CSI Vegas

CSI: Vegas star Paula Newsome on taking over TV’s most famous crime lab

Paula Newsome is in charge on CSI: Vegas, both literally and metaphorically. Her character Maxine Roby is head of the crime lab when the CBS revival premieres tomorrow—and that gives the veteran actress a more than well-deserved spotlight. She’s been in many of viewers’ favorite TV shows, including NCIS and Chicago Med, often playing the wife of the hero; now she’s saving the day herself and there couldn’t be a better choice for the team leader role.

I recently spoke to Paula for my Fall TV Interviews series to discuss how much she brings to CSI: Vegas and get the inside scoop on her experience filming the show.

“Most of the people who are doing the awesome things in the basement of scientific labs, CSI, are women,” she told me. “I have a dear friend of mine who’s [in] Robbery Homicide in Los Angeles. There’s a lot of women doing that, and it’s nice being able to represent.”

This isn’t her first brush with the crime drama genre. Paula’s extensive resume includes starring as medical examiner Dr. Claire Washburn in Women’s Murder Club, based on the James Patterson novels, which ran for two seasons on ABC. She also recurred as Jackie Vance on NCIS and stole scenes as Detective Janice Moss in the first season of Showtime’s Barry. So how was it for her to dive into CSI, especially with all of its scientific jargon? And did any of that previous experience help?

“The science is really logical. It just makes sense to me,” she explained. “The processing of DNA. The processing of fingerprints. Turning a burnt photograph, bringing that back so we could see it, so we could see what’s going on. It makes sense to me. So it’s not hard.

“But I will tell you the [role] that was closest to this was when I worked on Barry.”

CSI Vegas
“Legacy” — An attack on Jim Brass kicks off a twisted conspiracy targeting the Las Vegas crime lab. Sara Sidle returns to investigate with a new team of CSIs on the series premiere of CSI: VEGAS, Wednesday, Oct. 6 (10:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network and available streaming on Paramount+. Pictured L-R: Paula Newsome as Maxine Roby and Jorja Fox as Sara Sidle. Photo: Sonja Flemming/CBS ©2021 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Hopefully her CSI: Vegas character won’t end up in the same predicament as Detective Moss. But it’s hard to argue that anyone else but Paula Newsome could play Maxine Roby. CSI has somewhat lived and died by the person in the big chair—William Petersen set a very high bar as Gil Grissom and there’s a reason why he’s so front and center in the CSI: Vegas promos. Every team leader that came after Grissom created another chapter of the show, some better than others, but all of them leaving a proverbial fingerprint.

Anyone who’s watched Paula in any of her previous TV series knows how talented she is. She has an innate strength that comes across in every scene, even if her character is meant to be supporting to somebody else. She’s completely believable as someone with the authority and capability to run the crime lab. At the same time, she has a warmth about her that’s reminiscent of Grissom. He was someone audiences wanted to spend time with; Maxine is the same way. She’s the boss, but she also feels like a new friend.

“She was like me. She’s like my family. She’s like people I know,” Paula said. “My dad’s name was Max. Max is a family name. My dad’s name was Max. My aunt’s name was Max. My cousin’s name is Max. They almost [named] me Maxine.”

“What I really liked is we get to find out who she is today,” she added. “As a woman, as a woman with a family, as a woman who has some romantic interests. That’s important to me—when you’re playing women who are fully rounded. You don’t only play with your Criminology book. And that’s what I like about the opportunity they gave me.”

That speaks to the core of what makes CSI: Vegas so appealing. The forensic science is still fascinating, but what has people excited are the characters and the actors who play them. Existing fans want to see Grissom and Sara Sidle again, while new viewers can get excited about seeing what fantastic performers including Paula and Matt Lauria are going to add to the equation. The new stars aren’t just here to support the returning ones; everyone is a joy to watch.

“We have a good team,” Paula reflected. “They’re all very gifted. Very, very gifted at what they do. But also they’re very kind. Working with gifted people is fabulous, but when you have to be on set 14 hours a day, sometimes 16 hours a day, you want to work with kind people. This is a group of really kind people.”

That extends to the folks behind the scenes as well, including CSI‘s longtime technical consultant. “Working with the amazing Daniel Holstein, it was like the real life Grissom,” she enthused. “His passion about being a criminalist is amazing.”

Paula has a passion of her own for this role. Not only is she a talented star, but she went above and beyond to prepare for taking on the part of Maxine Roby.

“In the beginning, right after I got cast, I worked with some criminalists. We would go through my house, and set it like it was a crime scene. Imagine there’s a body here, and they’d be telling me how I would walk around it. Making sure that the police officers aren’t eating McDonald’s in the kitchen,” she revealed. “That was amazing!”

CSI: Vegas airs Wednesdays at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.

Article content is (c)2020-2021 Brittany Frederick and may not be excerpted or reproduced without express written permission by the author. Follow me on Twitter at @BFTVTwtr, on Instagram at @BFTVGram.

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