CSI: Crime Scene Investigation premiered 21 years ago today, and it was a hit series that helped create a whole new style of police drama, while pushing interest in forensics, and even science.
Now, CSI: Vegas is heading back to the origins of the franchise, with both familiar and new faces, working with modern tools, and a whole new set of problems.
William Petersen and Jorja Fox return alongside Wallace Langham, Paula Newsome, Matt Lauria, Mel Rodriguez, and Mandeep Dhillon. Working with the latest technology, the new Crime Lab face a major case that threatens to not only shut down their work, but release thousands of convicted killers back onto the streets of Las Vegas.
Led by Maxine Roby, played by the amazing Newsome, CSI: Vegas is instantly familiar, for long-time CSI fans, and it’s also a great place to start for new viewers.
Sitting down with Newsome and Fox, I chatted with the stars about what makes CSI: Vegas fresh and interesting, not to mention relevant today.
CSI: Vegas premieres Wednesday, October 6 at 10:00 PM (ET/PT) on Global in Canada, and it’s available to stream on the Global TV App and STACK TV. In the U.S., tune in to CBS at 10:00 PM, 9:00 PM Central.
Returning to the role of Sara Sidle, Fox said that she was thrilled to play the character again, and she had been thinking about finding a way to come back to her one day.
“You know, Sara Sidle is obviously my favourite character I’ve ever gotten to portray and she’s absolutely stayed with me,” Fox said. “There were a couple of years that I would quietly say, ‘you know, I want to do a podcast.’ Where is Sarah? Where’s Sarah and Christina? For me, being like a wildlife nerd and a lover of travelling, I’d always thought that would be like a cool little thing to sort of pick up on where they are.”
Coming back again to the character, Fox also thought that she had changed a lot over the years.
“I’m not sure I’ve changed much since I was like five, and I’m not proud of that. [I am] the same soul that I’ve always been, but I think Sara, over the course of the journey that she’s taken, has learned. She’s been able to wrestle demons from her childhood. She’s learned how to love the person that she loves and be in the same room with them at the same time.”
“And I think she’s learned how to be a whole full person without being attached to also solving these horrible crimes.”
For Newsome, coming from hit TV shows, film, and Broadway, CSI: Vegas offered unique challenges, and rewards.
“It is a massive set,” she said. “I’ve been working as an actress in television for a long time, but this is its own world. You know, the responsibility of it… [and] stepping up to the technical requirements of it.”
“But I’ll say, more than anything, quite honestly, the best part about it is having amazing actors like Billy [Petersen] and Jorja, and the other new actors like myself around, it just makes it very easy.”
Newsome also admitted that the show offered her a chance to do something different.
“Someone told me a long time ago that a lot of people get something free going on camera or going on stage. We each get a quality, right. And my quality, that he told me, was strength; I never have to push that.”
“So many times along my career, I’ve had people tell me, ‘no, that’s too much. We don’t want all that,’ because it just pushes against other kinds of power structures in the room or on the camera. And what’s beautiful about this particular show, the show is like, ‘no, we want all that. We want the funny, we want the strength, we want [you] to bring it, bring all of that,’ and that is a miracle that’s beautiful.”
CSI: Vegas makes room for this new team, with a lot more focus on the women, and Fox had a few insights into how the show is reflecting modern crime scene investigators, too.
“We’ve got some amazing women…. on the show and a lot of female CSI’s. Daniel Holstein, our tech advisor on this rendition of the series–who’s maybe arguably the best CSI that ever was and the character of Gil Grissom was based on him–said that when the show started 20 years ago, about 90% of the CSI’s in the United States were guys.”
“[I]n 2021, that statistic is almost reversed,” she said. “So we’re also reflecting the reality of America and what America looks like… there’s a lot of women doing the job, but I hope that everybody enjoys it.”
Talking about the origins of CSI, Fox was still impressed with how the show took off in October of 2000.
“Anthony [Zuiker] and the writers tapped into something. Nobody knew when we were all doing it in the beginning; none of us had any idea I think that it would turn into this incredible thing,” Fox said.
“I’ve said this already, that science is kind of like the sixth cast member of the show and the seventh star of the show, and the science has continued to evolve weekly and daily. And I think it’s going to be like this for a while.”
“And so we’ve got this incredible star of the show that we’ll always be able to present something new and exciting and dynamic… and I think that has been one element to the show’s success.”
Talking about the mood between them, Newsome also loves the bond that she feels between the two characters.
“There’s a connection between these two women,” Newsome said, “between Max and Sarah, that I feel on camera. That’s just a pleasure. There’s an ease as a women at a certain point in their career; at a certain point in life. That makes it very easy and a pleasure to work with.”
Fox and Newsome shared a lot of laughs during the chat, and appreciation for working together. Fox in particular had a lot to say about working with her incredible co-star.
“I can say that I’m a huge fan of Paula Newsome’s work and I was kind of nervous, you know, to work with [her]… but I sort of very sheepishly reached out to Paula on it and said, can we meet maybe before we start shooting? And before all the craziness is around, just so I could actually sort of breathe and get centered so we can work together, and she’s amazing.”
“What a powerhouse, what dynamicism. She’s going to bring strength and humor to this show in a way that we haven’t seen before. I’m so excited.”
Finally, Newsome had a lot of praise for the show and the team behind it.
“Yeah, it is a different world. The past couple of years, after what happened on that horrible day in May [referring to the death of George Floyd in May 2020), has created a lot of things all over the world, and I’m grateful to CBS and Jerry Bruckheimer Television for stepping into that change. You know what I mean? Because there are a lot of us who have been ready and waiting for it. And I’m grateful for that.”
Photos: Sonja Flemming/CBS.