Tag Archives: Robert David Hall

‘CSI’ Goes Off the Beaten Path With Robert David Hall

“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” goes off the beaten path with an its episode coming up Feb. 5, titled “De Los Muertos.” “It’s definitely unusual,” reports the series’ Robert David Hall. “It’s not your typical spotless morgue and, you know, all of the highfaluting scientific stuff we do.”

De Los MuertosThe storyline also shows a different, more personal side to Hall’s coroner character, Dr. Al Robbins, as he must head down to Mexico to autopsy the teenage daughter of a wealthy friend. She has died in what may or may not have been a cocaine overdose. With the good doc is Nick Stokes (George Eads). “He provides the muscle,” says Hall. “He really shines in the episode.

“It just turned into a really special thing. Our production people blew me away — they built this amazing-looking Mexican morgue,” he says.
East L.A. locations doubled for the Mexican border town where the action takes place. Hall says he’s never enjoyed working with a guest actor more than he did Julio Oscar Mechoso, who plays Doc Robbins’ south-of-the-border counterpart.

“It felt so good while I was doing it. You want to keep your fingers crossed,” he says. “Maybe some good things will come out of it. Tom Mularz, one of our younger writers, wrote this script. It’s exhilarating.”

The fact that Hall could still find “CSI” duty exhilarating is indicative of the series’ remarkable retention of quality over its 14 years — a particularly unusual feat in this era of disposable television.

“I think there is going to be a next year, too — 15 years — which is pretty exciting,” he tells us. Nothing is official, but Hall surmises that Ted Danson wants to come back, as well as Elisabeth Shue.

Hall admits that, had he been told back when “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” began, that it would last 15 years, “I would have thought someone was on drugs to say that.”

The major changes through the years — most obviously, the cast changes that could have sunk the show — wound up giving it fresh life, acknowledges Hall. “Even though Laurence Fishburne was only with us two and a half years, he made a huge impact. And then when Ted and Elisabeth came on, they got it immediately — Ted especially.

“I think the casting changes we made came from a strong place rather than a desperation place,” Hall observes. “You go with what works, but you have to push the envelope a little bit.”

He’s watched original “CSI” leading lady Marg Helgenberger’s new series, “Intelligence” and enjoys it. “She’s as lovely or more lovely than ever. She does a great job,” he says. And of ex-leading man William Peterson, he says, “Billy’s doing a play here in Los Angeles in February,” and he’s looking forward to it.

They don’t stay in close touch. “We all have our own lives,” is how Hall puts it. “I’ve spoken to Billy once or twice and I see Marg on occasion — but we care. We spent a lot of time together. You wish them well.”

Another change for Hall: “After 15 years I finally retired as the head of the Screen Actors Guild and AFTRA Performers With Disabilities Committee. It was time for some new blood. But since SAG and AFTRA merged, I’m there for whatever they need vis a vis disability issues. I’m still on the board of the National Organization on Disability in New York City, one of the largest disability advocacy organizations in the country.”

Hall’s prosperous and well-respected career transcends the fact he is a double amputee. (In 1978, an 18-wheel truck crushed his car and his legs had to be amputated after the accident, which also caused burns over 65 per cent of his body.)

Has he seen improvement for actors with disabilities in the industry? “In some ways, sure,” says Hall. “But I think there’s still a large disparity in employment for people with disabilities — qualified people with disabilities — so, as long as that’s the case, we’ll have to keep working on it. You have to stay at the table. As soon as you walk away, you slide backwards.”

Now, he points out, there is an influx of newly-disabled veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq — and that adds a new urgency to the efforts to open doors of opportunity. He is hoping that the disability community can move forward against discrimination as have the gay community and people of color.

“If someone says, ‘He’s disabled,’ I’m okay with that, because I think I’m professional and good at what I do, and I want other people to get the same opportunities I’ve had,” says Hall, who is also a husband — he married wife Judy in 1999 — and father to grown-up son Andrew.

Hall, who recently filmed a movie called “Rock Story” with Eric Roberts, playing the congressman husband of Joyce DeWitt, looks forward to doing more movies and plays “when ‘CSI’ is finally over.” He also has the musical side of his career, with live performances and his lively and listenable Americana album, “Things they don’t teach you in school” (cq) of 2010, and another album in the works.

But for right now, “I am so excited about this episode on February 5th. I think people will see Dr. Robbins in a different light.” After 14 years, that’s saying something.

‘CSI’s’ Robert David Hall Re: Oscar Pistorius Controversy

“CSI’s” Robert David Hall is bemused by the controversy over South African runner Oscar Pistorius, who’ll begin his quest for Olympic Gold Saturday (8/4) — running on artificial limbs in the 400 meter sprint.

