From crime scene investigator to therapist

Marg Helgenberger (above with co-star Eddie Cahill) is Christine Price in Under The Dome.
Marg Helgenberger (above with co-star Eddie Cahill) is Christine Price in Under The Dome.PHOTO: 2015 CBS BROADCASTING INC

After 12 seasons of playing blood spatter analyst Catherine Willows on hit crime drama CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, American actress Marg Helgenberger is more than ready to take on her new role.

She will be guest-starring in the third season of American science-fiction television series Under The Dome, based on the eponymous novel by Stephen King. She plays a therapist named Christine Price, who arrives to help the residents of Chester's Mill, who have been cut off from the rest of civilisation by a massive, transparent dome.

Speaking from Los Angeles in a group telephone interview with the regional media, including Life, Helgenberger describes her character as "intriguing, juicy and complex", as well as "kind of dark and edgy".

It is a clear departure from the collected and orderly crime scene investigator Willows, which she has been used to playing for the longest time. The 56-year-old actress says: "In a Stephen King world, the rules are different. It's not like doing the straight-ahead procedural which I did for so many years on CSI, where you're bringing a lot of comfort to victims."

"You don't have to say, 'Oh my character wouldn't do that'. Instead, you're always saying, 'Why, sure. Why not? I'll try that.' And it has been liberating."

In a Stephen King world, the rules are different. You don't have to say, 'Oh my character wouldn't do that'. Instead, you're always saying, 'Why, sure. Why not?' And it has been liberating

- MARG HELGENBERGER on her new role in Under The Dome, based on the novel of the same name by Stephen King

This is Helgenberger's second time venturing into Stephen King territory. She starred as the female lead in 1993 television miniseries The Tommyknockers, based on King's novel.

The character of Christine was specially created for her by Neal Baer, executive producer of Under The Dome. She had previously worked with Baer on 1988 war drama series China Beach, which garnered her a 1990 Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series.

According to reports online, the perplexing questions which have left audiences cracking their heads in the first two seasons of Under The Dome will finally be answered in the latest season.

The residents of Chester Mill will find out the purpose of the dome and who is behind it.

It was a fascination with the multifaceted nature of humanity that drew Helgenberger to join the show. She says: "When people are stuck in such a situation, they cannot escape. Their desperation brings out all aspects of humanity and I found it interesting to explore all those thoughts and feelings."

While the actress acknowledges the challenges of growing old in Hollywood, it is something she is taking in good stride.

"When you are at a certain age, there's a sort of acceptance that you are not going to be the hot young thing. But there's some kind of release in that because as you get older, you get to focus on more character parts."

And she has been making the most of her words since leaving CSI in 2012. She made her off-Broadway debut in dramatic play The Exonerated as a rotating cast member, followed by a well-received turn in psychological mystery production The Other Place last year. She also starred in short-lived action television series Intelligence, which was canned after one season.

Expressing a desire to take on roles "that are not on the glamorous side", Helgenberger is more than game to continue pushing herself. "When you play glamorous roles, you're restricted by the way you look and your behaviour," she says.

Which is why she is keen to go all out in her next project, be it playing a villain in macabre television thriller American Horror Story or trying her hand at a slapstick comedy.

However, for now, fans can catch her yet again in the iconic crime drama she is best known for. Along with William Petersen, who exited the show in Season 9, Helgenberger will be returning for CSI's two-hour series finale, which is slated to air in September.

The finale will end the show's 15-season run.

She says: "I'm very excited and I'm looking forward to working with William again. It's fun to be back together with the same group of people who started the show.

"After all these years, we can just pick up where we left off. We are here to have a good time, tell a good story and go out with a bang."

• Season 3 of Under The Dome premieres with a two-hour episode today and will be shown on RTL CBS Entertainment HD (Singtel TV Channel 318) every Wednesday at 9.55pm

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 01, 2015, with the headline 'From crime scene investigator to therapist'. Print Edition | Subscribe