MARG HELGENBERGER, SEDUCED BY CLOONEY AND ADMIRED BY TARANTINO
By Angela Cinicolo
July 8, 2010
The sexy crime-solving lady from CSI: Crime Scene Investigation travels from Los Angeles to Rome to meet the press, confirm her presence in the eleventh season of the CBS series and to discuss highlights from her career involving the actor George Clooney and director Quentin Tarantino.
Following the arrival of Stana Katic at the Roma Fiction Fest, we see another long-awaited woman who works in crime: Marg Helgenberger, a female face that television viewers should recognize after 10 seasons! The actress has revealed to us the rumors about whether or not she will be returning to CSI for Season 11 can be put to rest: agent Catherine Willows will be around for at least another year. Ms. Helgenberger, whose character is the protagonist of the series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, one of the most successful television shows in recent years with a ten year longevity and two spin-offs, is of German origin. In her small screen role as the hardworking forensic scientist, she has in the past earned two Emmy nominations and a Golden Globe nominations, and she has carved out an increasing spaces in the series, gradually taking the place of the actor William Petersen (currently involved in the production of the show) and in the hearts of loyal viewers. Kind and cheerful, she told us her contribution to the series and in particular the construction of her character which is a collaborative effort with the writers. We could not tear rumors about the new season, which we anticipated. There will be several well known special guest stars who are loved by the general public. We then retraced the actress’ career going back to her first experience in show business as a weather announce, a memory that she remembered fondly.
The CSI star then talked about her onscreen relationship with George Clooney on the set of ER, which she participated in during the second season in the role of Karen Hines, one of Dr. Ross’ many girlfriends. She also recalled her experience working with some famous film directors who directed several memorable episodes of CSI, including Quentin Tarantino (who directed the final episode of Season Five, Grave Danger). Tarantino, who was the director of Inglorious Basterds, repeatedly expressed that he was a passionate fan of the series, and there was a strong and mutual respect when he directed the episode. Finally, we learned that waiting for her in the future, there is a project born of a film script that has been designed especially for her.
Ms. Helgenberger, according to the rumors regarding the next season of CSI: Crime Scenes Investigation, the production has not contacted you to renew the contract yet. Can you give us an official denial?
Marg Helgenberger: Yes, I was contacted last night! Actually I did not think there would be problems and I was not worried, but every time there is a negotiation in progress, there is always some drama for an actor.
Can you give us a preview of CSI Season 11?
Marg Helgenberger: I can’t tell you anything yet, but I can say that for the next season there will be some interesting guest stars that viewers will like a lot. There is also a return in the technical cast: Anthony E. Zuiker, the original creator of the show returns among the scriptwriters. I was very happy about this news because I believe that he has a very particular mind and therefore I think that the season will start off with a great BANGGGG!!
And William Petersen? Is he expected to return?
Marg Helgenberger: Petersen, for the moment, works for the series as an executive producer and often visits the set and speaks with the producers. Grissom, his character has changed… Certainly it would please me if he returned. The door is always open a little bit for all, and particularly for him, but I do not believe that we will review it… perhaps as a guest star in an episode.
Your character, Catherine Willows, will she change in the new season?
Marg Helgenberger: There will be no drastic changes, but we will be moving in a positive direction for the character. Catherine, in addition to being an expert in science, is also the daughter of the owner of the casino where she worked early and her father, who died, will return in flashbacks. I would say that there is a return to the roots, the origins of my character.
Somehow you contribute to the construction of the character you play?
Marg Helgenberger: Yes, I worked several times with the writers for my role. For example, in the pilot, Catherine was described by writers as a single mother with a past as a stripper, but two producers wanted to eliminate this aspect of the past. I fought to keep it instead because I thought those shades were important to understand the path taken by Catherine. I often encourage the writers in other aspects, such as exploring the world of Las Vegas casinos. I like how I then take ideas to life on screen.
Is it true that to start working in the entertainment world you had to change your name?
Marg Helgenberger: Yes, yes! I was about 19 years and was hired during the summer to announce the weather on television. The other journalists reporting the news and sports also had strange names and it would have been unthinkable to even add mine to theirs. So they asked me to change it and I took the name of my grandmother, which worked well.
Among her roles, she was also one of the women seduced by George Clooney in ER. At the time, the actor was already a great seducer?
Marg Helgenberger: George Clooney is a lively, intelligent, funny man. I recently had one of the producers of the series tell me he said I was the only woman for whom he had taken off his shirt!
Tell us about your experience with Quentin Tarantino on the set of Grave Danger?
Marg Helgenberger: I love Quentin Tarantino! I really enjoyed working with him. He is not only a director, but also a creator of images, a dreamer. It ‘was incredibly easy to work with him because Quentin is a director who supports the cast a lot, is very interactive with everything and is always extremely enthusiastic on the set.. He has a childlike wonder, which is contagious. I saw him a month ago at a barbecue and he told me he is still a fan of the series and continues to watch. I paid him a compliment for Inglorious Basterds because I thought it was a fantastic film, a very interesting story, and I adore his musical choices.
Is there a possibility that other film directors will sign to do new episodes?
Marg Helgenberger: In the past, in addition to Tarantino, we’ve also had William Friedkin, the director of The Exorcist and French Connection, who directed two episodes in 2007 and 2009. Unfortunately the television rhythm is very swift and the film directors like to take their time, even if I find that carry always an air of freshness and originality to a series.
Ms. Helgenberger, would you like to change the role to which we are accustomed to or be part of a production of a different kind?
Marg Helgenberger: Certainly, but I believe that the sons-in-law are also tied up to of the temporal fashions: now they are successful – the criminal, medical and legal series. When CSI will end even will be the moment to change! (Admin note: I need a better translation of this answer because the literal translation doesn’t make sense to me).
Are there series that you are a fan of now?
Marg Helgenberger: There are some series that I find appealing but I don’t have the time to watch them regularly. But there are some that I like to watch whenever I can: Nurse Jackie, Damages and Hung – Call Girl on HBO.
Missing from the cinema since 2007 (when you did the movie Mr. Brooks with Kevin Costner), do you have any projects you’re working on? Are there film productions?
Marg Helgenberger: At the moment, no, but I am in talks. Some time ago I was contacted by a director, a newcomer, who told me that he had written something specifically for me. The working title of the film is Confidence Game, but the implementation is still uncertain for the usual financial reasons.