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One of CSI's originals returns for a highly anticipated reboot on Global—and chats with TV Week
TV Week: Did you continue to watch the original CSI at all after you left?William Petersen: I actually didn’t watch the show that much when I was shooting the show, except at the very beginning to see what we had. By being in the show, I felt like I knew the show… It was unexpected to be asked to start a new version of this, and I sort of jumped at it because of the idea of revisiting, especially for me, Grissom, and Jorja’s character, Sara, and to see who we are now… It’s a different world than it was 20 years ago. So, the idea of being able to come back into the land of science, I thought was really a great opportunity.
Does slipping into Grissom’s shoes after all this time feel different?Yeah, it’s different. It’s different because it’s 20 years later. And it’s different because it’s all new people, too. That’s all been great and exciting. It’s a real thrill to be able to do this with everybody again.
In what ways do you think you’re like Grissom, and in what ways are you not like him?You know, when I started this, way back, I never liked science. I didn’t like it in school. I just didn’t understand it. It sort of worked the other side of my brain, which is pretty empty. And once I started this, I became fascinated by it. I learned so much just through the process of daily dealing with tech advisers and the real scientists that we get to interact with. I’ve become more like Grissom, in that I appreciate the things that he appreciates. I think Grissom’s a little like me, in that I’d like to be off on a boat somewhere, which is where Grissom ended up for a long time until this point.
Was there anything that was, after all this time away from the franchise, difficult to pick back up?Well, yeah. I hadn’t done any television acting in a long time: like, since we did the finale [in 2015, when Petersen returned as a guest star]. It was interesting because it’s a whole new lab; it’s new construction. It’s all kinds of new machines and new technology that Grissom wouldn’t have been all that comfortable with even 10 years ago. I think the skills in the lab itself were sort of rusty. Just to be able to do a pipette and make sure that the material you’re trying to transfer doesn’t end up on the floor, that was—you know, keeping your hand steady is a trick.
Did the fact that you were playing such an intellectual character who didn’t do a lot of shooting and running around make Grissom more interesting to play for all those years?Yes, very much so. That was one of the big things that I was trying to do when we first started. In the whole creation of the first CSI, the idea was I didn’t want to carry a gun at all, you know? And I don’t, mostly. I think there were maybe two times when I had to involve myself with a handgun. That was a big part of it. Having played cops and run around all over L.A. and the East Coast chasing bad guys, and shooting them or being shot myself… the idea of being able to work with just the mind—as an actor, that was a challenge and a great opportunity to grow as a performer.
CSI: Vegas airs on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on Global & CBS