In 2006, a photo of the beautiful and talented Emmanuelle Vaugier graced the cover of Maxim magazine with a caption that read, “Don’t miss this girl, she’s gonna be huge.” True words were never spoken. Since getting her start in the acting industry over 14 years ago, this Canadian native has appeared in several feature films as well as such popular TV series as Two and a Half Man, Charmed, Monk and CSI: NY, where she can currently be seen helping uphold law and order in the recurring role of Police Detective Jessica Angell. While you may be familiar with her face, you might not know that Vaugier once considered pursuing a very different line of work.
“I’ve always loved animals and I briefly thought about going to school to become a veterinarian,” says the actress. “However, I don’t like seeing animals hurt or even thinking about one dying or being put down, so I probably wouldn’t make a very stable vet as far as my emotional state in that profession.”
Having taken acting classes and studied in Vancouver with British acting teacher Shea Hampton, Vaugier made her professional debut in the 1995 make-for-TV movie A Family Divided starring Faye Dunaway, Stephen Collins and Cameron Bancroft. “I was terrified and excited at the same time,” she recalls. “I only have a few scenes at the beginning of the film and then my character is raped and murdered. I remember being so thrilled that my first job was working with Faye Dunaway and all these other great people. I was like, wow, what a neat way to start out. One thing led to another and I’ve been very lucky to have kept on acting.”
While most of us were enjoying parades and barbecues, Vaugier spent one July 4th a few years back reading for her role of Jessica Angell on CSI: NY. “They [the casting people] had business to take care of, so they held auditions that day,” says the actress. “I went in to read for them and was then told that I had been placed on hold while my audition tape was sent to the producers in New York for final approval. The following day I found out the job was mine.
“Originally it was only supposed to be for two or three episodes, but they weren’t sure, and it has since turned into three seasons, which has been terrific. On my first day we were shooting downtown and I had to deliver some technical dialogue. I thought, ‘You’re a guest-star, so you can’t screw it up. You don’t get the leeway that the show’s stars get,’ or at last that’s what goes through your mind. Of course it’s not at all like that, but on your first day you want to do your best.
“So I was a bit nervous about making sure I had the dialogue down pat. It’s material that can sometimes be a little harder to memorize because it’s not anything that you really speak about in your normal day-to-day life. It was like the first day of school. You’re the new kid so to speak, which is always daunting and awkward, but the CSI cast and crew were very friendly and inviting, so everything went quite smoothly.”
Jessica Angell first arrived on the crime scene in the CSI: NY season three opener People With Money, in which Detective Mac Taylor (Gary Sinise) and his people investigate the death of a man on the Brooklyn Bridge as well as a socialite who is found dead in a penthouse with another person’s blood on her body and LSD in her system. The youngest of five siblings, all brothers, and the daughter of a detective sergeant, part of Jessica Angell’s job is to brief the CSI team at various crime scenes.
“My character is a strong woman who’s very good at her job,” explains Vaugier. “She’s brought into this team of experts and not only fits in as one of the guys, but is also able to relate to the other females on the show. The biggest challenge on a program like this is trying to bring as much personality as possible to your character. Many times the [onscreen] relationships you have are business ones; your character is working with his or her partner and that sort of stuff.
“So there’s not a great deal of time for exploring personal relationships between characters other than what you see at the crime scenes. As such, you try to keep the person you’re playing interesting without infusing things falsely into a scene that don’t belong there. It’s always exciting when you have a scene where you get to be a regular human being and talk about normal things as opposed to discussing the crime scene.”
Happily for Vaugier, CSI: NY writers have been developing a romantic relationship with Eddie Cahill’s character of Detective Don Flack Jr., and, in fact, at the end of the season five episode Dead Inside, the two finally share a kiss. “It started out slowly with a few quick lines between Jessica and Don,” notes the actress. “Then in one of the [fourth season] stories, the two characters were in a car together and chatting a bit and Eddie’s character made an attempt at flirting, which led to some flirty banter between him and Jessica. That was a great deal of fun,” she says with a laugh.
“Again, whenever it’s about the characters’ relationships and interacting in that way, I feel like that’s more of where the acting comes in, do you know what I mean? Yes, everything else involves acting, too, but it’s a bit more disconnected and about, say, the crime scene as opposed to anything else. One of my favorite scenes is in the episode [season four’s Happily Ever After] where a girl is killed after being caught between a taxicab and a school bus. There’s a scene with me and Danny Messner [Detective Carmine Giovinazzo] inside the bus where, for a moment, we actually focus on something real that is going on in his life. I thought that was just great.”
For those fans of Vaugier whose TV tastes lean more towards Sci-Fi and Fantasy, the actress has dipped her toe more than once into that genre, with, for example, a recurring role as Lex Luthor’s (Michael Rosenbaum) wife, Dr. Helen Bryce, on Smallville and a guest-spot playing Maura in the two-part Andromeda episode The Heart of the Journey.
“Smallville was one of those situations where I was actually in Vancouver filming something else, and before I flew back to Los Angeles I got a call asking if I would like to come in that day to read with Michael Rosenbaum for the recurring role of his new girlfriend on the show,” she says. “So I went in and Michael came over from the set during his lunch break to read with me. They put my audition on tape and sent it down to Los Angeles for the producers there to look at, and in the meantime I flew back down there and home, too. A couple of days later I was offered the role and went back up to Vancouver. See, you move to L.A. from Canada and they just keep bringing you back,” jokes Vaugier, “which I have no problem with. Sure I’ll come back and see my family and friends in Vancouver.
“I had a lot of fun on Smallville,” continues the actress. “I always loved doing scenes with Michael and the two of us worked really well together. He had some interesting ideas about our characters’ relationship and it was wonderful to work with him on that level as well. Our storyline began to get really interesting when Helen tried to kill Lex and then the two of them reconciled and decided to have a second go at their marriage. That’s when the plot began to thicken so to speak. Their relationship could have gone in so many different directions, and acting-wise, I had a blast playing someone who kind of turned ‘evil’ all of a sudden.
“As for Andromeda, that was a number of early mornings in the make-up chair. Mental note: don’t do a TV show that requires prosthetics. Your life will be over as of day one. I should correct myself on that – in this case it was face paint, extensive hand-painted face painting as opposed to prosthetics. So it took three-and-a-half hours in the make-up chair and then a hour having my hair made up. The end process, including the costume, was absolutely beautiful.
“The actors on that show were amazing, too. Some of them also had to endure hours of make-up, but on a consistent basis, so I had a lot of respect for them for that. I’ve actually worked behind prosthetics as well and it can be pretty challenging depending on the process. I had this job where one of my eyes was covered. I had a splitting headache, and by the end of the day my other eye was strained because you’re not used to using just one eye. The make-up takes forever to remove, too. The paint wasn’t bad, but any type of latex takes a couple of hours to take off, again, depending on how much you have on. So it’s a difficult process, but necessary in certain instances.”
Along with her work on CSI:NY, Vaugier recently finished shooting the upcoming movie Dolan’s Cadillac, which is based on a short story by Stephen King and also stars Christian Slater and Wes Bentley. “This is basically a tale of revenge,” says the actress. “My character meets an untimely death and then her husband [Slater] plots his revenge against her killer [Bentley]. In the end, though, who really is the villain? The entire movie is sort of a twisted mental trip. It’s also more of a thriller than it is a horror story in the true sense of Stephen King. I feel the performances are really strong, so I’m looking forward to seeing what people think of it.”
As noted above, all photos copyright of Beiron Andersson, David M. Russell and/or CBS/Paramount TV and courtesy of The Promotion People, so please no copying or unauthorized duplicating of any form. Thanks!