’s Gary Dourdan Speaks His Mind
by Kate O’Hare Fri Mar 29,2002

Gary Dourdan of the Thursday hit "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" may be on one of CBS' top-rated dramas (which even bested "ER" in March), but he's not quite feeling the love.

"We were the underdogs for so long," he says, "and fought an uphill battle to get regular notoriety. We fought tooth and nail just to get respect from our own company, CBS. Then we finally came through with the numbers. It's funny, because we still fight for the same kind of notoriety that they give other shows. We're just the underdogs as far as CBS is concerned."

"It's strange. People ask, 'How do you deal with all this success?' It's weird, because you walk out on the street, and you get lots of accolades from regular folks, from other actors. Big-name actors walk up to us and say the most insane things about our show. Then our own company doesn't even recognize us."

In its second season, following various editions of "Survivor," "CSI" has delivered blockbuster ratings for CBS, with its blend of intellectual crime solving, action and inventive use of computer animation and graphics.

Dourdan plays Warrick Brown, one of a team of Las Vegas forensic detectives, led by Gil Grissom (William Petersen, who is also an executive producer), that uses cutting-edge science to piece together crime clues. Rounding out the team are Marg Helgenberger as Catherine Willows, a former exotic dancer; George Eads as the well-muscled Nick Stokes; Jorja Fox as the driven, Harvard-educated Sara Sidel; and Paul Guilfoyle as police Capt. Jim Brass.

Thus far, "CSI" has been slow in revealing the personal details of the characters' lives, preferring to focus on the crimes themselves. What is known about Warrick is that he's single, a Las Vegas native, can play the piano (as shown in a Feb. 28 episode), and battles a gambling addiction.

"I love [his dark side]," Dourdan says. "It's been one of my greatest pleasures of the show."

While Warrick shares a mentor-protege relationship with Grissom, his interaction with Sara, who is also close to Grissom, is something else entirely. "I like the relationship Warrick and Sara have together. They're at odds with each other, and they strangely get along. I think there's also some sexual tension there. I've been told that by a few people."

"In some sense, there's some art-imitating-life vibe going on, because we work around each other every day, and we just have loves for each other, cares and affections for each other."

"Then they write these things, and we play them, and these weird idiosyncrasies come out in the work. It's nothing that they write down. We're just working, and it comes out of our pores."

He'd also like to see more of the friendship between Warrick and Nick. "George and I are trying to develop that we're pals, in a sense, that we kick it. But they've been lax to write dimensions that can lend themselves to that kind of relationship."

One interesting aspect of "CSI" is its portrayal of its scientists -- with the possible exception of the obsessed Grissom -- as hip, stylish people who nonetheless are fascinated with the pursuit of knowledge and truth. "That is one of the positive offshoots of our show for young folks," Dourdan says, "is that they can see that being in school and being intelligent is not a stupid thing, is not corny."

With Warrick's striking, green-eyed looks and musical talent, science seems a strange choice. Speculating on why Warrick chose his profession, Dourdan says, "I think Warrick has some spirituality things that will come up in future shows. As far as science is concerned, he's not like one of the other characters, an atheist or something of that regard."

"It's about his search for that confirmation of the truths that are out there. Also, it's cool to be smart. He could be a cop, he could be on the beat, but it's much more interesting to go to a lab. He realizes that these are the guys who are actually solving the crimes, it's not just the detectives and the cops."

"It's a knack he had, and he wanted to continue that path and not become a regular cop."

Dourdan also feels that he and Warrick share a certain outsider status. "Warrick was never involved in the crews, was never down, never had the ear of the cool people. He was always on the outside of that. That is his uniqueness."

"That was my whole high-school upbringing right there. I had two or three groups of friends who were not really friends, they were all acquaintances, that I was trying to fit into to make myself feel partially normal. I always switched around, because I never quite got it right, until I started to get older, started to realize that I needed to completely be an individual."

"I never fit the mold."