Is David Caruso Too Good to be True?

That red-haired guy and CSI: Miami put us back on the media map

Life is good among the dead. Just ask the red-haired man.

He's happy standing next to the body on the beach with the jagged gash in its neck.

Why shouldn't he be? He was dead himself, or almost, not too long ago. Anyone who gave him any thought at all would have figured it that way.

Caruso and Procter: Forensic sleuthing
Caruso and Procter: Forensic sleuthing

But now, standing in the blistering sun, his pale skin whiter than sand, eyes bluer than the ocean, he's cool ...

It's like a dream. Any moment now someone will say, "Cut!" and "New deal," and the man with the gash will get up and there will be smiles all around. Except, when they do, the fantasy will end, but not the dream. The cameras will stop, the fictional story will cease; but the red-haired guy's story will go on. He is, of course, David Caruso, back from the brink of oblivion, star of the hottest new show on TV -- CSI: Miami. Caruso plays Horatio Caine, a character who believes that -- as the actor puts it -- "Evil is."

"There is this intricate kind of almost obscene chess game going on in our society," Caruso says, "between the perpetrators of this evil and the people who try and come between that evil and the citizen. And that's where Horatio Caine lives."

He's given it a lot of thought. Caruso has an elaborate "philosophy of evil" -- about man and murder, and "horrific events," and the insidious magnetic power evil has for attracting even more mayhem: "Anybody that's capable of the events that we [forensic unit] deal with on a daily basis," he says, "is a shark; a great white shark. Meaning: The concept of reason and humanity is no longer a factor in their decision-making process, and now they are self-expressing through this series of horrific events that they are perpetrating on people's lives. And it's a fascinating and yet terrifying world, because there's this disconnect away from their humanity. They make a choice to embrace evil as their engine, evil as their rationalization, their mindset and identity."

Portentous, plus it got him the part. And, he seems to have successfully incorporated Caine into Caruso. Or is it the other way around -- the Boleslavsky acting notion that you extend your real personality out to subsume facets of your undeveloped self, recognizable in seeming opposites -- Gregory Peck as the great Daddy Southern lawyer Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), and as the mad, dark Ahab in Moby Dick (1956). So Caine is Caruso -- they're so intricately intertwined, it's hard to see edges ... But then this is Miami, the modern Casablanca, at the edge of the Bermuda Triangle, where everything is simultaneously real and unreal, and where those who lose a grip on the difference invariably lose it all ...

What better place for David Caruso to make his TV comeback than in his new hometown? It had to be Miami -- where what you see reflects mirror-like, and endlessly.

Like this:

The shooting of the first episode that CSI: Miami characters appeared in began on South Beach in April, at the Shore Club, 19th and Collins.

Caruso's co-star, Emily Procter (Calleigh Duquesne in the show), came to town a week early, her first time here, and took walks to get to know the city. Her impression of Collins Avenue was, "Gosh, it really stinks! It smells like garbage."

Then, on a sparkling Wednesday in the second week of April, with a crisp breeze snapping flags on poles, Procter, out for a walk, saw patrol cars and police and figured she'd join the crew on set. As she started to scoot under the yellow crime scene tape, a cop stopped her. "It's OK," she told him. "I'm with the show." He said, "I don't know what you're talking about. This is a crime scene."

Turns out she was five blocks away from the Shore Club, at 14th and Collins, where Miami Beach parking officer Delroy Ireland had caught a whiff of something foul floating from the trunk of an abandoned white Mercury Sable with three parking tickets clipped under its windshield wiper. Inside, police found the body of Zaida Rootes, missing nearly a week, dumped there, they later said, by the roommate who confessed to murdering her.

When Procter put two and two together, she realized what the smell had been.

Welcome to Miami.

The real-life body-in-the-trunk crime scene was just one block from the seventh-floor beachfront condo where Caruso climbed out of bed that morning, then trotted off to become Horatio Caine -- in an episode where a woman's body would be found in a trunk!

What compels Caruso is "what we deal with on a daily basis -- there's an interesting question: [Is the murderer] still a human being?"

Anthony Zuiker, the 34-year-old wunderkind creator of CSI and its Miami spinoff, the two top-rated dramas on CBS, wanted to pass on Caruso when the actor's name first came up as a possible Caine: "I'd heard about the NYPD Blue thing," he says sourly. The NYPD Blue thing -- code for Caruso's rep as one of the industry's infamously explosive egomaniacs, prone to notoriously divalike outbursts (he once stormed in, kicked a wastebasket, and barely missed Dennis Franz's head during the shooting of a scene) and his eventual flaming walk-off four episodes into the second season.

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