Marg Helgenberger on 'Under the Dome' and a 'Proper Send-Off' for 'CSI'
You wouldn't know it by looking at her, but CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" to her latest gig on "Under the Dome," as well as guest spots on everything from "Matlock" and "The Larry Sanders Show" to "Frasier" and "ER."
Given how good the small screen's been to her throughout her long career, you probably won't be surprised when you find out which famous TV lady is her long-term professional role model, as Helgenberger shares some updates about her return to the "CSI" mothership for its final send-off in the fall and her enigmatic new role in hermetically sealed Chester's Mill.
Moviefone: What can you tell us about the big "CSI" finale, which you'll be a part of?
Marg Helgenberger: Anthony Zuiker right now is writing it, and he created the show as well. And Ann Donahue is, I think, also writing it with him, and Ann ran "CSI: Miami" for a long time. I feel badly for everyone that was on the show for all those years, and that it's now no longer, because talk about a family -- after all those years! But I'm hoping that this will be a really nice, proper send-off, not only for the show itself, but for the fans.
What have you missed about the show since you left?
It was just such a fun group of people. Probably the people, I would have to say that would be the first thing. One thing that was surprising was the structure. The structure of doing a television show for as many years as I did, you don't realize that once you leave that structure, like you kind of have to deal a little bit with the void.
Have you talked to your old partner-in-crime-solving, William Petersen?
I haven't yet. I'd love to get together with him and have lunch with him and touch base with him. I adore Billy, and we had such a great working relationship, and that will be a lot of fun. When he left the show, I just sobbed and sobbed. I was so upset. But I understood why he wanted to leave and all that. But I'm looking forward to working with everybody else too -- Jorja [Fox] and George [Eads] and Eric [Szmanda] and the whole crew. It was a fun group of actors, really fun.
What was it like to come back to television with "Under the Dome"?
I'm just having a really good time. In fact, last week, I did a scene with Eddie Cahill, and we were just sitting around waiting for next take. And I just said, "You know, sometimes, it's just really fun to be an actor." And he said, "I agree." Because this material, some of these scenes are really edgy and dark. And those are always fun to play.
There was no hesitation to take a new TV gig?
No, I've known Neal [Baer, the executive producer] for a long time. He's a super nice guy, and I think he's very talented. And when he and Tim [Schlattmann] were talking to me on the phone about this character, it just sounded kind of juicy. And they didn't disappoint. I mean, it's really been fun.
You've played plenty of strong women. How is Christine Price different for you?
Well, she's definitely strong and tough, but her manner is kind of a light touch, a little bit. I mean, she's complex -- there are a lot of sides to her, for sure. But I would say that she doesn't handle anything by force, really. It's more just this sort of subtle manipulation with a lot of the characters. Sometimes it's a little bit more of forceful in many places. Most of the time, it's more subtle.
What got you excited about working with Dean [Norris]?
Dean was on "CSI"! He did an arc on "CSI" in which I didn't have any scenes with him -- he was mostly with Laurence Fishburne. We recently did this one episode together where we were caged up together. It was really interesting scenes because we couldn't touch because there was a divider and all that kind of stuff. That kind of situation is always interesting, when you can't touch and you're trying to make contact and have an interesting moment when you have a cage between you two.
Have you read Stephen King throughout the years?
No, I have to say -- I did read "The Tommyknockers" because I was in that miniseries way back when, 22 years ago. And in fact, there were things that reminded me about that when I shot that in New Zealand. The town reminded me of Chester's Mill, and some of the characters. He tends to have a lot of similar themes in his books. But yeah, sometimes I'm catch myself going, "Wow, I guess we are doing the horror/ sci-fi genre, when you look down at your hands and they're covered in blood [laughs]."
Do you think this is going to be your last TV series?
Oh, no. Television's been very, very good to me, and I've had enormous fun on it. I'm playing a lot of different parts, and I hope it continues. I'd like to do a comedy. That would be, ideally, the next thing I'd like to do. And I've been doing theater. I did a play last summer which was really tough and challenging. And I'm working with this other company to do another play.
Are you a bit of a workaholic?
I like to work. I wouldn't say I'm a workaholic. I mean, I don't necessarily like to work every day, because the hours are long. It's not like a regular work day. But like three days out of the week, four days out of the week is fun. Especially if you like the material, if you like the people, it's a good job to have.
What do you watch for fun? What are your favorite shows?
Gosh, you know there's so much good television now. "Breaking Bad" was just fantastic. Right now, I'm binge-watching "The Walking Dead," which I had never seen, but it's an enormous hit down in the South [where "Under the Dome" is shot]. I mean, I know it's an enormous hit everywhere, but the South because it's set in Atlanta and shoots in Atlanta, I didn't realize that it was as big of [an audience] -- I mean, it's a cult show, but it's like an enormous cult there. And it's just so well done, that show. The acting's really wonderful and it's incredibly suspenseful -- if you can get past the gore and the violence. Maybe because there's zombies, this doesn't feel as violent, because if they were real people, or humans or whatever, I don't think I could [take it] -- but the suspense is fantastic.
I watch a lot of comedies, I have to say. I watch Comedy Central a lot. I love that show, "Broad City." I think those women are hilarious. I love "Key & Peele." "Inside Amy Schumer," I think, is pretty genius. Believe it or not, this last year because I had a few months between jobs, and I actually started studying improv comedy. So I'd done like three levels, and then I had to drop out because of this show. But I'll go back because it's really fun. I find it kind of opens a person up, and it's freeing. And you don't take yourself so seriously.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I want to go out like Betty White, honestly! Betty White is sort of one of my heroes. I think she's most actresses' heroes because look at her: she's in her nineties and she still has the energy of a young woman and the comic timing of a young person. It does keep you sharp -- it's a fun job. I can't complain. I just feel like really lucky and blessed to have the career that I have.