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'CSI Vegas' star William Petersen relishes return to science role

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'CSI Vegas' star William Petersen relishes return to science role
William Petersen returns to the role of Gil Grissom in "CSI: Vegas." Photo courtesy of CBS

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 5 (UPI) -- William Peterson said upon his return to the CSI franchise in CSI: Vegas, premiering Wednesday, that he's become more like the character he portrays.

Petersen originated the role of Gil Grissom in 2000 in the original CSI, which he left in 2008.

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"I've become more like Grissom, in that I appreciate the things that he appreciates," Petersen said during a recent Television Critics Association Zoom panel. "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."

On CSI, Grissom and his team of crime scene investigators solved a different mystery in Las Vegas each week. The flagship series spun off CSI: Miami, CSI: New York and CSI: Cyber.

Laurence Fishburne and Ted Danson stepped in as new characters before CSI ended in 2015. CSI: Vegas picks up with Grissom and Sara Sidle (Jorja Fox) leading a new team.

"The idea of being able to come back into the land of science, I thought, was really a great opportunity," Peterson said. "It's different because it's 20 years later, and it's different because it's all new people, too."

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Petersen said that employing forensics on CSI made him appreciate science.

"I learned so much just through the process of dealing daily with tech advisers and the real scientists that we get to interact with," he said.

Petersen, 68, began acting in movies with a role as a bartender in Michael Mann's 1981 film Thief. After William Friedkin's 1985 police thriller To Live and Die in L.A., Petersen played a lot of cops.

Petersen played Will Graham, the first detective to team up with Hannibal Lecter in Mann's 1986 adaptation, Manhunter. He played Wild West lawman Pat Garrett in Young Guns II, as well.

Petersen said the original appeal of CSI was to highlight science and intelligence.

"I didn't want to carry a gun at all," Petersen said. "The idea of being able to work with just the mind, as an actor, was a challenge and a great opportunity to grow as a performer."

Fox was on CSI for eight seasons, then guest-starred on the show, and returned as a regular for the final five seasons. Since 2015, Fox has only appeared in two movies -- 3022 and The Map of Tiny Perfect Things -- and a 2018 pilot for Chiefs that did not become a series.

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Fox, 53, said she had to relearn CSI science, noting that being away from sets for years dulled her instincts.

"I was a little rusty, for sure, on all things science," Fox said. "Even with this pandemic, just being on a set and hitting my mark, I was a little rusty at really simple actor stuff."

Sidle and Grissom were married in the show's universe. They divorced and reunited in the series finale. CSI: Vegas confirms they remarried.

"It was great to sort of be grounded with William Petersen and come back as Sara Grissom," Fox said.

New cast members include Paula Newsome as Maxine Roby, the head of a new crime lab. Roby has the job because Sidle turned down a promotion to focus on her marriage.

Newsome said she has enjoyed learning from technical adviser Daniel Holstein.

"The science is like Disneyland," Newsome said.

Roby's team includes Joshua Folsom (Matt Lauria), Allie Rajan (Mandeep Dhillon) and Hugo Ramirez (Mel Rodriguez). Lauria said the actors had lessons in crime lab protocols during breaks from shooting.

"We'd go into our trailer at lunchtime and have a fingerprint-capturing lesson or learn how some of the different gizmos worked," he said. "This has sort of been a learn-on-the-job type of thing."

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CSI: Vegas airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. EDT on CBS.

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