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'Cold Justice's' Yolanda McClary brings her city CSI skills to small towns

Last week, I had the chance to interview Cold Justice‘s Kelly Siegler and Yolanda McClary. I have to say, it was one of the highlights of my life, as I’m a huge fan of both ladies and have been following their careers.

As I said previously, both were incredibly generous, smart and funny, and really are committed to finding justice for the victims and their families.

I interviewed Kelly Siegler first. Now it’s time to meet the other half of the team, former Las Vegas crime scene investigator (and the inspiration for CSI‘s Katherine Willows) Yolanda McClary.  McClary has worked more than 7,000 crime scenes and has 16 years of crime lab experience, and it’s pretty clear that she’s still loving what she does.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY COMMUNITY:  I have to ask you, because I have been thinking about this: Which famous cold case would you most like to investigate?

YOLANDA MCCLARY: Oh my gosh, which famous one? For me, I guess, any one of the biggest serial killer ones would have been, for my field, the best to work on. Any one of them. I mean, all of them have some of their greatest moments as far as forensics go in just the nature of the cases, so I am all good with any of the top leading ones that have been around for years. I would have given anything to work on any of those. Granted, I’m glad in Vegas that we didn’t have any of those top serial killers. That is a good thing for our city, so don’t get me wrong on that.

Yeah. I was thinking about the Black Dahlia. I wonder if people have that when there is a really cool case. If you haven’t gotten into it, do you think to yourself, “Man, if I could get over there.”

Are you kidding? When I read the headlines in Vegas and something big is happening, I am like, “I wanna go, I wanna go!” I still do that.

I was gonna say, what is that like? I’m curious to know what drove you to become a CSI in the first place.

You know, it’s funny, my life never really went in this direction. I was actually one semester away from having my accounting degree and I went into metro at 21 years old. Once I was in there, within a year of being in there I was like, Yeah, I don’t think I can be a bean counter. I love math, and it is one of the things I am good at, but I really like this law enforcement stuff. So I kind of changed it up and I was looking at classes and there was a class on crime scene investigation taught by one of our supervisors out of the lab. This is how green I was with the police department: I didn’t even know we had a lab. It wasn’t talked about back then. Unless you knew someone in the lab, you didn’t even know that we had one. So I took this class. I was so in love with CSI work.

The supervisor, the instructor, kept saying, “You know, you’ve got a knack for it, so you really should look into it.”

I said, “I think I will,” so I regeared all my schooling. I have unbelievable electives because the other stuff did not amount to anything anymore so we had to refocus, change up my gears a little bit, and when I was ready I tested and got into the lab and that was it. It was an unbelievable career.

I was wondering how doing Cold Justice is different than what you did in the crime lab in Vegas and how it’s the same.

Well, how you look at a case doesn’t change. How this is different is what we used to call “working something backwards,” meaning you didn’t arrive when it just occurred. Even cases in Vegas, sometimes someone would show up and do what they needed to do, but let’s say, for instance, the person didn’t die right away. They end up in the hospital. And now we have to treat it like a homicide and now we have to go back, we have to go back and work it backwards and do things that weren’t necessarily done because when you are working a homicide, there is a lot of other things that get done that don’t on a stabbing or a shooting. So that is kind of working it backwards. You are trying to follow up on leads that you hopefully haven’t lost and so forth.

So working Cold Justice in a sense, to me, is like that. I am reading reports and trying to formulate in my head what could have went down looking at these photos. That sometimes is difficult depending on how old these cases are. You have to realize there has been a huge turning point in forensics over the years. So when I am looking at a case as 30 years old and literally they will hand me like 10 pictures, I am used to taking 500 pictures. I look at these 10 and I am like, clearly there has gotta be more! Back then they just kind of shot a few things and that was it. Thank God reports have always been really good. And doing over 7,000 crime scenes, I can kind of easily formulate in my head if someone just lays it out. I can formulate in my head pretty much what happened. But I will sit here for a couple of days and just do nothing but think about that and think about it and think about it. I’m sure it makes my husband crazy.

