CSI star Marg Helgenberger is contemplating life beyond the hit drama
THE warning signs were there towards the end of 2009. Marg Helgenberger, who for the past 10 years has played Catherine Willows on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, was growing increasingly frustrated with the show.
She may have been pocketing a lazy $420,000 per episode of the massively successful drama series, but was clearly thinking about life beyond it.
Helgenberger, 51, has enjoyed recent storylines that allowed Willows to have a boyfriend on CSI, but says the procedural side of working on a crime show can be boring.
Like former co-star William Petersen, who quit the show to explore new career opportunities, Helgenberger is keen to spread her creative wings. It remains to be seen if CSI can endure without two popular foundation cast members.
‘‘ The show is driven by science and by the plot,’’ Helgenberger says. ‘‘ It’s not always fun.’’
Helgenberger had been thinking about walking away from the show at the end of season 10.
It’s believed she signed on for 19 episodes of season 11 partly because she didn’t do as well as she’d hoped out of her divorce settlement with husband Alan Rosenberg.
Helgenberger had cited irreconcilable differences as the reason for the split with Rosenberg. The pair, who have a son, Hugh, separated in March 2009, with Helgenberger’s agent saying, ‘‘ Marg and Alan have decided to take some time apart. They love and respect each other and remain committed to their family.’’
Helgenberger has said she and Rosenberg are on good terms, but ‘‘ the way the money was divided (they divorced in February) certainly had something to do with me deciding to come back for another season’’.
The network had wanted to nail a new long-term contract with Helgenberger, but she hasn’t committed beyond her 19-episode stint on season 11.
Kicking back in her trailer on the CSI lot in Los Angeles, a makeshift home that is adorned with pictures of her son and close friends, Helgenberger is explaining how 14-hour days at work can be a challenge.
She’s momentarily distracted by an image on her TV screen.
‘‘ What the hell is he doing, is he peeing?’’ she asks, leaning forward to focus on the telecast of a football match.
‘‘ Sorry,’’ she says, before talking about her love of the sport. ‘‘ I watch a lot of football. I love American football. We have a pool (ladder competition) here at work and I participate in that. It’s a tough competition because even though teams are the favourite to win, anything can happen. That’s what makes it a game and I do love that.’’
After confessing she’s a football nut, Helgenberger begins talking about the TV shows she loves and loathes.
One of her all-time favourites was gangster series The Sopranos. But she’s finding Don Draper sleeping around
in 1960s drama Mad Men repetitive and unappealing.
She says she doesn’t have time to watch other crime shows such as CSI spin-offs CSI: Miami and CSI: New York. Instead she spends her downtime attending the book club she founded.
‘‘ I started a book club about 12 years ago because I felt so ignorant about books I hadn’t read,’’ she says. ‘‘ The amount of books we’ve read over those 12 years has been significant. In fact, see War And Peace sitting over there,’’ she adds, pointing to a book sitting on a coffee table.
‘‘ I just can’t get into it. The print is so small and I am intimidated by it because there is just no way I am going to finish it. I think I can read at night and then I get home and am so tired that it’s so much easier to watch a show I’ve recorded on Tivo.’’
She’s less enthusiastic to discuss cosmetic surgery, but confesses it takes a little more time than it used to to get camera-ready.
‘‘ It’s all down to the lighting, hair and make-up. They make me look really good,’’ Helgenberger says. ‘‘ I wouldn’t say I’m a (health) fanatic. I like to do something about four or five times a week, like yoga, the gym or hiking with my dog but I wouldn’t say it’s a daily thing.’’
She’s also learned to be more cautious of fatty food blowouts.
‘‘ I am better at it (managing her weight) now that I’ve gotten older because my metabolism has slowed,’’ she says.
‘‘ I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t feel insecure from time to time, but hopefully one thing that comes when you get older is you get a little bit more relaxed and loose about things and you don’t worry about things you may have worried about when you were younger.’’ CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Channel 9, Thursday, 8.30pm
Cash strapped: Marg Helgenberger is back thanks to her divorce.