When CSI returns this fall Catherine Willows (Marg Helgenberger) is demoted, Langston (Laurence Fishburne) has left Las Vegas and D.B. Russell (Ted Danson) has joined the crime lab as lead investigator.
“The Langston departure has had a long reach and there is fallout that we will deal with in the premiere and in the following episodes,” says CSI exec producer Carol Mendelsohn. “It has shaken things up at CSI and moved things around. It’s moved Marg around a little, and it’s moved Nick’s [George Eads] fetal pig around a little.”
That said, the changes could also be taking place to plan an exit strategy for Catherine, as Helgenberger has announced this is most likely her final season on the series. Originally, she said last season was going to be her last, but Mendelsohn talked her into staying a bit longer.
“Carol had mentioned to me at some point in midseason if there’s any way that we could perhaps wrap it up in the beginning of the next season, saying, ‘It’s more exciting for us as the writers and for the viewers,’” Helgenberger recalls. “The combination of that information and me having a hard time letting go, honestly, of this show and this group of people, said, ‘Yeah, maybe I still need it as part of the process’ and ‘I’m not done yet playing this character. I’m not done yet letting go.’”
So how does Catherine take to D.B.? Is she a little resentful with her new boss?
“There’s a little bit of resentment there,” Helgenberger says. “But Ted’s character so far is pretty endearing, and he really has a unique way of looking at a crime scene. It’s a nice kind of fresh perspective, and I think it kind of gets under everybody’s skin a little bit in a good way, and I think Catherine’s very intrigued by him. But, I think, Catherine ultimately is ‑‑ she’s a team player. Also, some liberties [were taken] at the end of last season in the way the crime was solved. She’s one to admit that things were done. This is the fallout.”
But when — and if — Helgenberger leaves the series, she will be leaving a part of her behind. Her 20-year-old son Hugh works on the series as a production assistant.
“We have been on so long that a lot of the crew members’ children, who were all little kids at the time, are now working on CSI. That makes it more of a family and even harder to leave,” she adds.
CSI premieres its12th season on a new night and time: Wednesday, Sept. 21 at 10 p.m. on CBS.