Why William Petersen ‘Jumped’ At The Chance To Return to ‘CSI’

William Petersen is returning to the franchise he helped make famous. After years away from CSI, CSI: Vegas brings Petersen back to crime scenes. Have you ever wondered why Petersen left? What’s bringing him back all these years later? Here’s what’s going on.

What Happened?

Petersen was one of the faces of CSI for years. He left the program in 2009 during its ninth season, and only had a smattering of appearances in the shows following six seasons. While it’s been an eventful decade primarily filled with theater and some cult movies, it’s still bizarre to think the face and executive producer of such a successful show would simply walk away in the middle of its run.

It Was Getting ‘Rote’

In 2009, Petersen spoke to EW about his then-impending exit from the show. “The reason I’m leaving is because I’m afraid I’m becoming too comfortable,” Petersen said at the time. While the money was incredible, doing anything for nine years is going to get tiring. He almost smugly said, “I won’t miss Grissom…and I hope that the audience won’t miss him either.”

It’s not easy to pass on $600,000 per episode, but Petersen did just that. Importantly, even at the time, he still left the door open for an eventual return. He said, “He didn’t die in a plane crash, he didn’t get a brain tumor. He’s out there.” It only took eleven years, but now Grissom and Petersen are back.

He Missed Grissom

Cut to 2021, and the world has changed so much. Everything from forensic science, technology, and politics are immensely different from where the world was when CSI debuted in 2000. 

This is part of why Petersen wanted to come back: “it’s a different world than it was 20 years ago.” From a panel in Las Vegas, he explained, “The idea of coming back to the land of science, I thought, was really a great opportunity. And it’s different because it’s 20 years later. It’s different because it’s all new people too and that’s all very exciting.”

Petersen was moved to return to see how his character, and that of co-star Jorja Fox, would end up all these years later. Both admitted to a little bit of rust, but they sound enthusiastic about the experience. CSI: Vegas begins later this week and will run for ten episodes. Old faces from CSI’s past will also return, with a few surprises being played close to the vest.

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