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THE SUNDAY CONVERSATION

Marg Helgenberger of 'CSI'

March 29, 2009|Choire Sicha

Marg Helgenberger stars as Catherine Willows on "CSI" -- and, can you believe it, the 200th episode airs Thursday.

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It's coming up on 10 years of "CSI." How's that?

It's a lot of things. I gauge a lot of things through my son's age. He was 9 when we started that show. He's 18 now -- a freshman at Indiana. He just came home for spring break yesterday, looking like a lumberjack. He's got this full red beard. I mean, he's a redhead! But a red beard is kind of unusual. And to see one on your 18-year-old son -- it's freaking me out.

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Oh, yeah?

I don't think there's any statement he was making with it. I think he just didn't want to bother. I think he'd rather sleep or be texting somebody.

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As long as he's not wrapped up in something nefarious where they grow beards.

Right -- some kind of cult. I think you have to have some kind of discipline if you're in a cult. He's never been one to adhere to guidelines or rules. I don't worry about that with him.

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The children of people on TV often end up a disaster -- and he sounds fine.

He's a good kid. He doesn't seem to be that interested in the entertainment industry as of yet. Things could change. He chose a school in the heart of the Midwest. I'm from the Midwest, and I think he's very comfortable with Midwestern people. They're not show-offy people. They're real and nice and still like to have a good time. It's a beautiful campus. One time I was visiting there, last fall, we went to this restaurant, which was really good, I think it's called the Farms. I'm sitting there and here comes John Cougar Mellencamp. He just waltzed right in with his family. I was too shocked to say anything. All I would have said was, "Hey, I like your music, man."

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You went to college at Northwestern.

Bill Petersen [William Petersen, "CSI's" Dr. Gil Grissom] went to Evanston High for a while. As did Michael Madsen. In fact, Virginia Madsen and I waitressed at a restaurant in Evanston. Isn't that wild?

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You two were slinging the hash together?

Well, yeah. There's a few stories there. Not necessarily involving Virginia. She wasn't misbehaving like some of us. Not that I recall!

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It's a safe place to be kind of wild.

Yes. I graduated from Northwestern in '82. Oh, my son's back already. [To her son.] Hey! I'm just finishing up this interview, I'll be down in a second or two or three. [Back to us.] He went to go pick up a couple of buds from the airport. L.A. kids, many times they don't want to go someplace for spring break, they just come back here. It's L.A. It's great.

Where was I? Evanston! When I was in college it was a dry town -- the center of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union. So there were no bars. There was a bar in one of the hotels and in the Holiday Inn. And that's kind of harsh in college.

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Yes. How do you like the Internet?

Oh, you know, at times it's extremely helpful. Just in terms of researching something. I went on recently to one of the medical sites -- something was bothering me, a rash or something. It was really helpful. Hours can go by. Killing time with just banal crap. But you know, I'm afraid of it. I never go on any of those sites that talk about whatever, celebrities -- or even "CSI." I find a lot of people writing negative stuff. It can be, I don't know, a magnet for that kind of thinking.

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That would be really hard.

And it's like, who gives a . . . what you think.

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According to the local papers, you were recently spotted in Vegas with a large, iced, nonfat cappuccino. That is scandalous!

Yeah! I'm such a rebel! Recently? Oh, God, really? That's nutty. . . . I mean, seriously. Yes, I was in Vegas last weekend. I met an old friend and we saw Cher at Caesars Palace. It was so great. We got to meet her backstage -- she was so cool.

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What could you possibly have said to her?

I complimented her on the show and said "bravo." . . . I said to her backstage: "You're such an inspiration!" And she said: "I don't know how I got this old!" I didn't mean it derogatorily. And I said to my friend, "I hope I didn't offend her." And my friend said, "I don't think anything offends Cher."

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