EW talks to ''CSI: Miami'''s Emily Procter. The ballistics expert shoots off about her role and the successful show

By Bruce Fretts
Updated October 18, 2002 at 04:00 AM EDT
Emily Procter: Stephen Danelian/Corbis Outline

I can’t believe they asked me to do this,” says Emily Procter of her role as Calleigh Duquesne on ”CSI: Miami.” ”What are the odds somebody’s going to say, ‘We’re looking for a ballistics expert. Let’s go to Emily Procter — she’s our No. 1 pick!”’ Apparently, the odds were pretty good. ”She was our first hire,” reports cocreator Ann Donahue. ”We created a Southern belle, a beautiful former prom queen, and the very next day we heard Emily was available. She came in to talk to us, and she really was the character.”

Of course, there are a few differences. ”Calleigh has a very intense, focused energy,” says Procter, 34, whose energy is a bit more scattered: ”I’m surprised they haven’t strapped me down and made me take Ritalin yet.” It wouldn’t be the first time Procter felt like she was being held back. ”It’s so nice after 10 years as a blond actress in Hollywood to have people let you do smart things,” she says. Until recently, she was always cast as ”sleazy or stupid. And the accent wasn’t helping me either.”

That all changed when the Raleigh, N.C., native landed the recurring role of Republican attorney Ainsley Hayes on NBC’s ”The West Wing,” and creator Aaron Sorkin encouraged her to use her own twang. ”It was the first time I felt like someone really understood my cadence,” she says. But after two seasons of sporadic appearances, Procter decided it was time to move on: ”I knew there were nine regulars, and I was never going to be No. 10. In a lot of ways, it was heartbreaking, because I was so happy there.”

The same can’t be said of her pre-”Wing” appearance in 1997’s ”Dukes of Hazzard” reunion movie. ”We weren’t allowed to watch TV as kids, so it was completely lost on me,” says Procter, who became the victim of an auto-related practical joke. ”They told me the only way to get into the General Lee was through the window. Then at the end, they opened the door and let me in. I was like, ‘You guys suck!”’

Procter isn’t completely TV illiterate. In fact, she deals with Miami’s often-grim subject matter by picturing herself in an episode of ”Scooby-Doo.” ”If I find myself getting too emotionally involved in the story, I just go, ‘Ruh-roh, rut’s gonna happen?’ And then I’m like, ‘Oh, yeah, it’s a TV show.”’

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