Out of nowhere, I will wake up at 3 in the morning and go, “Oh my God, this is the point of that.” And he is looking at me like, “Seriously, Yolanda, it’s 3 in the morning. Go to sleep.”

I understand—this has been on background processing for three days, the penny just dropped, I’ve gotta get up.

Right? It gets really crazy.

Right. I have to ask. Is it strange to have a fan base? Because you do.

Yes. You know, it’s funny. Even when people—we don’t call ourselves “talent,” we call ourselves “investigators” on the show. We love our whole crew. We all hang out. We have dinner and drink together, we laugh together and cry together. It’s different when people will say “talent.” I look around me and say, “Who are they talking to? Or who are they talking about?” It’s like none of that. It just comes from, I was a civil servant for 27 years and it’s like, that’s what I did. I really don’t view this any differently. The fan base is cool, the fact that they support us and that they help drive you because of all their nice comments and things they say. When they say things like, “Kelly and I are role models,” that means a lot to me for the younger generation coming up, because I’d like to see that generation going on those roads too, so I like that aspect of it. People feel like you have something to contribute to society and, you know, it’s everything as a whole.

As far as you and Kelly—I’m curious because it seems like you have bonded really well—did you guys get along early on, or is it something you kind of found along the road of the show?

You know, from the minute we met, I think we were both on the same playing field just because we are both very dedicated to what we did. So that put us right there on the same field, which was good. Our basic personalities are the same as far as we both go after what we want, and we don’t let much stand in the way of what we think or what we want. So that kind of helps too. But we do, we get along unbelievably well, as if we’ve worked together for years. And the truth of the matter is, I met her once before we started filming the show, and that was in L.A. when we were talking to networks. So for whatever reason we just clicked, and that certainly helps when you’ve gotta do a show together. I love her. She’s a great girl.

I was noticing that she definitely likes to tease you. The “country roads” comments on the last episode were hilarious.

She loves teasing me. She grew up in a small town and for me, I’ve done nothing but big towns. I was in Vegas since I was 14, and let me tell you, that was a long time ago. So she jokes, calling me “bling bling girl,” and you know she’s a country bumpkin, and I just laugh. It is funny. Most of the time when we go to these places, they don’t always capture the look on my face.

You are like, “Oh, great, I have to go where?”

I know! I am like, Is there a restaurant in this place?

What do you do when you are not working on the show? Do you take time off or are you working on other things and other projects?

We’re on the road for like three weeks and we do two cases and then we come home. We are only home for five to seven days, and in that five to seven days, I am really getting myself prepared for the next two we are going out on. When you are home you are still working. But when I’m off, yeah, like right now, I am off for the rest of the summer. No, I will really enjoy Vegas and get my cabanas. That is one of my favorite things in the summer—get cabanas at the hotel and just lay out by the pool and enjoy my friends. So those are the kind of things I will definitely be doing. I’ve only been home for like a day now, but I’ll be doing that. I’m looking very forward to a little bit of time off and not having to think about anything for a week or two and then, I know me, I’ll be back into what’s up on the next case. I’m starting early studying.

What do you like best about doing the show?

Oh my gosh, there are actually a lot of things I like. Believe it or not, as much as we joke around about small towns, I’ve gotta tell you, coming from a larger city, although we’re not New York, Chicago or L.A., but L.V. [Las Vegas], and the P.D. [police department] are still good-sized. The P.D. really is; I love them, they are my brothers and sisters and I love them. But when you go to a smaller town … they really are so unique and just so friendly and so into everything that you’re doing. It’s a learning process.

I’m not the greatest teacher because I go 100 miles an hour because that’s just how I am. I don’t stop and wait for everybody to catch up, so I’m not the best teacher. But with these guys, they’re really intently listening. Like on crime scenes, I’m like, you’ve got this and this and this and it happens because of this. They’re really listening and learning from it and that always makes me feel good. When I leave, if they ever encounter this again, they’re gonna go “Wait a minute, remember when Yolanda said this or that …” So I love that. I feel like we’re actually helping them and doing something, so that’s one of my favorite things.

