MARG HELGENBERGER’S SIDE DISH
The Hartford Courant
‘Mr. Brooks’ Star Takes Time Out From Television’s `CSI’ To Make An
May 27, 2007
By RON DICKER, Special To The Courant
There’s a home for fortysomething actresses: It’s called television. Marg
Helgenberger has thrived there for the last seven seasons, thanks to the
still-potent “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” in which she plays the Vegas
forensic night cop, single mom and former exotic dancer Catherine Willows.
Long-term success has allowed Helgenberger to fit movies in on hiatus, such
as “Mr. Brooks,” opening Friday. But she knows where her bread is buttered.
“A lot of women watch TV,” she says. “Most movies that are financed are
catering to an age range of teenage boys.”
So she seizes the smaller opportunities on the big screen. In “Mr. Brooks,”
she’s plays the good woman standing by her man, played by Kevin Costner.
“I just wanted to make sure I’m in the pocket, that we appear to have a
loving relationship,” Helgenberger says.
Did we mention that Costner is playing a Jekyll-and-Hyde serial killer? One
can imagine the director yelling, “OK, Marg, do blissfully ignorant.”
Helgenberger jokes that her “CSI” alter-ego would have “nailed his ass.”
But in this alternate reality she is “blinded by love” as her spouse
continues his nocturnal hunting with his devil’s advocate subconscience
(portrayed by William Hurt).
Helgenberger has a pretty comfortable routine for an actress defying the
industry’s age bias. She cranks out 20 or so episodes of “CSI,” finds a
movie gig to keep her out there on the big screen, and maybe squeezes in a
vacation with her husband, actor Alan Rosenberg, and son Hughie in Hawaii.
Time off is happening less because Rosenberg is keeping busy as president
of the Screen Actors Guild. Asked to name the most pressing thespian labor
issue, Helgenberger answers, “Protecting residuals. That’s an actor’s life
blood. I know so many friends who survive on residuals.”
Helgenberger has collected a few residuals herself. Her career has mostly
been defined by three TV hitches. She broke in on “Ryan’s Hope” after being
spotted in a Northwestern staging of “Taming of the Shrew”; earned an Emmy
in 1990 as a hooker to GIs on the series “China Beach”; and made an
astonishing prime-time comeback with “CSI,” which premiered in October
2000. It was the sixth-highest-rated show during sweeps two weeks ago. (One
of its two spinoffs, “CSI: Miami,” was seventh.) How long “CSI” will occupy
its Thursday night slot on CBS is anyone’s guess. Helgenberger says she is
taking each season one at a time. She remains under contract for one more year.
As for “Mr. Brooks,” she and Costner are talking about a sequel. She says
Costner has told that her the movie must make in the $40 to $50 million
range, “and we’ll be fine.”
This phone interview takes place during her latest hiatus, part of which
she is spending on an indie film with Val Kilmer called “Columbus Day.” She
plays an old girlfriend whom Kilmer’s character looks up in the wake of a
heist. “That character is the antithesis of who I play on `CSI,'” she says.
“I enjoyed playing someone with a meager existence.”
Humble Midwest roots prepared her for show business. Helgenberger’s
hometown of North Bend, Neb., boasts a population of 1,219. Back when the
renamed Marg Helgenberger Street was just the place where Helgenberger and
her parents lived, thinking of a career in acting was plain kooky.
“I had absolutely no role models,” she says. “It seemed like a pipe dream