The Untold Truth Of Jorja Fox

Jorja Fox is no stranger to fans of the "CSI" franchise." She played the role of Sara Sidle in the original "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," which she then reprised in the 2021 revival "CSI: Vegas."

According to a TCM biography of Fox, she was born in New York City in 1968, but grew up in the small community of Melbourne Park, Florida. After a brief foray as a teenage model, she moved to the Big Apple to focus on studying acting. Prior to landing her life-changing role in "CSI," Fox paid her dues in Hollywood, scoring TV gigs, such as an episode of "Law & Order," before landing a recurring role on hit medical drama "ER." Fox also had a stint on the sitcom "Ellen," appearing in the historic episode in which star Ellen DeGeneres' character comes out as gay. She's also nabbed parts in feature films, including but not limited to the Christopher Nolan thriller "Memento."

A regular fixture on television since the 1990s, fans may not know as much about this talented actor, director, and producer as they think. To find out even more, read on to discover the untold truth of Jorja Fox.

How she wound up homeless in Italy at age 17

Before embarking on a career as an actor, teenage Jorja Fox won a local modeling contest in Florida. As Fox's TCM biography pointed out, this led her to sign with a modeling agency.

Interviewed by Popgurls in 2007, Fox recalled how her modeling agent sent her and another model to Milan so they could get to work. "I had brought 600 bucks with me at that time because I was supposed to start working right away. I think the girl that went with me brought, like, 250 dollars," she said. When they arrived, however, the photos they brought with them were deemed to be not up to snuff, and the two were told to meet with "hip and happening" photographers and take new shots that would then land them the modeling work they'd come for. "In the meantime, I think we spent eight or nine days in a pensione before the lady literally tossed us out on the street. So I was homeless in Milan, Italy at 17," she said, adding that "being homeless in Italy at 17 was pretty crazy."

While the situation could have become fraught, Fox recalled those weeks as being "fun and crazy," admitting she was reluctant to call her parents "and tell them that I was failing in Italy." Ultimately, she explained, it all worked out when both she and the other model "started working and we made money and we came home."

Jorja Fox started an avant-garde theater company

After studying acting in New York, Jorja Fox made her way to Los Angeles in order to make her mark in Hollywood. As Deadline noted, she racked up credits in such acclaimed TV series as "The West Wing" and "ER." What's more, Fox was also involved in several theatrical productions in LA via Honeypot Productions. As the Deseret News pointed out, she is also a cofounder of Honeypot Productions, described as an avant-garde theater company. According to Deadline, Honeypot had put on six productions by 2015.

Speaking with Popgurls, Fox discussed the creative fulfillment she received from producing plays. "I love producing ... I started off really small-scale and it's been exclusively theater until this year," she explained. "The thing that I love is trying to help people get their story told. Somebody has an idea and just to physically try to make it happen. It's great. I really love it."

One of those was Honeypot's 2013 production of "Dear Bernard," which Backstage described as the "celebration of youth, beauty, ambition, and the perils of having all three minus a stable set of values."

The reason she nearly didn't take her CSI role

While Jorja Fox is best known for her role as Sara Sidle on "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," she initially passed on the chance to join the groundbreaking procedural drama that would go on to become one of the world's most-watched TV series

The reason, as she explained in an interview with Collider, was that she already had a steady gig on one of television's hottest, most critically acclaimed series. "I had been on Season 1 of 'The West Wing,'" she said, recalling her role as Secret Service Agent Gina Toscano. "I was the happiest actor in America," she gushed. "It was the coolest job, and working with the most incredible people." It was at the time, however, that CBS was casting "CSI." "I had a couple of friends say, 'Hey, have you read this pilot?' And I said, 'No, no, no. I got this great job. I'm not looking for a job.'"

After her manager encouraged her to at least read the script, she eventually relented. "And then once I read it, I was like, 'Wow, shoot. Wow, I've got to, maybe, at least go try and go meet everybody, because this is a really amazing character in this very cool show.'" Certain she wouldn't be offered the role, Fox was in for a shock when she got the part, "and it turned out to be this incredible thing for me."

She produced a musical about a legendary British singer

In addition to the theatrical shows that Jorja Fox has produced through her Honeypot Productions theater company, she also co-produced a project that was very close to her heart: a musical based on the life of British R&B singer Dusty Springfield. 

As Variety reported, "Stay Together: The Life and Music of Dusty Springfield" opened in February 2008 as Los Angeles' Renfeld Theater. Describing the show as her "dream project," Fox declared she was "really proud of it. If you like Dusty's music, you will love this show."

The play — which starred and was co-written by Kirsten Holly Smith — was revived in 2012 as an off-Broadway production, which had been retitled "Forever Dusty" for its new run. "I want to honor this woman," Smith said in an interview with Reuters. As Smith explained, the off-Broadway production wasn't identical to "Stay Forever," revealing she'd spent years reworking the project. "People responded to the material, to the story and to the music," she said. "I realized there's something in this, so I kept going."

