INTERVIEW FROM ITALY – SPOTLIGHT ON MARG HELGENBERGER – JULY 2010
This interview was conducted while Marg was in Italy for the Roma Fiction Festival during the week of July 5-10. Below is a transcript of Marg’s answers to that questions that were asked. (Note that the questions that were asked to Marg were not on the video)
I know. After ten seasons, I guess we’re doing something right.
I always describe CSI as a modern day Sherlock Holmes — Sherlock Holmes for the twenty-first century. Obviously it’s a mystery show and we solve the crimes by use of forensic science and with the use of all the visual effects, what’s now being called the “CSI Shot”, you know, with a bullet traveling through the body. That’s the twenty-first century technology that we’ve incorporated into old fashion story telling.
I had a very strong hunch when I read the script of CSI, the original script, that it had a very strong chance of becoming a success. I wouldn’t have guessed it to be as successful as it has become — in that, you know, it’s worldwide success, as well as how it has inspired generations of kids to become criminalists. And I wouldn’t have anticipated it becoming a global hit. But as I always say too, a great mystery show will always be popular.
Catherine is a very strong woman. Yes, she is a role model, and I feel a responsibility towards the young people. I want to make sure that I’m presenting this character in the best possible light, and somebody who’s got all the qualities that I’d like to see a young person have: intelligence, someone who’s thorough, someone who’s passionate about what they do, someone who’s competent, somebody who has got incredible integrity and strength.
Well, in television there are multitude of opportunities for women, not just in front of the camera. Clearly there’s much more opportunities than there are on film unfortunately. But, fortunately for us, television exists.
Many of the stories on CSI are based on real crimes. In fact, those are the ones that I as an actor feel most compelled to do justice to – because either I have access to the police reports or I have access to perhaps to some of the people involved in solving that crime, to hear their stories and to hear what they went through when they were involved in that case, which you can’t help but be riveted to and to do them justice and be honest and truthful.
Because audiences are fascinated with the show and fascinated with how we solve crimes and the use of forensic science, they come to expect certain kinds of crime scene procedures — the way real cops solve crimes, the way real criminalists solve crimes. But obviously we take liberties in story telling. We have to speed up the process, that analysis, because, you know, normally it takes two weeks perhaps to get like a toxicology report or DNA results. I think now people are smart enough to realize that, you know, there are steps that you cannot cut out when you’re dealing with life and death. Real life and death. So I think the whole ‘CSI effect’ — I think that term has sort of died down a little bit.
Well, having done two hundred and twenty plus episodes over the past ten seasons, we’ve explored worlds in which I never would have been exposed to. There was an episode we did a few years back in which we explored the world of Plushies and Furries, which very few people know about because it’s a very small subculture of kind of a reclusive personality. It kind of was one of those jaw-dropping sort of sights, in which we were both left kind of speechless. But it helped us when we were shooting the episode because when something is so foreign to you, it’s hard to relate to it. But once it’s sort of within your grasp, you have a visual on it, you’ve actually spoken to people that are a part of that world, then it becomes somewhat a part of you and then you’re able to portray it and able to bring it to life.
I once shot a movie in Kentucky with Steven Seagal, which was kind of a unique experience. It’s hard to get into it, into too many details about that, but he’s a unique individual, Steven Seagal. And there’s quite a few stories that came out of that particular movie…experience.
I actually knew all the producers and writers because the first television series I did in the states was called China Beach and they all were part of that program. So I felt really…and I knew a lot of the crew, so I felt very comfortable when I walked onto the set. And it was, I think, it was the second season of ER when it was just the hottest show in the world. And George Clooney was just becoming a huge star at the time. I think he just had one film, I’m not exactly sure. He was becoming a movie star and he was great. He was fun, he was energetic. He was easy to work with. He was quite beloved on the set. He made it a real enjoyable experience.
Yes, I worked with Steven Spielberg a very long time ago. I’d say twenty, at least twenty years ago, in a film called Always, which was a very good film. Richard Dreyfuss was in it, Holly Hunter and John Goodman. I remember one time we were shooting in kind of a remote area in Washington State and Steven was…we were getting ready to shoot this one particular scene. And I remember Steven just standing there, just saying to whoever was willing to listen, saying “God, I love making movies.” And he had already made so many great films at that point. And I think he just has that kind of boyish enthusiasm and his complete love for the story telling — for the craft of movie making. And I don’t think that is something that a person ever loses, certainly somebody as successful as Steven. Jerry Bruckheimer, who is the producer of CSI, is similar in that way, in that he loves the craft of movie making and loves the marketing of movie making, and loves sort of the bigness — both he and Steven share that — the bigness of what the cinema can do. And Jerry was very successful in taking the visual that he does so well for his films and bringing that to the small screen. It has been a pleasure working with him. Both of them, it was a pleasure working with.
Well, having just met with the producers a couple of weeks ago back in Los Angeles, they gave me some hints what they were planning, There’s some special guest stars which I don’t want to reveal because it will spoil the surprise. But in terms of what’s going to be happening, I know in the beginning of the season we’re gonna wrap up how our tenth season ended because it was a bit of a cliffhanger. And also Catherine has a boyfriend on the show now, which I couldn’t be happier with because it’s something that I’ve wanted for a while. And I wanted to show, like, a little more intimate side of Catherine because she’s always so kind of contained and together. This shows her vulnerability and shows her passion. That’s what I can speak of, on behalf of what Catherine’s about. I can’t speak from anything else so…
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