Q&A: Marg Helgenberger

From crime scenes (C.S.I.) to battlefields (China Beach), she always keeps her cool.
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Marg Helgenberger garnered attention for her small but smart role in the box-office hit Erin Brockovich. These days, she's busy shooting the TV drama C.S.I. (for those who don't monitor police calls, that stands for crime-scene investigation). The show is but the latest vehicle for the working mother, whose role as K.C. on China Beach earned her an Emmy in 1990. Married to actor Alan Rosenberg, Helgenberger chats about a career weighted with roles on the dark side of life -- although there was that 1996 stint as George Clooney's love interest on ER....

So what do you think of George Clooney? Besides being charming, sexy, funny and smart, he has a vulnerability that I think women really like -- some quality that makes him just a little mysterious. He's great to work with -- supportive and complimentary. He's a real good guy, and I had a lot of fun on that show. It wasn't a heavy part -- a lot of flirting and kissing, which is always fun.

Maybe not fun with every actor. You're so right! Let's just say that you hope for the George Clooneys in your career.

What's it like to have another actor in the house? Well, if there's a period of unemployment for my husband or me, we understand that. And we also know how our feelings and emotions might be taking us to different places depending upon what's going on in our careers.

On C.S.I., you play a single mother. Does having a 10-year-old son help you with that aspect of your character? Absolutely. I can relate. I've been spending a lot of time away from my son. It's a juggling act for all of us moms. A friend of mine -- a male friend, actually -- told me about a study that measured people's blood pressure when they returned from a full day's work. A woman's spiked, and a man's dropped. You know, her work begins when she gets home. There's the housework, the homework. And for the guy, it's straight to ESPN.

How did you prepare for playing the role of a crime-scene investigator? Well, for one, I was given a book called Practical Homicide Investigation that was filled with photographs -- nothing else but photographs. I remember when I first went through it, and I put it aside and went downstairs. My husband said, "Are you okay?" because I was ghostly white from seeing the pictures. Most of the time, especially when a case is well-known, the public at large does not get all the facts. They leave out a lot of the gruesome details. I don't think we could handle them.

Speaking of well-known cases, you played Patsy Ramsey in the TV mini-series Perfect Murder, Perfect Town. How taxing was that? That was an exceptionally hard one to handle. I was antisocial during that project. I took up knitting again. I'd sit in my trailer between scenes, because I knew I had to do a full day of weeping in that role. I was just glad to have my life back after it was over. It can get very intense, but luckily, I have my family.

Sounds like you're ready for a comedy. I'd love an opportunity to do comedy. I'm a little wary, because you can really fall on your face. You've got to trust the material and the director. I'd go into it with a little trepidation, because I certainly don't think I have the comic skill that just comes naturally to some people. But, oh yeah, that would be fun. A real challenge.


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