Exit Interview: How old were you when you moved to Willingboro from West Philly?
Gary Dourdan: Ten or something. There was nothing in the suburbs but a house to live in. I always went back to Philly. I went to theater school there, Freedom Theatre. I’d take the bus to Chinatown, take martial arts lessons, then go to the Chinese movie theater to watch kung fu films. I’d go buy martial arts equipment after I saw Bruce Lee, and I’d act like I was him.
EI: Why did you become an actor and not a ninja?
GD: Well, I was playing music in New York, but all the guys I was playing with were broke! I had to go where the money was.
EI: When you were filming Weekend at Bernie’s II, did you imagine that one day you’d be on the number one show in America?
GD: No, y’know, I liked the craft of acting, and I was going to the Strasberg Institute. The job was a fluke — filming in St. Thomas with a bunch of Playmates. It’s like, this has got to be the best job in the world. The lines are terrible. It was just the worst film I’ve ever done. I haven’t actually watched it all the way through. [laughs]
EI: Does it bother you that the show is so huge, yet you’re not a household name, just “the hot black guy from CSI”?
GD: CBS never expected us to be a success. They wanted to spin the show off, like Dick Wolf does [with Law & Order], so that no one will get very connected with the characters. They get connected with the show. The characters are replaceable. CSI has been number one for five seasons, and people still go, “Yeah, that redhead on your show, what’s her name, Marge?” That’s something CBS was aware of, something they were trying to do. It’s been a challenge to push all of that aside and come to work and give your all. Last year was one of the hardest years of my life. You’re in a gilded cage. So what I do, I’m a comedian. I go to work and just ham it up.
EI: This is something I pulled from my primary journalistic resource — Wikipedia — so it’s possible it’s not true. I read that your appreciation for a certain herb got you in trouble on the CSI set.
GD: Nah, that’s not true at all. I’ve never gotten in trouble for anything on the set. [laughs] Of course, I have an appreciation for the herb, because I’m a Rastafari. Actors, directors and executives — everyone I know smokes weed. Everybody thinks I’m the guy who knows where the good weed is.
EI: And you probably do.
GD: I actually do. [laughs]
EI: How did you end up recording with Darryl McDaniels of Run DMC?
GD: He cut this track for his solo album and said, “Hey man, why don’t you put some poetry on it?” He is the godfather of hip-hop. It had to be the best day of my life, I think. And a few nights ago when I hung out with Mick Jagger and Warren Beatty. That was cool.
EI: Hold up. What?
GD: I met some friends of mine at a club and they happened to be there. So we’re sitting there talking with Warren Beatty, Naomi Campbell, Mick Jagger. We end up at this guy’s house, and I played some music for Mick Jagger. We’re just kicking it. And it was the shit. That’s the cool part about Hollywood. It does suck. But sometimes you rub elbows with some greats.
EI: Did you tell Mick about your old Break Force crew [Dourdan’s high-school hip-hop group]? Maybe slip him a demo tape?
GD: [laughs] You did a little research. Daaaaaamn! Daaaaaaamn! God forbid you found any pictures. “Gary really is a dork! It’s true!”
EI: Ever think about cutting an album tied to the show? Y’know, drop some forensic pathology rhymes?
GD: Mmmm, no. Did it take you all night to figure that one out?
EI: Hey, some of them work, some of them bomb.
GD: That was a bomb. [laughs]
EI: Fair enough, man. So tell me about making Perfect Stranger with Halle Berry and Bruce Willis.
GD: It was awesome. Bruce Willis kept making remarks about my love scene with Halle, like “That’s the part I wanted.” So I started calling him Bruce Jealous, and he called me Easy Money, because I had the easy job of kissing Halle Berry. The woman just looks good. And the best thing is that she’s not a diva, like some other actresses who will remain nameless.
EI: Nobody reads this page, so if you want to name those divas …
GD: You mean like Jennifer Lopez? [laughs] I was hanging with Oliver Stone during the casting of his football movie and she was around, and she was just talking shit about everybody! I just realized there are certain people who haven’t really grown up. They have success, but that doesn’t mean they have maturity. You can liken Hollywood to high school. It ain’t like Philly.
EI: There’s a ton of beautiful women in this film. Is there a line in your contract stipulating the number of supermodels in the cast?
GD: Unfortunately, they were smart about not having me around the set when all those gorgeous women were there. I was just Halle Berry’s bitch. I wasn’t allowed around all that fine [womanly beauty]. They know me.
EI: Do you see yourself in Hollywood for the long haul?
GD: I see myself changing this business for the good. Use it as a tool to gather people into a great enlightened state rather than writing a script with 15 people on an island trying to fuck each other over. I want to be around for a very long time, to the dismay of those close-minded executives.
EI: Note to [CBS president] Les Moonves!
GD: Hey, Les is a cool guy, he’s a strong dude, I admire him a lot. But you know, everybody has room to grow.