You don’t have to be a criminologist to see the impact Matt Lauria has on CSI: Vegas. Lauria stars as Josh Folsom in the CBS revival, and bringing him aboard is the show’s best piece of casting. He’s not the prototypical actor that one would expect in a procedural—because he’s not a typical actor at all. He always brings a slightly different way of looking at a character no matter what role he plays, and there’s a certain live wire quality that’s always bubbling just underneath the surface.
Even though audiences are just getting to know Josh there’s already a sense that there’s something more going on with him, and Lauria serves as the engine whose energy propels the new CSI: Vegas cast forward. It helps that he has past experience with the franchise—he guest-starred in three CSI season 12 episodes a decade ago as FBI agent Matthew Pratt. “It feels pretty sweet,” he recalled when we connected for an interview. “I don’t think I could have ever imagined then that I would be doing this exactly 10 years later!”
That prior experience turned out to be helpful, though, not only for his return to the Las Vegas crime lab but for his career as a whole. “That little stint I had on CSI was about a month’s worth of work. And that stint informed a lot of my work going forward,” Matt explained. “When I finally got onto the CSI set, it was an opportunity, like a proving ground, to pull together all the pieces and skills and lessons that I had learned on those other projects and implement them in real time, on set.
“CSI was a really important project to me, in terms of kind of getting my sea legs as a young actor. And the character had some swagger,” he continued. “It gave me an opportunity to really work with confidence. It was a great opportunity to polish everything up, and it was a great environment to do that in.”
Flash forward a decade and CSI: Vegas marks his first series regular role on a procedural since Lauria toplined FOX’s vastly underrated The Chicago Code in 2011. Usually he’s the guy who works outside the box. He came on to Friday Night Lights in the fourth season and, together with future mega-star Michael B. Jordan, reinvigorated an already classic show. The work he did on Kingdom was beautifully raw and visceral, deserving to be seen by a much larger audience. And he’s even carved out a niche overseas with roles in British dramas Traitors and Little Birds.
This isn’t what fans would expect him to do—which is what makes his performance work so well. He brings his own unique blueprint into the established formula and gives it a certain amount of unpredictability.
What brought him back to the crime drama genre? “I got the email with the character description in it and instantly, I was hooked,” Matt recalled. “It was a very thorough character description. There was this sort of intrinsic tension in who this guy was and where he came from.
“This is a a guy who is incredibly adept at his job. [He’s] probably used to being the smartest guy in the room always, though he would never say it and would never probably flaunt it. And is in a job that’s extremely technical, that requires incredible precision,” he explained. “And then on the other side of it, he comes from a very low-income setting, a really kind of dingy landscape with respect to his associates and his family, [who are] a bunch of crooks and criminals. Criminality has had a major influence on who he was as a kid and who he’s become as an adult.
“There’s always, I think, this tension between knowing what’s going on in the mind of a criminal and then wanting to procure justice. There’s this duality to his nature, where it’s like a guy who has probably been involved in some things that he’s not terribly proud of, maybe not even by his own choice, as a kid or a young man, but then now is working,” he said. “In the first description that I got from [showrunner] Jason Tracey, it was a guy who is trying to repay the messy karmic debt of his family and his associates. That was just so multi-dimensional, to me, so attractive.
“As the season goes on, we learn more and more how important to him this idea is, that change is possible for anyone. He believes that no one’s just the bad seed, that anybody can sort of remake themselves. And so there’s just a lot of dualities of the character that’s very interesting to me.”