POP CANDY: A CHAT WITH… MARG HELGENBERGER
February 21, 2006
By Whitney Matheson
Last week I had the chance to speak to Marg Helgenberger, star of the top-rated CSI (and one of my old favorite series, China Beach). While we began by talking about her hit show, the conversation soon drifted to American Idol and Bunco, a dice game popular with women that will be raising money for charity this weekend. Right now CSI is airing repeats because of the Olympics, but new episodes resume March 2.
So, what can you tell me about upcoming episodes of CSI?
What can I tell you? The one we’re still working on is another sordid tale involving a man who is a foot fetishist.
Wow, I’m suprised you guys haven’t tackled that before.
I know. Apparently, there are many foot fetishists. Oh, and within the show it’s like an episode of Cops — we have a video crew following us around. So we’re shooting on video, and that’s kind of interesting. That’ll be on in about four weeks, I guess.
Do you ever think the show goes too far?
I don’t know. I mean, sometimes I think they’re definitely pushing the envelope, but those, ironically, are the episodes that tend to get the highest viewers. So what does that tell you about American society? They’re like a car wreck, I guess — they can’t take their eyes off of it.
Last week American Idol beat CSI in the ratings, so I have to ask: Are you among the legions of Idol fans?
I have to admit that I am. I have a teenager, and it’s a show that the whole family can watch. You kind of get sucked in by some of the contestants and their stories, and, I have to say to say, the three judges and Ryan Seacrest — oh, that reminds me, I had a dream about Ryan Seacrest last night! (Laughs) Oh my God, it just came back to me. Ryan Seacrest and Simon (Cowell). It wasn’t anything naughty, it was just … we were friendly or something. I couldn’t even tell you the specifics about it.
OK, I believe you. As far as this season’s contestants go, do you have any favorites?
We have some people we can’t stand, we hope they get eliminated. Those two twins — get rid of those two! … I’m surprised they made it this far. (Editor’s note: They were eliminated last week.) The only reason they have, I think, is because they’re controversial. That’s the one thing about the show I don’t like: I hate the manipulation that makes it fall into that category of a lot of reality shows, of “We have to have the one that we hate, the one that’s annoying, the one that’s this …” I just like the pure talent of it. And the judges. And Ryan Seacrest. (Laughs)
I want to ask you about this charity event you’re attending: this weekend’s World Bunco Championship. I’m especially curious because I’ve never heard the word “Bunco” mentioned outside my mother-in-law’s kitchen.
Oh, where does she live?
Tennessee. I always thought it was just a Southern thing, but now I’m realizing it’s a lot larger than that.
Someone who works for me is from Tampa, and she said it’s huge down there. She called her sister — she’s playing tonight, in fact, and getting out the china and the whole bit.
Honestly, I didn’t know much about (Bunco), either. This tournament that’s going to be held in Las Vegas is the very first ever … A thousand women are going to be playing, and apparently, there’s 2,000 women on the waiting list. Much of the proceeds go towards the National Breast Cancer Foundation.
How did you get involved with that particular charity?
I’ve been involved with breast cancer awareness for almost 15 years. My mother is a breast cancer survivor — 23 years she’s been a survivor. The very first thing I got involved with was a speaking engagement in Omaha — I’m from that area — and the theme was “cancer is a family matter.” It was my introduction to how all these women that are survivors, and famililes of them, what a support group it is. It’s very touching, and it’s meant a lot to me throughout the last 15 years of my life.
Aside from Bunco, when you have free time on the set of CSI, what do you do?
Reading. A lot of shooting the breeze. Sometimes I play hacky sack with the guys on the crew.
And what are you usually doing on Thursday nights? Do you watch your own show or do you flip to, say, My Name is Earl?
When I’m not working, I try to see the show. So much happens in post-production in the making of CSI, with all the special effects. It’s like watching a whole other show than what you’ve read and/or what you’ve shot. I haven’t seen every episode, but I try to.
Before we go, can you give me any inside dish as to why China Beach still isn’t out on DVD?
I’ve actually asked the executive producer of that show, John Sacret Young; he’s a pretty good friend of mine. The reason I’ve been told is because … it’s always money. They don’t want to pay the royalties on the music that was used. You know, it was all that great old Motown stuff, and they claim they would have to pay quite a hefty fee in order to license it.
Man, that’s too bad.
It is too bad, isn’t it? On a selfish note, I’d like to have those three seasons on DVD, too.