Marg Helgenberger brings her tough but incredibly sexy
Intelligence to CBS’ new thrilling series
Smart, tough and hot as hell, Emmy-winning Marg Helgenberger was a key factor in CSI: Crime Scene Investigation becoming the most popular television show in the world. Now, after 12 years on the show and a two-year sabbatical, Helgenberger is back on TV as Lillian Strand, the chic, no-nonsense head of U.S. Cyber Command in the globe-trotting action/sci-fi drama Intelligence. Lillian’s trickiest task is supervising Josh Holloway’s Gabriel Vaughn, a superagent outfitted with a microchip implant in his brain giving him an all-access pass to the world’s information grid. Helgenberger has described the show as “James Bond meets Frankenstein meets Mission: Impossible,” and so I had to say …
Watch!:From what I’ve seen of Intelligence, Lillian is the new equivalent of Bond’s boss, M.
Marg Helgenberger: Right! Besides Judi Dench’s M, I keep Hillary Clinton in mind all of the time while playing this role. She’s one of my idols, so in practically every scene I go, “How would Hillary deal with this situation?”
Watch!: Well, like Hillary, Lillian is very much in charge.
Marg:She’s not a bitch; she’s just got a lot on her plate and the buck stops with her. She’s always been surrounded by men in positions of power and that’s never easy—there’s still a fair amount of sexism that exists—so she has to be tougher and stronger than the guys.
Watch!: Not unlike CSI’s Catherine Willows. What do people on the street say to you about her?
Marg:Girls from ages 11 to 16 just love CSI because Catherine was such a cool, direct, intuitive lady who shot from the hip. When they see me, they gasp! When Taylor Swift guest-starred [in 2009], it turned out that she was a huge fan of Catherine, too. She walked into my trailer, covered her mouth and squealed, “I can’t believe it!” (Laughs.) I love that Catherine had such an influence on girls.
Watch!: Guys love her—and you—too. I found a slew of YouTube tribute videos entitled everything from “Marg Helgenberger—Hey Sexy Lady” to “M.H.—Sexy Bitch.”
Marg:I’m so flattered that people would do that for me! They’re fanboys and girls—and I’m a fangirl of a lot of people, too. But if I’m at some function and see someone I admire, I’m way too nervous and shy to say what a fan I am. Like, what do you say to Bruce Springsteen?
Watch!: “I want to marry you”?
Marg: Oh, my God—I know, right?!
Watch!: So you’re a music megafan?
Marg: Huge. To the degree that while I was on hiatus, I picked up the guitar again and started taking lessons. I have maybe 25 songs that I can play and sing now—it’s been incredibly therapeutic.
Watch!: So if I said, “Marg, play us a tune,” what have you got?
Marg: I play and sing the Black Keys’ “Little Black Submarines” really well. And I play this Jack White song, “Love Interruption,” and I’m pretty good on a couple of U2 tunes like “One” and “In a Little While.”
Watch!: You’re also a football fiend. On Twitter you posted a picture of an autographed Carolina Panthers football atop a heap of money you’d won from the cast.
Marg: I love football—love it. I’m a Panthers fan, because when I was shooting a movie in North Carolina in 1994, they’d just become a franchised team and my son was a little boy, so we decided, “Let’s root for this team.” I’m also really into the Colts and the Broncos.
Watch!:You ought to team up with Christine Baranski, who once told me what a crazed football fan she was.
Marg: I know Christine and I’d love to go to a game with her. I’d even bet with her on games—that’d be a blast!
Watch!: Go for it! OK, you once said that when starting CSI you felt “magic dust” over its prospects. Do you feel that way about Intelligence?
Marg: I feel it in that it’s smart, entertaining, provocative and timely. We have a good chance, because there’s something in it for everybody.
Watch!:That said, how was it to return to CSI last fall for its 300th episode?
Marg: It was like putting on a pair of sweats and comfy shoes. We always had so much fun.
Watch!:Despite all the gore and guts?
Marg: I think that’s why we had such fun—the subject matter was so disturbing, we had to laugh. I remember being at a landfill in one episode and, I’m not joking, we were slogging in garbage all day long. I mean, ha! What else do you do but laugh? Oh, the glamour.