William Petersen bids farewell to the lab on CSI

Bug man Gil Grissom bows out as William Petersen says CS-Bye!

After nine years examining hair fibres and a stomach-churning assortment of bugs, TV’s most enigmatic crime-solver, Gil Grissom, says goodbye to his CSI colleagues as he quits the forensics lab for a new life away from the murder and mayhem of Las Vegas.

A troubled figure since the departure of his former lover Sara Sidle (Jorja Fox) and the murder of his colleague Warrick (Gary Dourdan), Grissom, played by William Petersen, finishes his final murder case this week and suggests to Dr Raymond Langston (Laurence Fishburne) that he apply for the vacancy. But as he leaves the lab, will he end up in the arms of Sara or Lady Heather? We asked William to tell us more…

Is it hard saying goodbye to Grissom?

“Playing Grissom will be the pinnacle of my career as an actor. I have learned more by playing him over the last nine years than I would have ever thought possible from one single performance. It was difficult to film the final episode without thinking, ‘This is the last time I will be with this character’.”

So why leave?

“Like me, he is a man in his fifties who is trying to figure out what to do for the rest of his life. A point comes in life where you want to do things you haven’t done before.”

Was it sad filming the last episodes?

“It was difficult preparing to leave the job I love and the people I love. We have lived through births, deaths, marriages and divorces together. There was a scene when Marg Helgenberger, who plays Catherine, started to cry and I could have cried, too, because we’ve done so much together.”

Do you think CSI will go on without Grissom?

“I think CSI will go on for a long time. It’s good for change to take place. This was the right choice for Grissom and the audience.”

Why has Sara been so important to him?

“She is the heart of Grissom. Jorja Fox and I have been slowly playing with the chemistry between them for years.”

He’s also had a real fascination with Lady Heather, hasn’t he?

“They have a very intricate relationship that comes with a great deal of respect. But she has had a lot of trouble, a lot of problems, and ultimately Grissom likes to stay away from problems.”

How has Grissom changed since the show started?

“At first, he was quite quirky and weird. When he became supervisor of the team, he had to become more socially integrated. That involvement with the other characters has left him a different man. Over the years, he has been shocked at times by how much he cares.”

How has the role changed you?

“Well, I’m much wealthier than I was! I am certainly much more conscious of the science of the environment, of bugs, of living creatures and of the brilliant people who are scientists. But I don’t have anything like the mind or the patience Grissom has.”

What are your future plans?

“Theatre will always be my first love and I’ve already performed in a play in Chicago. But I hope to stay involved with the show as an executive producer.”

Finally, what sets CSI apart from other shows?

“The reason the show is so successful is because of the people who work on it. Everybody still likes each other, and after so many years that can be hard to do.”

Grissom’s greatest moments

Unfriendly Skies (season one)

Back in the days before Grissom grew his beard and an orchestral theme tune rather than The Who’s Who Are You played over the opening credits, this Agatha Christie-inspired episode focused on the mysterious death of man aboard a plane.

Fur and Loathing (season four)

In one of his wackiest episodes, Grissom and the CSIs investigated the murder of a man wearing a racoon suit. Grissom even had to question someone in a horse costume. How he kept a straight face we’ll never know…

Grave Danger (season five)

Quentin Tarantino directed this nail-biting two-parter which saw Grissom and the team trying to rescue their kidnapped colleague Nick, who’d been buried alive. In touching scenes as he rescued him, Grissom called Nick by his childhood nickname, Pancho.

The Case of a Cross-Dressing Carp (season eight)

It wasn’t the most romantic of proposals when Grissom asked Sara to be his wife while he showed her a bee hive. But it was sweet when they tried to kiss after she said yes, only to bump protective mesh helmets.

Dead Doll (season eight)

When his beloved Sara was kidnapped and hidden under an abandoned car by the Miniature Killer, Grissom frantically tried to find her. His face said it all when, after finding her alive, he gazed into her eyes as the helicopter lifted them to safety.

For Warrick (season nine)

In one of CSI’s most gut-wrenching episodes, Warrick died in Grissom’s arms after being shot by a corrupt cop. Grissom delivered a heartbreaking eulogy at Warrick’s funeral and nearly crumbled as he revealed how much he’d miss his colleague.

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