Actor and musician Matt Lauria made his television debut on 30 Rock, but his breakout role was playing Luke Cafferty on NBC’s Emmy Award-winning Friday Night Lights. However, Geek Girl Authority readers may know the actor best for his Season 1 appearances as Ben Newton, one of Emily Dickinson‘s “earliest friends,” on Dickinson. Then, in 2021, Lauria appeared as a series regular on CBS’s CSI: Vegas, a sequel to the long-running CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, which also saw the return of OG series stars William Petersen as Gil Grissom and Jorja Fox as Sara Sidle.
Geek Girl Authority spoke with Lauria about the ten-episode reboot, which arrived on Blu-ray and DVD from CBS Home Entertainment and Paramount Home Entertainment on April 5, 2022. We chatted about what it was like returning to the franchise as a series regular instead of a guest star, how he prepped for the role of Josh Folsom, what CSI: Vegas fans can expect in Season 2 and more!
This interview has been condensed for clarity and length.
Matt Lauria Interview: “We’re Geeking Out Here.”
Rebecca Kaplan: Your character on CSI: Vegas is named Josh Folsom. Is there a meaning behind that name?
Matt Lauria: We’re geeking out here, but I’ll go there with you. Besides having one of the coolest names ever, I have also mused about what it could mean. It seems to lend itself to criminality and imprisonment. One of the most dynamic aspects of Josh is he knows how criminals think and behave: it’s life or death; you can’t afford to get caught or make mistakes and get busted. Josh brings that aptitude to every scene he sets foot in.
With Jason Tracey, as I was getting to know the character early in 2021, we had a conversation where he said, “Josh is probably the guy who has this idea, what is going to be refined and of good taste, but it’s not going to be the fanciest thing but something nice and classy that he knows everyone’s going to enjoy. Then, the other part of Josh wants to go and have some mac and cheese.” He probably drives an old truck, but maybe there’s this part of Josh where it’s got to be American.
RK: Because that’s part of his background?
ML: 100% Yes. Josh comes from a background of criminality. We know that about his family. We reference his uncle, who is in prison, and Josh didn’t think too highly of him. It’s taken a behemoth effort for Josh to overcome those pre-established and ingrained attitudes, behaviors and values and work towards a different outcome in his life. It’s been ongoing, and he’s proud of the man he is today, but those things are still lingering. Then, there’s a reference to him being locked in a car trunk before, which doesn’t happen by accident.
That all seems to track with the whole Folsom of it all. We’re spitballing here, but these are things that always occur to you as an actor, and you just keep digging and diving and scratching little pieces away. That’s one thing about this upcoming season that I’m excited about is getting more details and how that affects the balance that he tries to keep in his life right now.
RK: How did you prepare for the Josh Folsom role?
ML: Most of [the prep] is CSI Handbooks, an older version, and a newer version. Usually, I would’ve spent time with CSIs and gone on a ride-along, but with COVID, that wasn’t an option. There was a lot to be curious about from the beginning. Jason Tracey gave me a treasure trove of character facets for Josh from the outset. Even in the first character description of Josh, before I read for the role, I thought, “Oh, my gosh, this guy is dynamic, and there’s conflict and contradiction. He’s finding himself in this extraordinary situation compared to where he’s from.”
Everyone has a different process, and for me, it’s about nailing down and exploring core values. In life, it’s not all about what’s happening objectively in front of us. Every interaction we have, everything we witness, and everything we experience is filtered through the context of what has made us who we are. And throughout the season, you see how he handles himself, how he composes himself, and his attitudes about the human spirit. As an actor, that’s the stuff you dive into as deep as possible and continue exploring.
This offseason, the task is to look at what ended up on the screen, track those clues delivered throughout the season and continue to build on those things. It reveals the character’s true nature. I have a lot more information about Josh now. It’s not just aspects of the character revealed through the writing; it’s also getting a chance to see how Josh behaves in circumstances I wouldn’t have imagined before filming. That reveals character and a person’s nature.
RK: What are some of Josh’s core values?
ML: I’m still learning with the audience what the specifics of Josh’s childhood experience were– I have a different perception of what a human is capable of. For example, I, Matt, grew up in a situation where I wasn’t interacting with crime face-to-face or violence necessarily. I don’t think that was the case with Josh; those are possibilities; those are ways of viewing the human spirit and human nature. Then, of course, that’s confirmed as a CSI.
One of the core values throughout the first season is the possibility of change. Josh interests me because of the possibility that no matter where you’re from and what you’ve experienced, you can still be the master of your destiny and change the supposedly inevitable outcome of your life. That’s an ongoing conversation, nature versus nurture.
Another value is respect. Through Josh’s behavior and the way he interacts, even in dealing with his crush on Allie Rajan (Mandeep Dhillon), he places a premium on respect and decency. He has a code about that. Also, Josh doesn’t lay his cards on the table immediately; he’s a little more withheld. I think there was a necessity for that when he was a kid; it was a means for survival—I was curious about this idea of being the good son when you’re coming from a background of criminals.
He has a sensitive spot for animals; he’s vegan. I think he wanted to be a veterinarian before he became a CSI. There is a core value there about protecting the innocent. I’m making him sound like a superhero. I think he’s a straight-up, honest guy, but there are times when I think he would take exception to protect his family or the people he perceives to be his family, which would be the CSI crew.
