CELEB WATCH: MARG HELGENBERGER FOCUSES ON FAMILY
By Will Keck, USA TODAY
March 16, 2008
LOS ANGELES – After shooting more than 175 episodes of TV’s top-rated scripted series, you would think CSI’s Marg Helgenberger would be perfectly at ease in the Sybil Brand Women’s Prison, where she has come to shoot a scene for her show’s return April 3.
But Helgenberger still cringes as she passes the abandoned prison’s cell blocks and showers, a harsh contrast to the luxurious 1925 Spanish Mediterranean home she and her actor husband, Alan Rosenberg, purchased last year and are in the process of restoring.
With much work remaining, plans to hold a high school graduation party there for their 17-year-old son, Hugh, are off. Now looking ahead to November, Helgenberger hopes the refurbishing will be completed in time to throw herself a 50th birthday soiree.
“If it’s not ready by then, I’ll be really (upset),” she says with a laugh. “That’s not just another day. I’d like to say I’m carefree about moving into a different decade, but oh no.”
Helgenberger is quick to remind that she is in good company with Michelle Pfeiffer and Madonna – two “vibrant and vital” women, she says, who also turn the big 5-0 in ’08.
Though she has found her greatest success on TV, Helgenberger routinely pops up on the big screen in films such as 2004’s In Good Company and last year’s Mr. Brooks. Her latest, which is about to hit the film-fest circuit, is the heist caper Columbus Day, co-starring Val Kilmer and Wilmer Valderrama.
But she’s not about to abandon her CSI team anytime soon, as former co-star Jorja Fox did last year. Of Fox’s decision to leave, Helgenberger says, “I know she considered not wanting to forget to have a baby. And I think she kind of wanted a break from the heinous crimes our show deals with.”
The women have maintained an off-screen friendship. Last month, the two caught up at L.A.’s Gay and Lesbian Center, where Fox produced a play about the life of late lesbian pop star Dusty Springfield. Helgenberger was also a recent guest at Fox’s San Clemente beach home, where Fox has been spending much of her free time out in the ocean on her surfboard.
Helgenberger and Rosenberg have had to brave some rough waters themselves. He is president of the Screen Actors Guild, which may go on strike in June if a new contract is not negotiated. Some actors, Helgenberger says, have accused her husband of being “strike-happy.” At January’s Screen Actors Guild Awards, Rosenberg went head-to-head with Sally Field as Helgenberger and Hugh looked on aghast.
Field’s publicist, Heidi Schaeffer, says Field approached Rosenberg after the ceremony and “expected a civil exchange of ideas. What she received was an incensed reaction, and Alan became agitated … and eventually she did, too.”
But, Helgenberger says, “people have to chill out. Strikes bring out all kinds of qualities in people – the good, the bad and the downright ugly.” She stresses that no one, especially Rosenberg, wants another walkout after the now-settled Hollywood writers’ strike.
She and her CSI co-stars are returning to work with renewed appreciation for their characters.
After eight years of embodying stripper-turned-CSIer Catherine Willows, Helgenberger believes both have grown to be “more wise and reflective, confident, relaxed and assured.” And the unexpected downtime “made us thrilled to come back.”