From 'China' to Vegas, busy in-between

Examining toenail fragments, sleuthing clues from blood splatter and spending most waking hours around corpses isn’t everyone’s idea of a great day at the office. For Marg Helgenberger, who co-stars in CBS’ “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” it’s all in a day’s work.

“There’s so much science, but at the same time, it’s a mystery show,” Helgenberger explains. “These mysteries have to be solved through legitimate forensic science, while creating drama and story and the writers pull it off.”

A Nebraska native, Helgenberger, 42, got her start right out of college with a four-year stint on daytime sudser “Ryan’s Hope,” followed by her breakout role as prostitute K.C. Koloski on “China Beach,” for which she won an Emmy.

“She was sassy and smart and tough and told it like it was,” Helgenberger says of Koloski. “The kind of character who always saw the gray, not just the black and white.”

While “China Beach” met with critical acclaim, it lasted only three season and ended in 1991. For the rest of the decade, Helgenberger landed several TV roles, including stops on “ER” and the Stephen King miniseries “The Tommyknockers.”

Last year, Helgenberger found herself in two high-profile projects. In the mini “Perfect Murder, Perfect Town,” she was cast as Patsy Ramsey, mother of JonBenet Ramsey, and then was opposite Oscar winner Julia Roberts in “Erin Brockovich” as a contaminated water and cancer victim.

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