RK: Are you vegan?
ML: It’s the truth, eight and a half, nine years now. My wife makes this banging tempeh bacon. I’m not wild about tempeh like it’s fine if it’s flavored the right way, but she makes this incredible cashew cream bake. I love me a dirty hot vegan sandwich.
It’s funny because Josh wasn’t initially vegan, I don’t think. I had a conversation with the costumers. It was enough in advance that I made a very respectful request to avoid genuine leather. When they were laying out some of those fabrics and textures and having that creative conversation with Jason Tracy, at some point, he was like, “You think maybe Josh is vegan?” Then he asked me, I don’t know if he knew I was vegan or not, but he said, “Hey, how would you feel about Josh being vegan?” Normally, I like my characters to be as dissimilar to me as possible, but I thought it tracked with where Josh had come from and the veterinarian history.
RK: Can you tell me one of the things you learned from Daniel Holstein (CSI technical advisor) on set?
ML: Yes, he’s been our savior for most of the time. Any time he’s there, you’re getting more information and specific anecdotes. One time, in episode two, we’re showing up at a crime scene; it was the couple who were murdered that were going to the swinger’s club. I asked him, “I think it’d be cool to bring them a coffee to show that we know each other’s morning drinks and routine and build more rapport onscreen.”
Daniel’s brilliant and shut it down immediately, “You’re level three, and it’s a rookie move having coffee.” He’s like, “No one who truly does this for a long time and has a level of experience that you do drinks a coffee.” I was like, “Really?” He said, “Yes. You can’t sustain it. It makes you crash. She won’t drink coffee. Maybe if she was just starting.” So I was like, “Oh, no coffee.”
Sometimes it’s those tiny things, and then it’s always technical stuff, teaching us how to dust for fingerprints and do gunshot residue tests. I cannot imagine a set without him.
RK: Did you have a favorite CSI technique to do as an actor?
ML: I love the GSR (gunshot residue) test. You get good at it. It’s muscle memory. You learn to do it efficiently onscreen because you can’t make noise over somebody else’s lines. When it’s on their face for a close-up, you can’t be wrestling paper material, placing more of an onus on you to get it done efficiently. Although some actors don’t love interrogations, I love them. It’s enjoyable.
RK: Do they train you on the interrogation techniques?
ML: We all have different personalities as human beings. Everyone has a different rhythm and approach, and that approach adjusts depending on who I’m interrogating. When I’m in there with Max (Paula Newsome), we have rapport and a way of getting it done, and she tends to stick it to them. She takes charge, and she doesn’t suffer fools. Interpersonally, she’s someone who Josh respects immensely and is Joshua’s superior. Naturally, I take a step back in those scenarios.
Then with Allie, we have an equal approach, which seems more casual. I think it depends on the individual. It also depends on how resistant they’re being or if they’re withholding, and you navigate it. Daniel’s there, too. If it ever seems like BS, I ask, “How is this going?” And he’s always checking in to see if it feels real.
RK: You’ve previously guest-starred on CSI as Matthew Pratt. How was returning to the series as a lead character?
ML: I had the most incredible experience on set the first time I did CSI. The people were very kind, and the writing was shockingly good. I thought, “Man, they’ve been doing this for 12 seasons.” I was impressed, “How is it so creative and interesting and good all these episodes later?” It was a different experience because my job was the guest star bringing a storyline to the main cast.
Now it’s reversed. We’re there and part of the serialized story throughout, but then all these dynamic guest stars are coming in and presenting the case of the week. It’s cool to be on the home team and meet these exciting and talented people with dynamic stories. It’s different because I have more information about my character and more time to spend with Josh Folsom than I did with Matthew Pratt.
RK: Did you have a favorite guest star or plotline with a guest star?
ML: I enjoyed interrogating all of the carnival performers. I had a great time with the uncle, a phenomenal actor in episode five too, and our friend, whose tongue gets cut out, we got to do a couple of episodes with him. Luke Tennie plays Max’s son, Bryan Roby. He’s incredible. In the episode with the swingers club, Tom Degnan, who plays a sleazy rich guy, is a logical, cool actor. It goes on and on; there are wonderful performers, incredible performances and super fun.
RK: What can we expect for next season?
ML: I’m excited to see where the relationship goes between Allie and Josh. It’s so delicate. Yet, the stakes are high. There’s much to lose, not just at work but also on a friendship level. By the end of the season, Josh had made his feelings far more plain than ever. It will be interesting to see how that develops and how they navigate it.
We had clues in almost every episode of the first season about where Josh came from and his past. I cannot wait to get more details on that and see how maybe the balance he’s worked so hard to have in his life might get tested by stuff from his past.
I can’t wait to see how the relationship develops with Catherine Willows (Marg Helgenberger). Considering where she comes from in Las Vegas, the circle she ran in before she became a CSI, and the circle Josh ran in, I wonder if there’s an intersection between those circles. That’s fascinating stuff I can’t wait to explore.
Thanks for talking to GGA! The CSI: Vegas Blu-ray and DVD was released April 5, 2022, and will arrive in a three-disc collection, featuring every exciting episode from the first season along with in-depth bonus features including three featurettes and deleted scenes.
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