CSI: Crime Scene Investigation fans breathed a sigh of relief when Jorja Fox returned this season as criminologist Sara Sidle. More gregarious than her on-screen character, the veg actress applies her equally sharp mind and big heart in real life to activism on behalf of animals. She’s an executive producer of the upcoming documentary How I Became an Elephant, which follows a 14-year-old girl on her mission to save the planet’s gentle giants.
Q How do you account for your activism?
A It’s a way I can honor my grandmother. She had this amazingly progressive philosophy regarding animals. I remember watching Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom as a little kid, and they’re talking about habitat issues and she’s saying to me, “We have to do something about this.” I guess I’m a kindred spirit.
Q You played Sara Sidle for eight seasons before taking a break from CSI. How has she evolved?
A She’s still incredibly empathetic, but she’s able to be that way and not have it tear her apart. People who are activists, first responders, and crime scene investigators see troubling things. You can’t really ever get rid of a memory. So a lot of people burn out. It was so cool that Sara would rise from the ashes.
Q How do you avoid feeling overwhelmed as an activist?
A I think a lot of those in the field will tell you it’s the little daily victories that make it all doable. My dog passed away in January (2011), my beloved Ali. It was really hard. But in June I adopted a rescue dog. For me that’s an example of a small victory. Yes, there’s pain and sorrow, but out of it, this beautiful animal gets a second shot. Because somebody cared enough to be running around south Texas looking for strays, getting right in there and being in that very difficult world, I have this amazing new creature in my life.