The CBS series airs a new mystery about an off-duty policeman’s murder Friday (Jan. 11), but in last week’s episode, forensic detective Jo Danville (Sela Ward) determined that Chief Medical Examiner Sid Hammerback (Joy) — now quite wealthy, after selling the patent for a special pillow he devised — was the secret distributor of $1 million checks to survivors of crime victims.
And that wasn’t the biggest reveal: In an emotional closing scene, Sid then confided to Jo that he had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
“To have such a meaty scene in a police procedural was something beyond my expectations,” Joy tells Zap2it. “I was warned about it, so I knew the big news would be coming, but Trey Callaway (the ‘CSI: NY’ co-executive producer who wrote the episode) and Pam Veasey (an executive producer of the show) reassured me that they weren’t interested in ending the character. Primarily, they’re interested in the potential of having someone on the team living with cancer.
“We all know someone who is, and it’s an interesting phrase. We used to say people were dying of cancer, and I think more and more, these conditions that used to remove people from their workplace and community are now making their involvement more urgent. I certainly know people living long lives with cancer, even though (their cases have been diagnosed as) ‘incurable,’ because there are so many treatments to extend and improve the quality of life.”
As moving as Joy’s performance of Sid’s revelation was, it was matched by two-time Emmy winner Ward, whose Jo tearfully asked Sid if he was in pain … then agreed to help him keep his situation as private as possible among their other colleagues in the New York crime lab.
“Watching the whole episode, I was amazed by how Sela was such an anchor,” Joy reflects. “She’s the one who’s hit with the news. Sid has known this for some time, so she had to take the blow, and she really showed what a thoroughbred she is in the acting department. You realize what resources she has a performer, and how deep she can go. That’s an incredible blessing for us.”
A veteran of such movies as “Ragtime” and “Waterworld,” Joy notes that since Sid is known as something of an eccentric, his suddenly wearing a hat at work or practicing yoga in a corner of the lab could be taken only as that, and not necessarily as a sign of the illness that only Jo will stay aware of for the time being.
“When I count the number of things Sid has been interested in over these eight years I’ve been on the show, it’s kind of amazing,” Joy muses. “He’s a chef, he’s a ballroom dancer, he’s always been someone who tries to live life to the fullest. And now, that dial has been turned up and everything is more urgent for him.”
Introducing such a critical, ongoing element to a familiar character now would seem to signal CBS is giving “CSI: NY” serious consideration for a 10th season … as would the two-part episode that starts on “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” Wednesday, Feb. 6 and concludes on “CSI: NY” two nights later. However, Joy maintains he’s as much in the dark as anyone about a possible renewal.
“The writers made it clear that they were going to look into the private life of each member of the team this season, and they’ve done an amazing job of it. I know it’s gratifying for them, but it’s also very generous to us as a cast. It’s almost like a gift. If we are coming to the end of the run, it’s a beautiful thing to do. Why go back to business as usual if we can keep doing new business?”