Fishburne loves discovery of 'CSI'
NEW YORK - Laurence Fishburne says he and his new show are "a natural fit."
Well, it isn't exactly a new show, of course. Now in its ninth season, "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" is one of TV's most durable hits and a Thursday fixture at 9 pm.
But recently this CBS drama finessed a tidy personnel transition, bidding farewell to its departing top dog, William Petersen, while phasing in Fishburne as Ray Langston, an academic turned rookie forensic investigator on the "CSI" team.
Langston "is a guy who was brilliant in his world," says Fishburne, "but here, he's a little out of his depth. He's got to learn, and he's going to make mistakes."
Fishburne began shooting scenes early last fall as part of the ensemble that includes veterans Marg Helgenberger, George Eads, Eric Szmanda, and Paul Guilfoyle, as well as Lauren Lee Smith, who, like him, signed on this season.
Fishburne had never seen "CSI" when he was approached to join the cast. But he says he immediately felt in synch with what he sums up as the series' "tone," without quite being able to elaborate on what that tone might be. He also approved of the musical theme and the band that performs it: "I'm a big Who fan."
Born in Georgia and raised in Brooklyn, the actor has tackled scores of roles reaching back to his early teens, when he spent months in the Philippine jungle filming Frances Ford Coppola's 1979 film "Apocalypse Now." Since then his films have included "Mystic River," the "Matrix" trilogy, and "What's Love Got to Do With It," for which he got an Academy Award nomination portraying Ike Turner.
Past TV performances have included the HBO film "Miss Evers' Boys" as well as his indelible role (complete with Western drawl) two decades ago as Cowboy Curtis on the Saturday-morning series "Pee-wee's Playhouse."
In every acting gig, Fishburne says he's responsible for playing whatever character awaits him on the pages of his script. And he remains undisturbed that, with a TV series like "CSI," his character's last page looms beyond his reach, months or years in the future.
"The fact that I don't know where Langston is headed isn't a problem," says Fishburne. "Sometimes I feel I have a handle on him, sometimes I feel like I don't know what the [heck] I'm doing. But that's like life, isn't it? If I start looking for the last page, I'll make myself crazy!"
Then, having said that, he fixes his listener with a sly sidelong glance, confiding but commanding.
"I do look forward to the montage scenes," he goes on, referring to the meditative laboratory sequences that unfold, stripped of dialogue and overlaid with music.
"That's one of the coolest things about 'CSI.,' he says. "There's something really captivating about watching someone try to put a puzzle together."