Bryant Gumbel: Although it now may seem hard to believe, it was just two years ago the hit drama “CSI” barely made it on to the primetime schedule. The show has since become a hit with an unusual look at forensic investigators who solve crimes with science.
Bryant Gumbel The stars of “CSI” are William Petersen, Marg Helgenberger, Gary Dourdan, Jorja Fox and Paul Guilfoyle. Good morning, everybody.
(EVERYONE): Good morning, Bryant.
Bryant Gumbel Show of hands. Who thought this show was gonna be a hit? “(Everyone but Jorja raises their hands.)”
Bryant Gumbel Oh, come on!
Gary Dourdan It was the script. See, it was the material…
Marg Helgenberger Absolutely. No doubt in my mind.
Bryant Gumbel Really?
Gary Dourdan A hit. We knew it was gonna be good, but I think that no one expected it.
William Petersen We didn’t know it was gonna be, you know, 25, 28 million people watching.
Marg Helgenberger We didn’t think…
Paul Guilfoyle “(jokingly)” And I think everything I do is gonna be a hit.
Bryant Gumbel Well, it’s the one next to you “(pointing to Jorja)” that seems to be the good luck charm. I mean, regular on “[[ER]],” regular on “[[The West Wing|West Wing]],” regular on “CSI.” Sign you up in the making!
Jorja Fox Thank you. I didn’t think the show was gonna be a hit. I think I was the only one that didn’t. I had so much hope and faith and so much belief in “CSI,” but I really wasn’t quite sure we were gonna stay on the air, but I was really happy…
Bryant Gumbel Why not?
Jorja Fox Well, I think it was a hard pitch at first for a lot of people. We were last to go at everything. Last to get picked up, like you said. And talking about death and science.
William Petersen Hair fibers are a major element of the thing, and fingerprints. It was a question of how well we were gonna be able to translate that to the screen.
Bryant Gumbel Well, usually audiences are turned off by things that are about death, that are bloody, that are macabre. What are they responding to in this case?
Paul Guilfoyle Well, I think that the professionalism of the people. I think all drama is about people and interaction and I think they’re really responding to all of us as a group. However we all cemented together is, I think, what people are responding to.
William Petersen We’re all just working people, I mean, on the show and we operate in our jobs the way people go to work and operate in their jobs. We’re very technical, very proficient, and I think it’s interesting to watch the process. I think people enjoy watching the process of us put the science to the crime and solve the puzzle.
Bryant Gumbel But most of the time, people view people who are engaged with science as nerds. How are nerds turned into heroes?
Jorja Fox We’re nerds.
William Petersen We’re nerds. We just have better clothes.
Paul Guilfoyle I think also that the plot, that crime is the antagonist of our show. So, you watch this group of dedicated professionals try to come up against or conflict with the crime itself. So I think that’s what takes it away from the nerd thing is because of what we’re dealing with.
Bryant Gumbel How much do you really know, any of you, about forensics?
Marg Helgenberger We’re getting to know more and more everyday. I mean, I knew very little when we began.
Paul Guilfoyle And I don’t leave my fingerprints on anything.
Marg Helgenberger No, I do. I think about that all the time, whether or not I need to put on a pair of gloves or not.
Bryant Gumbel Come on!
Marg Helgenberger I do!
William Petersen Every couple of months, we get better and better, at least, at being able to use the tools and being able to know what the tools are used for. I’m certain now if we came across a crime scene, we would at least know how to secure it.
Marg Helgenberger Well, for instance, sometimes they’ll do shots that don’t include us, like tape-lifting prints from something and it would have been an added shot. And I saw this on an episode recently and my character was supposed to be doing it and I actually did it on the master. And then I saw the close-up and it was not my print. And it was so sloppy. And I felt like I wanna be doing my own inserts now because it was done…
Bryant Gumbel I’m gonna ask you, look, the show is fiction, but is the science [exact]? I mean, is that the one thing you never tamper with?
William Petersen The science is all real. The stuff we use is real, and the way we use it is all real.
Paul Guilfoyle And I think some of the crimes are all real. They’re based on real crimes. There’s a lot of crime out there, unfortunately.
Marg Helgenberger The process is sped up.
Bryant Gumbel You’re never hurting for story lines.
Paul Guilfoyle No.
Jorja Fox Unfortunately.
Bryant Gumbel Yeah, it is unfortunate. Talk to me about the collaborative effort of this. I mean, as I look at all of you, you’ve all had individual achievements and have been primary players in something else. Is it something where you have to check your ego at the door of a show like this?
William Petersen I think that’s the wise thing to do with all work. Otherwise, it’s a long day. It’s a long day if you don’t. And the great thing about this show, and I think in this case we’re different than a lot of “hit” television shows in that our writers, our producers, our actors, our crew, even all the way to the network, we are very collaborative. It’s not just one person’s decision, as many hit television shows are. They come from one voice. We have a whole lot of people that work very hard all day long with each other to try and make this stuff work.
Bryant Gumbel Do you get involved in the plot lines, the story lines? You’re making a face there, Jorja. Yeah?
Jorja Fox Yeah. We do.
Gary Dourdan Somewhat, yeah.
Jorja Fox ‘Cause we’re dedicated. So, I don’t know. Sometimes even for better for worse, I don’t know if everybody always wants to hear from us, but they always act like they do. And they let us talk and they listen to us a lot, which is very kind of them.
Paul Guilfoyle And acting is kind of the detailed work, almost like the way forensics is and in the course of the process of creating a television show, the acting is kind of the final touchstone of reality, and so I think that’s where we all have our own unique experiences.
Bryant Gumbel In the final moments we’ve got left the show is now going to have a spin-off. How uncomfortable are all of you with that?
William Petersen As actors, I think anytime something else comes along to try and compare to your stuff, you get a little queasy about it.
Bryant Gumbel But you have the same people and they now have their attention split.
William Petersen Here’s the deal. It’s a very successful show and the network is … and what “Law and Order” has done to television is a remarkable thing and I think that CBS is interested in some of that.
Paul Guilfoyle That’s a very provocative question, by the way, Bryant.
Bryant Gumbel We’ll have to pursue it during the commercial. Guys, thanks very much and congratulations.
William Petersen Congratulations to you. Great job all these years.
Bryant Gumbel Thanks, Bill. The season finale of “CSI” airs tomorrow night at 9, of course, here on CBS. We’re back in a moment, right after this.