Laurence Fishburne joins the cast of CBS hit drama, CSI
For months now, the big TV networks have taken hits from critics over allegations that their new series lineup this fall lacked ethnic diversity -- with no new live-action shows starring people of color.
But CBS took a big step toward rectifying that inequity today, announcing that former Matrix star Laurence Fishburne will join the cast of its hit series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, essentially replacing star William Petersen on one of the highest-rated scripted series on network television. Fishburne's addition also helps balance out the departure of the show's most visible black character, Gary Dourdan's Warrick Brown, who was killed off at the end of last season.
Speaking during a conference call with reporters today, Fishburne said he hadn't thought of that aspect of joining the cast. "“I have to really sort my feelings out about that," he said, after I asked about the diversity angle. "Nobody's really mentioned this to me until now.”
Turns out, there's lots left for the masterminds at CSI to sort out, like Fishburn's character's name; currently producers simply call im "The Professor. " CBS isn't sure when Fishburne will debut on the show -- either in December or early 2009, though he's expected to be in several scenes with an outgoing Petersen.
And there's the character's background. CBS entertainment president Nina Tassler told critics in July that the character -- originally offered to John Malkovich, who turned it down early on -- discovers he has some sort of genetic predisposition to becoming a serial killer. But CSI producers have now backtracked a bit -- saying he will have "certain clusters of biological facts that are associated with aggressive or violent behavior," according to executive producer Naren Shankar.
Fishburne, who said he has met with producers from the show in person just once, said this of The Professor: "He’s a fresh set of eyes, which is always very interesting. A guy who may have the experience of someone at a higher level, but has to start at the beginning...I didn’t even know he had aggressive tendencies…”
Producers playfull talked about putting Fishburne through a "hazing" of sorts which involves a visit to the L.A. county morgue. Fresh from 145 performances delviered during a one-man show, the actor was game for whatever may be required to make the showwork.
"The most important thing for me to remember is not to mistake my presence for the event," he said. "The event is the show and everybody has a responsiblity to bring their own unique talents (to bear)."
According to CBS' release today, "Fishburne will play a former pathologist who is now working as an itinerant college lecturer, teaching a course in criminalistics. His focus is on understanding criminal behavior, how and why people commit acts of violence – tendencies he disturbingly sees within himself. In the course of a murder investigation, he comes into contact with the CSI team and ultimately joins the Las Vegas Crime Lab as a Level-1 CSI."
. At the time, Tassler downplayed the possibility of securing Fishburne for the role, but buzz grew over the possibility as the summer progressed.
Click below to see the full release:
LAURENCE FISHBURNE JOINS THE CAST OF "CSI: CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION"
Emmy and Tony Award Winner to Debut in the Ninth Episode of the CBS Paramount and Jerry Bruckheimer Television Series
LOS ANGELES, Aug. 18 — Oscar nominee and Emmy and Tony Award winner Laurence Fishburne ("What's Love Got To Do With It," "The Matrix," "Miss Evers' Boys") will join the cast of the CBS Paramount Network Television and Jerry Bruckheimer Television series, CSI: CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION, on the CBS Television Network. His character will debut in this season's ninth episode.
Fishburne will play a former pathologist who is now working as an itinerant college lecturer, teaching a course in criminalistics. His focus is on understanding criminal behavior, how and why people commit acts of violence – tendencies he disturbingly sees within himself. In the course of a murder investigation, he comes into contact with the CSI team and ultimately joins the Las Vegas Crime Lab as a Level-1 CSI.
"CBS asked us, 'Who's at the top of your dream list?' say CSI executive producers Carol Mendelsohn and Naren Shankar. "Without hesitation, we said Laurence Fishburne. He is a powerful and intense actor, with an incredible range. We had the opportunity to see Mr. Fishburne in 'Thurgood' on Broadway a few weeks ago, and it was a truly profound experience. The actor disappeared and Thurgood Marshall was standing there on the stage. Mr. Fishburne is also a talented writer and director. If you distill CSI down to its essence, it's a collaboration—and we are so looking forward to collaborating with Mr. Fishburne. For all of us at CSI, this is truly a dream."
"I am elated and delighted to be joining the cast of CSI," says Fishburne. "I look forward to a wonderful collaboration with the creative and talented team of such a successful and distinguished show," he added.