Exit wound

CSI star Marg Hel­gen­berger is con­tem­plat­ing life be­yond the hit drama

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Cover Story -

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.

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