Gary Dourdan’s journey has been nothing short of interesting. From making music videos with Janet Jackson, acting in theatre, playing music with bands in NYC in the early 1990’s, he has also enjoyed various acting roles in TV soaps and series, his most popular role to date as Warrick Brown on popular series - CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. We uncovered his feelings about being written off CSI in 2008 [his character was shot dead amidst rumours of unsuccessful pay negotiations with CBS], and his most recent role as a seductive Chef in this spring’s successful romantic comedy “Jumping the Broom”.
Was it a scary decision to leave the show, when it was so highly revered and what have you been up to?
I think it was a catharsis - I had done 8 years and had a lot of success on the show. I thought it was a great time to do something else and fulfil my life in other areas. It takes so much time to shoot the show, but now I have a great deal of time - and there are a lot of projects that I’m working on right now. At the time, whenever any new step is taken, there is a bit of trepidation - but I knew it was the right choice to move on. I have been doing some films, working on some music projects and some travelling, back and forth to France and other parts of Europe.
What were the most significant experiences you had while on CSI that has stayed with you?
I have had so many extraordinary experiences on and from the show. I won three awards from the show: a Screen Actors Guild Award and two NACCP Awards, and I was so proud of them, the show, and working with some fantastic people. Working with great directors like Quentin Tarentino and for myself as a writer and director - I learnt so much. So I took away a great deal of experience and knowledge that I gained working behind the scenes and in front of the camera for so many years. With what I’m doing in the industry right now, it helps me tremendously and I’m thankful to have had those experiences. It makes it a lot easier when I’m working on my own project.
Some people have no knowledge of you as a director, so what kind of films would you like to direct and work on?
We are working on a short film project right now and doing some music videos. A lot of the things I’m doing right now within music are directly connected to my work in films. So, we are doing this at the same time as we are recording songs with several artists in my studio and we are directing the videos with my company Temple of Thoughts Music. It’s been busy lately.
You star in the new movie Jumping the Broom, what was it like been back on the big screen after the popularity of CSI, and with the high calibre of cast in the film?
We have Angela Basset, Paula Patton, Laz Alonso, Bishop TD Jakes and some really great people. It was fun to work with Mike Epps, he is so talented. We were up in a remote village in Canada, we got to know each other and everyone was devoted, from the crew, executive level at Sony - it was such a positive experience and everyone was so good and beautiful, inside and out, I can’t say enough about everyone. And to have this film as number three right now at the box office in the US, is a really great thing. I’m very proud to work around positive people who have good things to give in front of the camera and behind it.
You are a DJ, vocalist and play the guitar, where does the passion for music come from?
My uncle was a saxophonist for Sister Sledge and he gave me my first instrument when I was 12 or13, and I continued to study music and picked up the guitar when I was 17. I have been playing the piano since I was about 12. My older brother played the flute and now, owning a recording studio - If I didn’t have a band, certainly I would play the instruments to record music myself. I just have to express myself in some kind of way otherwise I get very, very complacent and destructive if I’m not expressing myself. My passion for music is directly connected to my brother and my uncle and I’m very proud to have played music with my uncle and still do. We did some great work with DMC about a year ago, when he released his solo album, some poetry and a single, speaking about the Gulf War and it was inspired by the Jimi Hendrix, Machine Gun song.
Do you write your own material and what kind of issues/subjects or challenges do you deal with through your music?
Yes I write all the music, but I also collaborate with other people. In terms of subjects, I talk about politics a lot - but I would say some of the things that come up are things in our social circles. There are certainly things out there which are positive and inspire other people to do good. And there are a lot of good kids out there too. It’s about working with them and trying to cure any kind of prejudices and racism. These days with technology and how fast things are moving, it is possible to do that. There are lots of things we cannot take for granted - we can know each more now, than we ever have. And it is about taking advantage of that. So, a lot of my music is about expressing that, love and some of the discretions of the past and present, and what’s going on that needs to be changed. Music is the way to express all of these and some of the things going on in my mind and heart. It has certainly kept me sane, being able to express that through music.
In the music industry, the lyrics and videos are getting more daring. How would you describe the current state of music in the US and globally?
Well…. (pauses briefly), working in any industry, there is going to be a lot of fluff and a lot of riff raff. Every now and again, you will see an artist who breaks new ground, tells the truth, is real and ahead of the game. But there will always be the general mediocrity in the arts - I don’t pay attention to that. I look for the more discerning artist, someone who really can express and share.