff between Sara and Grissom. I've always had mountains of subtext to do, all under the umbrella of this procedural, which actually made it more fun. I always thought of CSI as an action-adventure show. I know that a lot of folks call it a procedural. But I feel like our goal every week is to have the audience sitting up on their couch instead of lying back. It's very edge-of-your-seat, and there's a lot of suspense. So, for that, it's been amazing for me. Almost more than anyone, I've been blessed with subtext.
It was a nice moment when Sara and Grissom connected at the end of the episode. What's next for them?
The cat is out of the bag now. They've been having this secret affair - for an undetermined amount of time, which we will get into a little more in Episode 2. Like, just how long have these two been seeing each other? There's going to be a wealth of information that we're going to find out about Sara and Grissom in Season 8. We shot five episodes so far, and I think it's going to be a really exciting, interesting season. The writers have done a phenomenal job. There have been so many twists and turns already, and little bombs that we've dropped, I'm already blown away. I'm like, "Where's this going? We're only in Episode 5."
Exec producer Jonathan Littman confirmed over the summer that the Sara-Grissom story would conclude this season. Your thoughts?
I can't contradict what one of our producers said, but I can only tell you from my experience, I don't think you're going to get that. This might sound vain, but the story of Sara and Grissom is a little like a fable. And most great fables don't really have 100 percent resolution.
Do you think fans will be satisfied with how the story is wrapped up?
I pray that they're satisfied. It's a really tricky, difficult thing to do. When I was hired back in 2000, I was the last cast member added. They decided they wanted to add a character after the pilot got picked up. And in my little explanation of my character, it said clearly, "A love interest for the character of Grissom." And then, pretty quickly, the writers changed their minds about that; they weren't sure if that was the direction that they wanted to go in. There were so many stories to tell at that time. But, in the meantime, Billy and I as actors - because that's what we had been hired to do - sort of played this beat that we had been told about. So, it's a very tricky thing to have characters on TV start having an affair. I hope that people have enjoyed it. It's been a complete joy for me to play. And the funny thing about our show is, from the very beginning, about 50 percent of our audience wanted more personal-life stories, and 50 percent of our audience just wanted us to stick to the procedurals. The writers know that, no matter what story they're telling, they're letting down somebody. And that's a hard thing to do. So I think they made a decision that they really just had to write from their hearts and hope that people would come along for the story. I think that's what Billy and I have done, too. I don't know if [viewers will] be satisfied. And I stay away from the blogs. I use to check them a little bit when the show first started, but I realized that I was getting really attached to people's approval. And I'd get really freaked out if they didn't like something. So I decided that the only way I could sort of stay true to this character was to just be her and not focus too much on what people were thinking.
How's your relationship with William Petersen?
I sit every once in a while and I think about plays and films I can do with William Petersen into our eighties. He's the most incredible scene partner I've ever had. And again, I've never had the opportunity to work with somebody for seven years like that. It's a really unique experience as an actor to have a scene partner for that long. And then at the end of the seven years to think more highly of them than you did in the first year, to find them even more complex and interesting. He's a great friend and I feel like I couldn't have scored any higher than getting William Petersen to be my boyfriend on TV. It's been amazing.
What else do you have on your plate professionally?
I have a couple of things in the works. I've had this theater company for a long time and I'm working on a new play. I don't want to talk too much about that right now. But in a couple of months I'd love to talk more about it.
I'm guessing Fox may be ready to talk about it on Nov. 9, which is the day after her final CSI is slated to air. The title of her swan song is, appropriately enough, "Hello, Goodbye." And although Fox may have been forbidden from discussing her impending CSI sayonara, you guys are under no such gag order. Does the thought of a Fox-less CSI have you clutching your pearls? Predictions on how they'll write her off the show? Thoughts on her unofficial exit interview? Speak your mind in the comments section below!