Marg Helgenberger Talks About CSI 6 And Her Role As Catherine Willows
Following on from the information on the CSI 6 DVD release, Marg Helgenberger gives us the lowdown on the show, amongst other things.
Do you feel proud when people tell you they are big fans of the show?
I always love it when people say (assumes self-important mock voice) “it’s the only one we watch, none of them can compare to you guys, blah blah blah”.
We see a different side of you in Season 6 than we saw in Season 4. What do you think about that?
Oh yeah, well I think that’s how they, not run out of things to do, not that they’ve run out of crimes to solve because god knows there’s plenty of them around, or run out of ways to solve it, there seems to always come up with more techniques and instruments that are being made available. Of course, this show being state of the art in terms of what we receive and what’s out there in terms of forensic labs because it’s so costly that many of them don’t have the resources to have these, which is too bad, it’s really sad because crimes could get solved faster if they had the money. As far as the character development goes there’s a deep pool there, every character, mine probably more than anybody’s, we go home with my character more. I think there’s a well of opportunity there for the characters.
Do you get excited about character driven stories?
I do get a little spring in my step when it’s some character stuff because it involves usually a lot of history with that particular character, especially with a family member or a romantic interest, but she’s a family member because my father’s been on a few times and that stuff’s, it’s such a complicated relationship and in as little as six lines there’s a lot that goes on between the two of us: threats, weird stuff that happens and I always look forward to that and to working with Scott Wilson who plays my dad.
How do you feel about being demoted this season?
(laughs) I never got officially demoted! I never knew what they officially called it! I am the, we’re co – I don’t know, just something to justify the fact that I am now back with the team or something, the original team are back together, it really doesn’t mean anything.
Did you find it fun to split from the cast and do your own thing?
I don’t know, it wasn’t really that fun, I didn’t like having to play scenes where I was always kvetching about paperwork or that crap y’know, it’s just tedious. I’d much rather be in the field and y’know, it gives you the opportunity to work with other actors, we were kind of isolated y’know.
Do you find it strange that you’re part of a show that’s such a big part of people’s lives?
Somewhat, yes. Y’know it’s funny because in LA you don’t really feel the impact of the show because there’s so many celebrities here and you can pretty much just go about your business, but when you go out into the country or into the world, it’s a completely different ball game and they feel that – I don’t know, it’s inspired so many people and it becomes the Thursday night thing to do, when they see you up close and personal they want a piece of you essentially, they want a picture or an autograph, or they’ll ask you, “What do you think” about whatever high-profile case happens to be on Court TV that week and I don’t think about it! I think about fingerprints a lot actually, I think about what kind of fingerprints there are around and what I’m leaving behind.
The writer’s of CSI actually based your character on two real CSI agents didn’t they?
Yes, especially as I’d ridden a couple of times with the character I’m based on and I always have to qualify by saying she is not a former exotic dancer! I think she said she’d been some kind of a secretary, in law enforcement, went ahead and got her – not a degree, I don’t know what they call it, it’s like a two year program to become a CSI, but anyway she’s terrific and she’s now sort of become a star in her own right because she’s been featured in a lot of these shows like Dateline and she’s considered to be one of the best in Vegas because she’s so thorough and kind of fun and kind of sassy and all that. And Dan Holstein (sp). Obviously we take an enormous amount of liberties in terms of process, because DNA and toxology (sic) reports they take weeks sometime, who has the time to watch that? It’d be a very boring show!
Do you enjoy doing commentaries for the DVD releases?
Kind of yeah, because we’ve done so many of them now, what, 130? In fact I stumbled over my words one time on David Letterman, because sometimes he brings up topics that you don’t think he’s going to bring up, wasn’t in the pre-interview or whatever, and he mentioned and episode that was going to be airing that night or something, we’d shot it like a month before and I started to go with it, but then I completely lost my train of thought and I couldn’t find it, we shoot these and we forget them! But yeah, it was kind of fun to go back and now of course we’re on television pretty much 24/7 you can pick an episode of CSI, and I’ll happen upon it once in a while and it takes you back to that season and that hairstyle (laughs) and to think about what was going on then.
What shows did you like growing up?
I was fan of Mission:Impossible, and I always think of this show as being a modern day version of Mission: Impossible, just because of all the gizmos and the scientific stuff and the team and crime solving obviously. That show was always cutting-edge, it had a cool theme song, it was very intriguing and this show kind of has the same feel.
As an actress, how do you handle all the scientific dialogue?
There are certain terms that we’ve said so many times now that we know the correct pronunciation and we sort of know what it means but there’s always something new that pops up and you just sort of pray that you get through it and that you never have to say it again (laughs). I have to say the most complicated part of the job in terms of learning lines is not so much the actual terminology, it’s the way you have to kind of sell the plot or sell the story and this whole thing that we’re doing now, Georgia Fox’s dialogue is just baffling and it’s basically just one big long monologue with me interjecting. It’s called ‘Up In Smoke’. Not like the Cheech and Chong version.
What do think about CSI’s real life impact?
I felt it was innovative and it was – it was described (cos you never know how something’s gonna turn out when it’s described) as described in the script as all the, quote unquote, CSI shots, in fact I think one of the descriptions was ‘à la Three Kings’, with the bullet going through them, which was very innovative for that film. We’ve certainly taken that idea and ran with it. I also thought that it was just a great mystery and I think that a great mystery is always going to be in vogue, people have always enjoyed them throughout the ages, in every culture. I just thought all the science and the facts and the gizmos was going to be really fun for an audience, Sherlock Holmes for the 21st century.
I knew it was going to be a big hit, I felt that, especially when I saw it cut together, but I would have never guessed that we would have had two spin-offs in four years and would have really created a whole new genre of television. It seems like every network now wants to – PBS has a monopoly of forensic shows. If you watched the Superbowl there was an advertisement for this new one that’s coming out on EBC that looks like “Oh well.” People say to me that imitation’s the best form of flattery and at this point it’s like “No it’s not, now you’re just ripping us off!” Come up with your own ideas here! I say that having just said we took something from Three Kings, but that was just one part!
Do you feel it has changed the way a lot of juries are chosen now?
We’ve really educated the public. I do think that law enforcement probably resents us to a certain degree because the public is demanding “Well, they solve it on CSI, why can’t you find such and such?” I think criminalists are in great debt to us because they’ve all of a sudden brought these people who have always been in the background into the forefront. I think that detectives sometimes feel a little resentful! Science is fun and that is also something I probably wouldn’t have guessed or imagined is that it would have inspired all these kids to want to become criminal investigators. Kids in science classes and in schools, it’s become the hottest thing to teach certain techniques and make it fun.
Most people find CSI is less like a TV show and feels more like a movie in the way it is shot and put together. How do you feel about that?
Well yeah and certainly Jerry’s impact on this show, biggest impact, is that he really knows the look of a show. He made sure early on, a lot of people were replaced sadly, but he had a vision in mind of what it should look like, so a lot of department heads were replaced to make it more visually appealing.