05/05/2003 at 01:00 AM EDT
There are no skeletons in Emily Procter's closet—but there are shoes. Fifty pairs of high heels, by her estimate. "Look at these!" yells the actress, hiking a pant leg up to reveal a fuchsia Christian Louboutin pump. "When I saw them in the window, I had to have them. I wore them to work, and people came by my trailer all day long to see them."
And therein lies the problem: Work happens to be on CSI: Miami, the hit CBS drama in which Procter plays Calleigh Duquesne, a no-nonsens ballistics expert. The kind of woman the show's producers believe doesn't boohoo over Jimmy Choo. So why isn't she wearing flats in her scenes? "I get so much flack," says Procter, 34. "They say, 'If you were an officer of the law, you would not wear high heels,' and I say, 'That's where you're wrong. I wear high heels to clean my house. I wear high heels until I go to bed.' I just don't like my feet flat."
Footwear notwithstanding, no one denies Procter's charm—or southern hospitality. The Raleigh, N.C., native regularly takes trays of tea to cast and crew in the afternoon. She's also the show's unofficial head cheerleader. "She brings on such an upbeat energy that it's infectious," says David Caruso, who stars as Lt. Horatio Caine. "Emily has a warmth that comes through in her work," agrees castmate Khandi Alexander. "When you're beautiful and blonde, you have to keep proving yourself. But she's got the chops. She's not a twinkie. She proved that on The West Wing."
Indeed, it was her recurring role as White House lawyer Ainsley Hayes last season that drew the attention of CSI: Miami's producers. Procter leapt at the offer. "I wanted to be on a show where the woman is smart and her voice matters," she says.
Procter, the younger of two children of William, a physician, and Barbara Jones, a community volunteer worker (they divorced when she was 2), first made herself heard not onstage but in front of a map. While earning a journalism degree from East Carolina University, she got a part-time job doing the weather at WITN-TV in Greenville, N.C. In 1992 she moved to L.A. to pursue acting. Small roles on TV (as Joey's girlfriend on a 1995 episode of Friends) and in movies (Jerry Maguire) eventually led to the part of Ainsley on West Wing.
Working 14-hour days on Miami, with occasional jaunts to that city for location shoots, has crimped Procter's social life. "It's hard to date, because you have to reschedule things constantly," says the actress, who shares a two-bedroom, two-bath Spanish bungalow in L.A. with Kevin, her 19-lb. cat. Not that she lacks for human companionship. Tuesday is poker night. "It's a group of guys and me," she says. "I load up on Cheese Nips, and we have a good time." How good is she? And how much is wagered? "We don't talk about those things," says Procter. "Poker nights—it's all about the cussing."
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