Jorja Fox: Why I Quit 'CSI'

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When did you start to think about leaving?
JORJA FOX: CBS and I had been talking in January. Nothing was resolved until June. CBS was very flexible. We structured something a little odd.

Like episode to episode.
Yes. I wasn't prepared to sign up for an extra two seasons, or even a full one, and they were willing to roll with that. The situation could have been different. They could have said this or nothing. They were very gracious.

The 2007 season finale left open the possibility that Sara could end up dead. Do you think the producers anticipated that you might leave so they were preparing for your absence?
I have no idea. Some stories we know a little bit about, some we don't. I knew there would be something specific between the Miniature Killer and Sara, but all the specifics about the abduction I did not know until the week we started shooting the finale [in April]. And I did not know whether she would make it until I got the script in early July.

It seems that nasty rumors about contract negotiations have dogged you since 2004, when you and costar George Eads were temporarily fired from CSI. What happened there, exactly?
I know it's really difficult for people to think an individual would be fired over a letter, but that's the truth of my situation. It had nothing to do with money. It was two days before the season was to start, and CBS sent out a letter that they wanted everybody to sign and get back. [The letter provided a written promise to CBS that everyone would show up for the first day of production.] I returned the letter, but I guess I didn't return it in the fashion that I was supposed to. By the time it arrived, they had fired me the day before work started. [Eads was fired for not showing up to set on time, though he claimed at the time that he'd overslept.] Within a couple of days, CBS kindly invited me back. I didn't beg for my job back. They offered me a raise at that point, but I declined because it included an extra year and George was still fired. It didn't feel right to take a raise. And secondly, I was pretty hurt and angry and confused. I still had three years to go on my contract. I was not even sure I wanted to be there.

Are you surprised at the lengths to which CBS went?
I was really confused by it. It came completely out of the blue to be fired, and there were no rumblings of it. I didn't feel like I was on thin ice with anybody. All the actors had asked for a raise. It's traditional if a show is doing well, and because our contracts are so very long. It's not the worst thing in the world to ask for a raise. I think everybody else in Hollywood, including network execs, has the opportunity to ask for a raise or a change in scenery in a much shorter time frame than actors. But I do think the networks have to protect themselves. The reason the contracts are so long is because actors are very spontaneous; we may want to do Shakespeare one day and be Porky Pig the next!

Given the protracted salary renegotiation that CBS had just gone through on Everybody Loves Raymond, do you think CBS was looking to make an example of you?
I think CBS wanted to make a point at that time, and I think they made it really successfully. And I'd like to think of it as flattering. Maybe I was one of the people picked for that mission because they thought I had the fortitude to hang tough and weather it. I've got to say for the record: If you've got to get fired, it's really fabulous to get fired with a friend. I'll thank George forever. I can only say as a person who got fired on a Wednesday, the fact that I had company on a Thursday was comforting.

NEXT PAGE: ''Let's just say if there is an opportunity to guest-star, I'd be thrilled.''

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