A television series entering its twelfth season is expected to have some major cast upheaval, but CSI, which has been a popular series since its debut in 2000 is facing major casting changes: as previously reported, Laurence Fishburne (who has been a lead character since the ninth season) is not returning, and now the New York Post is reporting that Marg Helgenberger, who has been a member of the cast since the show’s inception, will be leaving the show midway this season after 250 episodes. Helgenberger apparently wanted to leave the show at the conclusion of the eleventh season but has agreed to remain until halfway through the season to give the long-running character the proper good-bye.
According to the article, Helgenberger’s character Catherine Willows will be phased out of the show while her character’s prominent role is taken over by D.B. Russell, a forensic scientist character who will be portrayed by television veteran Ted Danson. Danson was initially hired to replace Fishburne, will now have an additional weight on his shoulders unless the show’s producers decide to bring in another major character.
Of course, CSI has a history of actors returning to the show as guest stars — most notably lead actor William Petersen, who left the show in 2009 after the ninth season, returned for an eleventh season episode and Jorja Fox, who left the show, became a guest star, then a recurring character, then returned to the show full-time. Because of that, executive producer Carol Mendelsohn said of Helgenberger, “People come and go and come back, so hopefully when we say goodbye, that won’t be the last time we see her.” With that said, it’s clear that the door is open for Catherine Willows to return in whatever capacity Helgenberger might decide.
The twelfth season of CSI premieres on September 21.