She's always dreamed of being a musician

Jorja Fox can list acting, modeling, directing, and producing among her credits, yet there's one creative endeavor she's always wanted to master — but knows she probably never will. "I wanted to be a lead singer in a band," she told the Guardian in 2006, revealing the reason that never worked out for her was because "I can't sing."

"I have no natural talent," she stated in an interview with SoCal Pulse, discussing how her musical ambitions have been stymied by an absence of talent. "I've played guitar on and off since I was 14, and I took up the drums five years ago, but I'm terrible!" Admitting she would practice and practice, musical ability just never came naturally. "I honestly thought I was tone-deaf for a long time," said Fox, confessing that "I'm just really bad." Despite her lack of aptitude, Fox says she loves to make music with her friends as a fun pastime. "Thank goodness I'm not trying to actually make a living at it," she quipped. 

Despite her lack of skill as a guitarist, Fox told the Guardian that her "most treasured possession" was a "1967 Rickenbacker hollow-body electric guitar" that some friends bought for her 20 years earlier.

She was fired from CSI, then rehired, then quit

While "CSI" remains Jorja Fox's most significant screen credit, the many years she spent playing Sara Sidle on the show have not been without incident. Perhaps the most notorious moment came in 2004, when, as Entertainment Weekly reported at the time, she and co-star George Eads allegedly led a walkout in order to get raises in 2004 to try to get CBS to accede to their salary demands. While that strategy had previously worked for "Everybody Loves Raymond" star Brad Garrett, by then the network was done with kowtowing to mutinous actors. Both Eads and Fox were fired, with the network announcing that replacement actors would be hired; Fox claimed her no-show status at work was a misunderstanding, and she was quickly rehired, while Eads was left to twist in the wind a while longer before he too was brought back.

A few years later, Fox decided she was done with "CSI," and confirmed to Entertainment Weekly in 2007 she was leaving. "There are all these things I want to do. Some are personal. Some are professional. And I really need to do some of them before I get too old," Fox said of her exit. In a followup interview with the outlet, she admitted that quitting the show was "one of the hardest decisions I've made in my life. It has nothing to do with my contract, nothing to do with money.... It could be the stupidest thing I've ever done in my life." Fox returned in 2010. 

She now regrets the time she signed a gag order

Jorja Fox is not the kind of person to focus on past regrets, but she has one very big one. Speaking with the Chicago Tribune, Fox described her "worst moment" taking place "a long time ago," when she "was asked to sign a gag order by a company." She wasn't able to offer any more detailed information or get into too many specifics, she pointed out, "because I signed the gag order. It's the only time in my life that I signed a gag order." As she explained, she "just happened to be privy to information that sort of challenged or maybe brought into question an accepted narrative and an accepted truth. And I was someone who would have been able to speak against that narrative."

To make matters worse, Fox added, she "didn't receive any compensation" for being "invited to never talk about something for the rest of my life." 

She may have responded differently if there had been anything at stake, but said "it was sort of a victimless situation. It was just that a story was being spun that wasn't accurate and it had to do with people's careers and reputations and how they're perceived." Admitting that at the time she "didn't have the guts to challenge it," she admitted, "I really don't regret much in my life, but I do still wish I had never signed it."

She's a passionate vegetarian and animal rights activist

Over the years, Jorja Fox has consistently lent her support to organizations promoting animal rights and vegetarian causes, particularly People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. In 2015, Fox starred in a PETA ad campaign promoting vegetarianism, urging fans to undertake a "CSI"-style investigation into how animals are slaughtered for food. As Fox told PETA, she made the decision to ditch meat from her diet while chowing down on a meatball sub in Brooklyn. Telling the organization that "it just clicked" for her, she said, "I was in the middle of that sandwich, and I put it down, and I never had meat again."

In a 2013 interview with Parade, Fox discussed her advocacy work for another organization, Animal Defenders International, for which she serves as ambassador. So committed is she about the issues tackled by the group that she was able to influence "CSI" writers to add hot-button issues regarding animal rights into the show's storylines. "Calling attention to these issues — whether it is on 'CSI' or with Animal Defenders International — is a passion of mine," said Fox, noting that the show's "writers care about these issues too, and do such a great job in weaving them into the show."

Fox is no celebrity dilettante when it comes to her work with ADI; not only has she spoken to media at press conferences, she's also appeared in a PSA for the organization.

She produces documentaries

In addition to her work producing theatrical productions, Jorja Fox has also produced several documentaries — all of which tackle themes involving cruelty to animals. The first of these was the 2012 film "How I Became An Elephant", which follows the efforts of a young girl as she journeys to Thailand to rescue an elephant held in captivity. "A lot of people don't see the connection between animal extinction and the environment," Fox said. "People don't know that without elephants there would be horrible droughts," she added, explaining that elephants' keen ability to find underground sources of water leads them to dig watering holes that are also used by other species. "Without that water, other animals and humans would be harmed," she said. "Mass extinctions could occur."

