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US TV Interview

'CSI' Paul Guilfoyle Q&A: 'I think of it as a story about Jim Brass'

By and Jamie Wotton
Paul Guilfoyle as Captain Jim Brass in 'CSI: Crime Scene Investigation'

© CBS

Believe it or not, CSI has been on the air for 12 years now and CBS Drama (Sky 149 and Freesat 134) is airing classic episodes on weeknights at 9pm. So Digital Spy caught up with series regular Paul Guilfoyle - loyal cop Jim Brass - to discuss the show...

In our interview, Paul reveals what he's learned from 12 seasons of playing Brass, how he's treated by CSI fans in the UK and whether he'd ever follow the example of William Petersen and others and leave the show behind.

You've been playing Brass now for 12 years. Does that affect the way you play the character?
"That's actually a good question. I thought you might have asked another question that people tend to ask, which is, 'How can you possibly play Brass for 10 years?' - some people who don't know acting might think that it might seem boring.

"It's not really [boring], it's acting. It's about the craft. It's about the moments, the authenticities. It doesn't really matter about [playing] Brass because you still have to do everything truthfully. Acting is small. I like to be able to do that, keep simplifying it more and more."

Having played the part for so long, do you have much of a say in how Brass develops? Do you discuss it with the writers?
"Well, yeah, I kind of do. I show them what I want to do. I sometimes improvise, and that's what I call 'massaging the character'. I tailor it a little bit more if I want to make a moment out of it.

Paul Guilfoyle as Captain Jim Brass in 'CSI: Crime Scene Investigation'

© CBS



"But on occasion, I'm in there to drive the story and plot and they appreciate that. And you know, I don't watch [the show] - this kind of confuses people! They're like, 'What? Don't you watch it?' and I'm like, 'No, I don't wanna know who is sleeping with who!'

"I think of it as a story about Jim Brass. I keep it that way. I don't want to become a fan of the whole process, the whole movie, so I keep it simple."

Do you enjoy it when the show gives us an insight into Brass's personal life, like with his step-daughter Ellie (Teal Redmann)?
"Of course, yes. That's exactly what I enjoy. The more the merrier! I've always thought really good artists in general are overqualified. You're paid to stand there and do a line, but the guy has probably gone to drama school... but they have developed it to be just like, one specific line. You don't see the background of work he's done. They have refined it."

Brass is known for being a "soft cop" who plays by the rules, but the show sometimes hints at his dark side. Do you enjoy that?
"Oh, absolutely. You're asking all the right questions!"

Thank you!
"No really! Sure, of course [I enjoy those moments]. I think everyone, all of us, are complicated people. We have jobs that require us to be a certain way. We all do. Unfortunately, our jobs overtake our personality, but that is the world. We live in a conundrum. You have to keep it together.

Paul Guilfoyle as Captain Jim Brass in 'CSI: Crime Scene Investigation'

© CBS



"The thing that attracted me to CSI is that these guys are always professional, but underneath it's teeming with a heavy shadow. Maybe even some decadence and some weirdness with certain characters! And that always intrigued me as an actor.

"Instead of always trying to reinforce our jobs. I like to reinforce personages… and that's the longest answer ever! It's better to have people be more fascinating than their jobs."

CSI has gone through several cast changes, but remains successful. What do you think the essential appeal of the show is?
"Well, the show is about dedicated professionals trying to solve crimes, and they are really good at it. They are this multi-headed beast that is collectively trying to solve it. There's people in the lab, people like Brass...

"And the antagonist is actually the crime. Not the criminal, but the actual pieces of the crime. So that's the drama, and then they put characters in there - some quirky people, difficult, complicated people."

The show's been picked up for a 13th season. Are you still excited? Do you still get the buzz?
"I don't know... I'm not bragging or anything, but I'm a pure actor. I just live for it. I mean, I could walk away, but I like everyone and I'm really connected to the work. I'm glad it's successful. It's good to have something that appeals to people. It's good to not have so much resistance in the zen way. It's not so bad. I wish it for everyone."

Paul Guilfoyle as Captain Jim Brass in 'CSI: Crime Scene Investigation'

© CBS



You say you don't watch the show, but are you aware of the fan reaction?
"Well, there was this guy on a construction site and he was like (puts on British accent) 'Mate, oi, mate!' and he was a big fan. I was trying to get cement dust off of me!

"So yeah, there are fans in London. I mean, I'm not Kate Moss. I'm not anyone from Chicago. But no, [the fans] are all great people. It's great."

You've played Brass for 12 seasons, but could you ever see yourself leaving CSI?
"Of course, of course. But I wouldn't call it leaving the show, but 'moving on to do something else'. That will be a choice that I make [at some point]. That choice is being considered in my head.

"Right now, it's nice to be able to take care of my family, have a roof over my head. You know, as a man, that's one of the things you do in a family. I wanted to do that. That's a good thing to do in life. I still enjoy acting, so as long as I find some place to do it, [I'm happy]."

You're one of the few cast members to have been a series regular since the beginning. Overall, how would you sum up the CSI experience?
"It is George [Eads] and I, and then there's a guy in craft service who's been there since the beginning! We share the same work attitude - George and I - like a long-running horse race. We've all managed to hang on through a couple of hurdles... and we're still galloping!"

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation airs on CBS Drama, weeknights at 9pm (Sky 149 and Freesat 134).

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