George Eads will take a leave of absence from the long-running drama after engaging in a heated exchange with one of the show's writers, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. The actor, who has played Nick Stokes since the series premiered in 2000, will appear in the first three episodes of CSI's upcoming 14th season. Producer CBS Television Studios declined to reveal a date for his return but said he would be back later this season.
"George Eads will not appear in several episodes during the first half of the season. We look forward to him returning to CSI very soon," a rep for CBS TV Studios said in a statement to THR.
The actor signed on to return as a regular along with the rest of the cast when CBS renewed the series in March. His absence, sources say, is not considered an attempt to renegotiate his contract. Eads -- and co-star Jorja Fox -- were both briefly fired from CSI in 2004 after a short-lived salary standoff with the network and studio.
Instead, Eads was unhappy with the creative direction of his character, sources tell THR, and clashed with an eight-months-pregnant co-writer of a recent episode. Word of the incident is said to have gotten back to showrunner Carol Mendelsohn and resulted in a meeting that ended with Eads threatening to quit. A rep for Eads declined to comment.
Eads is one of only three actors who have been with CSI from the start (Paul Guilfoyle and Eric Szmanda are the others). Fox left and later returned to the show.
Sources tell THR that Eads' absence will be addressed in the fourth episode of the season when Catherine (Marg Helgenberger, who will reprise her role in the landmark 300th episode) hand-picks his character to receive special training at Quantico.
CSI returns Sept. 25 on CBS.