As "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" was about to conclude its 16-season run, Fox told the Los Angeles Times she was looking forward to having more time to focus on her documentary filmmaking, exploring animal-rights issues that were close to her heart. "I helped produce three documentary films through my company Seafox Productions these last few years, and I'd like to continue making documentaries. It's been a very rewarding experience," she said.

She also explained why she feels drawn toward documentaries. "I love to tell stories, and I love to give others a platform to share their stories," she said, noting that her "passion and love for planet Earth and its creatures informs my surfing, my vegetarianism and the documentaries I produce."

Why Jorja Fox was hopeful about the CSI revival

When Jorja Fox agreed to reprise Sara Sidle in the 2021 "CSI" revival "CSI: Vegas," she had a not-so-hidden agenda that underpinned her reasons for returning to the franchise. "We have a really smart audience and they want a smart show," Fox told the Chicago Sun-Times. "And yet we have a lot of people that believe in science less than ever. So it's a really interesting time to do a show about science. It would be amazing ... to make science really fun and exciting and dazzling and mysterious again."

Of course, that wasn't the only reason behind her decision to return. "Sara Sidle is my favorite character I've ever played," Fox gushed in an interview with Cinemablend. "There's so many reasons to love her," said Fox of the role. "I love that she's flawed. I love sometimes that she's not the most popular person in the room, but she always sticks to her heart and her beliefs."

Another perk of reviving the role was the opportunity to delve into Sara's complicated relationship with fellow crime scene investigator Gil Grissom (William Petersen). "It's 21 years old," she told Cinemablend of the characters' somewhat turbulent romance. "It's as old as the series itself. It's been on again, it's been off again. They've been separated, they've been married, they've been divorced. And we haven't seen very much of any of that on screen."

Jorja Fox never imagined she'd return to CSI

Returning to a revival of "CSI" more than 20 years after she first stepped into the role of Sara Sidle wasn't necessarily something that Jorja Fox had seen coming. When she said goodbye to the show in the 2015 series finale, she assumed that was the end of it. Speaking with Parade, Fox admitted that being approached about appearing in "CSI: Vegas" had been "a total surprise; I never really thought that we would ever revisit the show. I really thought that it was a book that had closed that had had many, many chapters, and we had such an amazing sendoff."

In fact, Fox approached the opportunity of reviving the character with some trepidation. "I was a little nervous," she confessed, but that was far outweighed by her enduring love for the character. "And then, of course, Sara obviously is my favorite character that I've ever played," she added. "I would never, ever tire of being Sara."

Another enticement to return, she told the Chicago Sun-Times, was that she'd be playing a somewhat different version of Sara. The character as depicted in "CSI: Vegas," she explained, is "a lighter version of Sara Sidle than we've ever seen before ... she's not carrying the Vegas weight of the world on her shoulders."

Jorja Fox's acting career has made her millions

Being part of the cast of one of television's most popular shows for more than a decade has contributed pretty significantly to Jorja Fox's bottom line. According to Celebrity Net Worth, Fox's net worth sits at an estimated $6 million. 

Back in 2004, when Fox and "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" co-star George Eads were fired and then rehired, a source told Reuters (via Today) that they failed in their scheme to get raises, with each paid their previous salaries of $100,000 per episode each. While Fox hasn't publicly discussed how much she made on the show, it's a safe bet that she was paid substantially more than that when she returned for the 2021 revival "CSI: Vegas." 

When the original "CSI" exited the airwaves in 2015, at the time Fox told the Los Angeles Times that it would be "the first time in 19 years I've been between jobs." Admitting she had "no idea what's next," she said she'd been enjoying "just hanging out with my dog and just letting go."

Why she refused to stick around on CSI: Vegas

While the "CSI: Vegas" revival series didn't prove to be the ratings success CBS had hoped, it still did well enough to warrant another season. When the announcement was made about the show returning for a second season, Jorja Fox took to Twitter to reveal that she wasn't going to be part of it. "After much deliberating, I have decided not to 'Sidle up' for 'CSI Vegas,'" she wrote. As Fox explained, her decision rested largely on that of co-star William Petersen, who made it clear from the outset that he was only planning on appearing as Gil Grissom for a single season.

According to Fox, after everything that their characters had been through, it would be a slap in the face to fans for Sara to remain in Vegas as part of the CSI team without him. "I personally just can't split Sara and Grissom up again," she tweeted. "So goes Grissom ... So goes Sara. Wherever they go, they belong together." 

There was, however, one silver lining for longtime fans lamenting the departure of Fox and Petersen. As Deadline reported in February 2022, "CSI" actor Marg Helgenberger had signed on to reprise her role as Catherine Willows from the original series; as Peterson and Fox before her did, Helgenberger had signed on for just one year.