Marg Helgenberger was born on 16 November 1958 in Fremont
Nebraska. She caught the acting bug when she landed the role
of Blanche Dubois in a university production of A Streetcar
Named Desire. A scout for Ryan's Hope discovered Marg when
she performed in an NU campus production of Shakespeare's
Taming of the Shrew. On the big screen she is probably
best known to sci-fi fans as Dr. Laura Baker in Species
and Species II. Helgenberger's television roles have
included Tales from the Crypt, Stephen King's The
Tommyknockers, E.R. and Frasier. In 2002
she was cast as Catherine Willows on Crime Scene Investigation.
We caught up with her as Crime
Scene Investigation: Season 5 - Part 1
was due for release on DVD...
CSI has gone from strength to strength with two additional
spin-off series, but the original CSI is still the
one that is bringing in the most ratings. Are you proud of
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".
The show is constantly evolving. Do you think that it's important
that CSI stays up to date with the latest developments
in the field, as well evolving the characters?
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. They seem to always come up with more techniques
and instruments that are being made available.
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. 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?"
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.
SFO: Do you enjoy the character driven
stories - when the forensic evidence is not the centre of
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. 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.
Your character was demoted in this season [Season Five].
How did you feel about that?
[Laughs] I never got officially demoted. I never knew what
they officially called it!
How did you find the change in your character affected you
as an actress?
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 think that it was important to do this to keep the
Yeah I think that's what it was about, just to create conflict
within the lab itself, I think it was an experiment that the
fans didn't like, and nor did we. It's a bit like George's
moustache [Laughs]. Yeah, apparently that got a lot of hits
on the Internet! Women e-mailing me saying "His face is so
beautiful, tell him to get rid of it!" Poor George.
How do you feel about being a part of the lives of people
you've never met? Do you get much feedback from fans?
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.
It's inspired so many people and 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. .
You're character and Grissom are based on two real CSIs aren't
my character is based on Yolanda McCleary and Grissom is based
on Daniel Holstein. I always have to qualify by saying McCleary
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
Do you enjoy doing the audio commentaries for the DVDs? And
do you lose track of where your character is at when you revisit
Kind of yeah, because we've done so episodes 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 an 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
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
What sort of shows were you a fan of when you were younger?
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.
How do you cope with all the technical jargon?
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. 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 was it like working with Quentin Tarantino on the two-part
It was a few things, first off I'm a huge fan of his before
we even met and he is just a really
good guy. He's incredibly creative and inspired and imaginative
and a nice person. He's nice to everybody and that was great
to work with somebody you're a fan of.
it was arduous, it was a lot of long hours and a lot of late
nights, shooting in a nursery where there was just piles of
fertiliser that reeked of manure, throughout the night you
know, that kind of stuff. But nevertheless I think people
really gave it up for him because we were so excited to have
him with us.
What did you think about the CGI segments when you first heard
I felt it was innovative and it was. It was described in the
script as all the, "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.
Why do you think the show has been so popular?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 imagined - that
it would have inspired all these kids to want to become criminologists.
It's become the hottest thing to teach certain techniques
and make it fun.
Thank you for your time.
thanks to Juliana Fenton at Greenroom Digital
Scene Investigation: Season 5 - Part 1 is released to own
and rent on DVD from Momentum Pictures on the 24 April 2006
this DVD for £29.99 (RRP: £39.99) by clicking