‘CSI: Vegas’ welcomes franchise veteran Marg Helgenberger

Emmy winner reprises role from original series in sequel

Marg Helgenberger (left) and Paula Newsome star in “CSI: Vegas,” as Season 2 starts Thursday on CBS.

“CSI: Vegas” is losing some familiar faces as its second season begins, but another one is rejoining the franchise.

Emmy winner Marg Helgenberger returns to the fold as forensic sleuth Catherine Willows when the CBS crime-drama sequel resumes Thursday, Sept. 29. The “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” character left during the 12th of that show’s 15 years, then reappeared in its finale. Now, Willows asks current Las Vegas CSI chief Maxine Roby (Paula Newsome) to reinstate her — and there’s room, since Gil Grissom and Sara Sidle (William Petersen, Jorja Fox) are gone again, along with Dr. Hugo Ramirez (Mel Rodriguez).

“There was some talk that they were interested in me for the first season, but it really didn’t go much farther,” Helgenberger says. “I was committed to another show, plus after the first conversation I had, COVID shut the world down … so it just kind of disappeared. That pilot didn’t go forward, then ‘All Rise’ (the law drama picked up by OWN after CBS canceled it) came back to me. While I was shooting that, (the ‘CSI: Vegas’ producers) asked my reps if I’d be interested in doing Season 2.”

Marg Helgenberger joins “CSI: Vegas,” as Season 2 starts Thursday on CBS.

However, Helgenberger admits she “wasn’t sure” about stepping back into Willows’ shoes: “The more I thought about it, if I could come back in a way I thought was appropriate for Catherine, we could work something out.

“I had a pretty close relationship with the woman she was based on, who worked in a Las Vegas crime lab, and she left around the time I left ‘CSI.’ I asked her why, and she said, ‘I just saw a lot of my colleagues dying relatively young.’ I remember really well that she said it was a job that takes its toll on you, and that’s what I mentioned to the producers. And that led us to a collaboration on bringing Catherine back.”

Noting that Willows now has “quite an emotional journey, which I didn’t see coming,” Helgenberger adds that there still are things for her alter ego to learn on the job. “There’s all this new technology and equipment and processing. Clearly being the senior member of this group, there are thoughts about what she can impart to the others, and she feels the respect for all the experience she has.”

The “CSI: Vegas” stint marks a rare revisiting of a role by Helgenberger, who also was in the first two “Species” movies. “There isn’t that anxiety about trying to ‘find’ her,” the actress notes. “I’ve done that already, so I walk on the set with that kind of confidence, but it’s interesting to do this with a new set of characters. It’s almost like I’m in a first-season show.”

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin has decades of experience covering the television and movie businesses, winning Tribune Media Services’ Crown Jewel Award in 2008 for his performance in the company. Over those many years of interviewing and writing, he has spoken with everyone from Robert De Niro and John Travolta to Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett … from Meryl Streep and Julie Andrews to Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.

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