Wednesday May 16, 2012
CSI: New York (Season 8) premieres today
By ELIZABETH TAI
After seven seasons, we finally get to see Claire Taylor, the woman who made Mac Taylor smile in CSI: New York.
FOR eight years on the crime show CSI: New York, her character was a mystery. Although she wasn’t physically present, Claire Taylor, wife of Detective Mac Taylor (Gary Sinise), was a distant, almost martyr-like presence.
On the pilot of the series, a melancholic Mac grieved quietly for his deceased wife at the site of the World Trade Center. Claire, we later find out, had worked there and perished on Sept 11, 2001. Her body was never found. Throughout the seven seasons, we see that Mac still loves his late wife, to the point where he could not bear to part with a beach ball she had blown up, saying that “Her breath is still in there”.
Now, in the first episode of the eighth season, we finally get to see the woman who was the love of Mac’s life and find out how they were tragically parted.
“You will get to see them together. You’ll see why Claire loved Mac, and why Mac loved her,” said executive producer Pam Veasy in a press release.
Actress Jaime Ray Newman, who has appeared in TV shows such as Veronica Mars, Eastwick and Grimm, didn’t know that there was such history behind her character.
“I think it’s better that I didn’t know that there was eight years building up to this moment,” said the 34-year-old Michigan native during a phone interview from Los Angeles with journalists from South-East Asia recently.
Still, despite the fact that she was playing a significant and much-talked about character, Newman said that shooting the episode was breezy.
“The great thing about that first episode is that there was no pressure because it was just the two of them (Mac and Claire) enjoying each other. It was a memory. So, it was really easy and fun,” she said.
In the episode, named Indelible, we go back in time – Sept 11, 2001, to be precise – when Claire was still alive. When the World Trade Centre is attacked, Claire and Mac struggle to find each other amidst the chaos. We will also see Danny Messer (Carmine Giovinazzo) and Don Flack (Eddie Cahill) meet for the first time and Jo Danville (Sela Ward) reacting to the attacks from the FBI office in Washington, DC.
Despite the historic event, Indelible is not about 9/11, said Newman. It is about the love the couple has for each other.
“She didn’t know that 9/11 was going to happen. If anything, she was afraid she was going to lose him, not that he was going to lose her. He had a much more perilous job,” she said.
Sinise and Newman found it interesting that the couple did not have children.
“I justified it as he was in the police force and she was married to her work (she worked in finance) and they had a love affair that was really for them. They didn’t need anybody else. Probably, at the back of her mind, she was always scared what would happen to him and so bringing in kids into the picture is always scary,” she said.
Since Sinise and Newman had so little time to connect with each other, they bonded by hanging around each other on set and tried to convey that over when the cameras began rolling.
“We laughed, talked about our families and kids. It was Jaime and Gary bonding rather than talking about the details of Mac and Claire,” she said.
When asked what it was like working with Sinise, she gravely said: “He’s a mean tyrant.”
However, she quickly burst out laughing, saying: “No, I’m kidding! He’s an extraordinary man. I cannot say enough great things about him. He’s the greatest example of how an actor should be the head of the series.”
The fact that Sinise was really “warm and receptive” after eight years on a TV show says a lot, said Newman.
“A lot of times people get really jaded,” she said.
Newman first met Sinise when she screen tested for the role of Lindsay Monroe seven years ago. (The role eventually went to Anna Belknap). When she came on set to film the first episode, she felt immediately “at home” with Sinise, calling him “lovely, open and warm”.
Shooting some of the scenes for the 9/11 episode, however, was bizarre, she said.
“They created a little New York City on the Paramount lot and they had all this paper flying everywhere. And people were screaming,” she said.
It was a tough day of shooting for everyone and an emotional one as well. “It was slightly traumatic, I’ll be honest,” she said.
Like many Americans, Newman saw the tragedy unfold before her eyes on TV. Back then Newman had just graduated from college and was living with her parents in Los Angeles.
“It was 6am and my parents ran frantically into my bedroom and woke me up and said, ‘One of the towers was hit! One of the towers was hit!’ I rubbed my eyes and ran upstairs to the TV, and just as I walked into the room, the second tower was hit. You know, what everyone thought was just an accident … life changed for that entire planet in that one moment,” she said.
Sinise, too, has been profoundly affected by 9/11. Sinise, who was a recipient of the United State’s Presidential Citizen’s Medal, is involved in several 9/11 charities. His band, Lieutenant Dan Band, raised money to complete the Brooklyn Wall of Remembrance memorial in 2006.
Newman will also appear in the last episode of the eighth season, Near Death, which aired in the United States last week.
The cast and crew shot the episode until 2am and everyone was in a sombre mood, she said.
“Everyone was very delicate, very sensitive. And take after take after take, I could feel that Gary was totally there and every take was something new,” she said.
“In that episode, Mac says to Claire that, ‘I’m sorry I chose work over you sometimes.’ And she really released him of that worry and guilt. I just think that they were like two of the most in love, devoted people to each other. Two solitary elements that found each other’s other half,” she said.
Newman said that Sinise did a “heartbreakingly beautiful job” in Near Death.
“I think Gary Sinise could read phone books and you’ll get emotional,” she said, laughing.
Currently, Newman has a full calendar. She just shot a pilot episode for an ABC show called Penoza.
She also recently starred in Rubberneck, a movie which was screened in the Tribeca Film Festival in New York.
She’s also producing two films with her husband Guy Nattiv. They were recently in Singapore and Thailand because his film was shown in the Singapore Film Festival.
Television, she said, is an exciting medium for an actress.
“I think TV is the place to be this year for a woman past the age of zero,” she said “I just went through pilot season where I auditioned for 50 to 60 pilot scripts. I would say half of them had female leads which is amazing,” she said.
> CSI: New York, Season 8, premieres today on AXN (Astro Ch 701) at 10pm.