CSI STAR AT HOME
October 31, 2001
“The Guardian”‘s ALAN ROSENBERG plays CYBILL SHEPHERD’s ex-husband on TV. But off-camera, he’s married to “CSI” beauty and Emmy Award winner MARG HELGENBERGER. They’ve been together 16 years, but the couple would never have hooked up if Marg hadn’t made the first move!
ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT: Any hesitations about having two parents working on episodic television at the same time?
MARG HELGENBERGER: Hesitation about accepting the job, you mean? Either one of the jobs?
ET: Well, yes.
ALAN ROSENBERG: Not on my part. I’m a man, I got tired of being Mr. Helgenberger for a year. No, it was fantastic, I’m very proud of Margie. But work is so sporadic in this business, you get a job, you take it. It would have been a problem if it was out of town, but this was just beautiful because it’s in L.A., and Marg’s in L.A. We’ve been able to stay together more than we ever have in the past 10 years.
ET: You mean you guys actually see each other?
MARG: Once in awhile.
ALAN: She works nights mostly. I work days.
ET: If you’re working on a sitcom, you’ve got that nice 9-5 thing going on. But hour shows, it’s crazy, 12-14 hours a day, right?
MARG: Yes, and it changes over time and the location changes all the time. I have to say, although I envy the sitcom schedule, I don’t envy them being in a sound stage all the time. I really like being on location. It’s really fun; it makes you feel like you’re doing movies. I like the variety.
ET: How do you like being on a show that’s a hit, too? How often do you get to say that?
MARG: Love it! Not very often, not very often. The last TV show I did, “China Beach,” in the late 80’s, went three years, and that was a hit. I was proud and fortunate to be on that, but I did a lot of other things in-between.
ALAN: This show is a whole other level of success.
MARG: Yeah, this is a much bigger hit than that was.
ALAN: “China Beach” was a wonderful artistic achievement, but it was always struggling. From year to year, you weren’t sure you were going to be on the air. It’s nice to have some security.
ET: So did you know going into “CSI” that you had lightening in a bottle?
MARG: I don’t know. I had a good feeling about the show when I read it, and when we shot the pilot, I thought it really stood a chance. I thought that there was an audience out there for it because of its emphasis on forensic science, which hadn’t been dealt with on television shows the way we handle it — between the stylish elements and the flashbacks.
I think we premiered number eight, which is pretty high. I think everybody was astonished by that on a Friday night at 9 o’clock, after “The Fugitive,’ which everyone thought would be the big hit.
ALAN: It had you in it; that’s part of the reason.
MARG: Thank you.
ET: Going into a new show like “The Guardian,” is there any sense that you’ve got something that may be around for awhile?
ALAN: I think so. As for the pilot I was thrilled. This year, we were told we were doing a pilot presentation. That’s a new thing in the past several years, and for some reason it comes with a pejorative context. You don’t think you stand as good of a chance as a regular pilot.
But when I saw this thing, I was astounded. It seemed to have a real style. It looked like they spent the money to make a real good show, and it seemed to work. The kid playing the lead in this, SIMON BAKER, is phenomenal.
To answer your question, I wasn’t sure when we shot the pilot if it had the edge CBS is looking for now. But when I saw what the director did with it, I thought it had a real shot at success.
ET: What about it moved you?
ALAN: Well, it’s funny; we deal with children in peril. Margie and I talk about it a lot — whenever TV shows are having trouble with ratings, they put a “child-in-peril” episode on to boost the ratings. And although our show deals with children, I don’t think we do that. It’s moving to see how this closed-off man relates to these kids, and how, little by little, his heart thaws. It’s kind of painful to watch. But this kid was fantastic. The reason people got hooked and cried was because of Simon Baker, and the way he fought giving into this kid emotionally.
ET: “CSI” is cutting new ground. How do you feel about your lead-in, the show “Survivor?”
MARG: Well, it helped us last season, when they moved us from Fridays to Thursdays, and that was our lead-in. We went from being consistently in the late upper-teens, to being in the top five shows.
I don’t know if these reality shows are doing that well now, given the current state of affairs. I’m hoping that’s not that case for “Survivor” for selfish reasons. That show was the predecessor to all of them, and I think people prefer it.
ET: So both of your shows are dark and heavy. How do you not bring that home?
ALAN: It’s acting. I was once in an episode of ‘ER’ as a dying heart patient. I was in bed all night long with tubes, and that was a little tough to detach from. I left during the day because that was intense. I know my job, I’d love them to write more for me, but I go there three days a week, and then I go play.
ET: But Marg, you do incredible things with dead people. How do you cope?
MARG: Well, like Alan alluded to, I think if you’re the victim, or if you’re the one being persecuted, it’s harder to let go when you come home. Being the criminalist, you’re somewhat removed. Your job is to be objective and see through the graphic nature of what’s happened to the person. People ask me all the time if I get squeamish, but I think it’s more about having compassion for the victim, and the last few moments of their life. How do you not sympathize with that?
ALAN: It’s interesting; it depends on the role. When I did theatre and got a heavy role, I was immersed in it for months, every night. It’s tough to get it out of your head — like Margie, when she was playing PATSY RAMSEY, or her character in ‘Erin Brockovich.’ She’s a great actress, she stays in that state a lot. I tend to roll off at the end of the day.
ET: You are both parents with jobs. How do you pull that off?
MARG: Well, he’s obviously our priority. I always look to see what events I really want to be a part of — because I’m not always available to pick him up from school or to take him to school. I ask in advance of the producers, can I have this night off for the important things?
ALAN: Whatever we’ve done, he’s turning into a great kid. Before Margie started working on “CSI,” she was on location a lot, three times a year, to do TV movies. I was doing different TV series. He’d go with Margie on location, spend a week, then I’d go back and he’d spend a week with me. It was fragmented in a way, but then we were home.
We have a lot more time to spend with him than my parents ever did with us. My father was a great father, but he never coached my basketball team or went to my sporting events. He worked Monday through Friday and played golf on the weekends. I coach his basketball team; we’re at every sporting event, Margie spends hours with him practicing the piano, so I think in some ways, he gets more with us than the average kid did when I was growing up.
ET: So how’d you guys meet? Blind date?
ALAN: We’re married 12 years, together for 16. We met years ago in New York. Margie was discovered in college and put on a soap, “Ryan’s Hope.” She was just starting her ascent in this business, and I was going to give it up for law school.
To make some money, I did a soap for a month, and we worked together. I was halfway married to somebody else, but I thought she was beautiful and talented and delightful. She talked to me, which I couldn’t believe, she was the star of the thing. Then I got divorced a couple years later and moved out to L.A. We met each other in a bank in West Hollywood. Again, I was looking for a job, and she was doing a TV series. She remembered me, and she called me and asked me out.
MARG: You’re making me sound like I’m shallow or something!
ALAN: No, no. On those soap operas, you come for a day and nobody talks to you. You were different, you actually took time, and everybody on that show said that about you, that you were the friendliest.
ET: You met in a bank, so you were making a withdrawal, and she was making a deposit, probably.
MARG: That’s exactly right!
ALAN: How many times I used that line? That’s exactly right, but she remembered me, and, thank God, she asked me out. Things moved very quickly, and it’s been a great 16 years.