The other, obviously, is the family. They live with this, where no justice has been served, so many of them really think they know who did it and they are on the right track for the most part; it is just proving it. So I think that several of them have waited a whole lot of years. Some family members have already passed and will never know that justice is finally served. So that part of it I love too, for the family. Closure, they’re never gonna get that. You just don’t get that when you lose somebody like that. But at least justice. That helps a little bit.

Actually, yeah, I notice that a lot—that real commitment to kind of being there with people. They all seem very very happy to have you there, which is great.

They are.

I notice that when you come in and do stuff, people are very cooperative with you, which obviously has to do with, A) They are happy that you are there, but also I am sure sometimes you run into stuff with cases and with people and they get a little worried. But from what we see on the screen, everybody is very open to having you there, which is very cool.

Yeah. They are. The police generally are. They have to invite us. We can’t just walk in and go, “Hey, hand us your case.” So they have to invite us. I would say generally, like 98 percent of the time, they are awesome awesome. The family. The family is always actually very happy and right along with the program and helping us. So every time we go, we’re very welcomed by all of them that are part of this.

Yeah. You’ve kind of made me cry more than once. Thanks for that. Do you have any advice for people who want to become a CSI or work in that field?

Yes, actually … You’re gonna see ultimately the worst things that can happen to human beings. And you have to work them. There is a fine line, I think. On one side is compassion and emotion. I’ve seen some people who become too hard, and when that happens, then I feel that you’re going to lose some of your dedication and drive. I call it the happy balance.

My dad is a psychiatrist. So I come from a long family of shrinks. So it’s one of these things I asked him. I was like, “God, you know, you’re on this total emotional scene and the family’s crying and this is horrible and I feel like you just wanna cry too, but you can’t. You can’t do that when you are on your scenes. You can’t lose that focus.” He said it best to me. He was like, “You know, if you lose all your emotions, where is your drive for what you do? It will become just a job. And it will become a job at some point that you probably might not even care about enough anymore.” And he said, “ But you’re right, you can’t be a boo-boo-head on the scene and carrying on, because then you’re useless.”

He said, “You’ve gotta find that fine line. You’ve gotta draw the line in the sand and remember, you’ve gotta walk it. Don’t cross either way. Not too emotional, but don’t lose every bit of you or you’re not gonna have that drive. So find that line.”

A lot of people can’t do that. They’re either too emotional and can’t deal and that’s not gonna work for you. Or you’re just too hard. They think that’ll make them a better person at it, and that’s incorrect also. You’ve gotta find that happy balance. You’ve gotta find that balance.

Yeah, because it seems like you and Kelly both do care. It’s about getting justice for people. It’s not about putting the scumbag in jail as much as: These families need closure and they need justice and you’re looking out for the families. It seems like that would help you find that happy balance.

Yes. It does. You’re absolutely right—that’s exactly how it is. If you can find the balance, then you will definitely excel at what you do. I think that’s the hardest part. I saw that in my own lab on CSI. Especially what we called the “new babies” coming in. You know? They try to sway too hard one way or the other and it’s like, You’ve gotta find that balance or you’ll never excel at this.

That sounds like a good lesson for life.

Yes. You know what, it truly is. You’re absolutely right. For everything you do in your life.

I can’t tell you how great it was to talk to both of these ladies. I just read that since the premiere of Cold Justice last September, Siegler and McClary have assisted local law enforcement in securing a total of 15 arrests, eight criminal indictments, four confessions, two guilty pleas and a 22-year prison sentence.

You can get more information on past cases on Friday, July 18. John Walsh (America’s Most Wanted) will host a special episode of Cold Justice entitled “Justice Served,” which is a follow-up on several of the cases they’ve investigated and how some of the family members and cops are doing today. Siegler and McClary will also answer questions from Cold Justice fans.

I know I’ll be watching.

Cold Justice airs Fridays at 9/8C on TNT.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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