Talk that the technology that created Pistorius’ carbon fiber “Blade Runner” legs gives him an unfair advantage “cracks me up, because I walk on artificial legs,” says Hall.  “This guy runs on two artificial legs, and people have no idea how difficult it is.  Let me tell you — I’m not an Olympic athlete, but this guy had to run in Olympic qualifying time and he’s an amazing human being!  This guy has worked so hard.  He’s not getting any favors.  He’d much rather have his legs, I’m sure.  So would I.  But you deal with the cards you’re dealt.  I’m really proud of him.  I hope he has a great Olympics, and he means a lot to a lot of us who are amputees.”

Asked whether walking — and running — on artificial legs is painful, Hall shrugs.  “Well, you know, there’s pain in everything.”

We caught up with the actor and advocate for actors who have disabilities the CBS-CW-Showtime Star Party of this summer’s Television Critics Association

Press Tour.  At the sunlit soiree outside the Beverly Hilton Hotel, he told us that they’re already back at work on “CSI” — shooting Episode 1 of the series’ 13th season.

“I’m enjoying it so.  It’s a lot of fun.  Our producer was here at this party, and I was listening to her talk, and she said, ‘Oh, Dr. Robbins will be digging up a mass grave in the desert.’  I didn’t know this.”  He laughed.  “That’s why I come to these things, to find out what I’m going to be doing this year.”

Robert David Hall Finally Gets to Kiss the Girl on ‘CSI’

Robert David Hall

Marg Helgenberger is just now shooting her last couple of episodes of “CSI” before she leaves the long-running series.  Robert David Hall acknowledges it’s another big cast change, and he’s going to miss her.  “She’s a friend, she’s like a sister.  I’ve known her for 12 years now.  But of course, I support her decision to move on and try new things,” he says, “and I’m looking forward to working with Elisabeth Shue.”

The series, of course, has had quite a few comings and goings in recent years.  Hall admits he still misses William Petersen, and Laurence Fishburne, who is a good friend of his.  But now, “I’ve really come to love Ted Danson.  He’s such a generous actor and such an interesting actor.  You watch him and wonder, ‘What is he going to do next?’  As D.B. Russell, he’ll be talking to you but looking at something else.  It’s almost like he has ADD, going off on some seemingly unrelated thing.  But he always comes back around to solving the crime, and you like going on the ride with him.

“It’s a funny thing about change and about time marching on.  I think you have to honor what about the show works, but you have to be bold bout pushing the envelope, too,” adds Hall.  “I don’t think the changes are negative.  We still have a good audience, and the show is huge overseas.”

Hall has just finished shooting the Dec. 14 episode of “CSI” — a huge episode for his Dr. Robbins character.  In fact, it’s the episode no fan of Doc Robbins should miss. 

“We finally deal with the white elephant of Doc Robbins’ disability.  We go to Doc Robbins’ house, see him take his prosthetic off,” Hall reports. “He’s in real pain — not physical pain, but mental pain.  There’s strong psychic torture the character is going through.”  Things aren’t good at the Robbins’ house, you see, since, “A naked dead guy is found in Doc Robbins’ bed, and they suspect his wife (Wendy Crewson) of complicity, shall we say.  It’s a very twisted journey to the end.”

And Hall loved it.  “For two weeks, I got treated like a leading man,” he tells us with a laugh.  “I even got to kiss the girl.  I’ve done 260 episodes, and it’s the first time I got to kiss the girl.”

MEANWHILE:  By the time you read this, Hall should be in Washington, D.C. for tonight’s (12/1) 25th Anniversary Gala Victory Awards.  He’s being honored at the event benefiting the National Rehabilitation Hospital.  A tireless advocate for actors and others with disabilities, Hall has also paid many visits to Walter Reed Army Hospital and Bethesda Naval Hospital.  “My entire family is steeped in Navy tradition,” says the actor, who has a number of relatives that were Naval Academy graduates.

Robert David Hall Trades Death for Birth on This Week’s ‘CSI’

Robert David Hall CBS photo by Andrew MacPherson

With its final episode of this season just about to go into production, the original “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” is “like a battleship cruising through the ocean.  We still seem to have full steam.”  At least, that is the opinion of the show’s Robert David Hall.  And he’s certainly not alone, as “CSI” continues to be a strong ratings performer in its 11th year, and is listed among the formidable TVByTheNumbers’ Renew/Cancel Index as Certain to Be Renewed for the 2011-2012 season.

“We recently did our 250th episode and had a little party on set.  Billy Peterson came to visit us,” he adds, referring to the former “CSI” star.  “They took pictures, cut a cake.  The executives came out, and the crew…We were all shaking our heads, like, ‘250 episodes?'”

For Hall, this week’s (4/7) episode, penned by show creator Anthony Zuiker, offered a rare chance to get his medical examiner character, Doc Robbins, out of the lab — and then some.  “After all these years of dealing with death, I actually got to deliver a baby,” Hall says.  But, this being “CSI,” you know it’s not going to be a balloons-in-the-maternity ward kind of occasion.  In fact, the young mother has just committed suicide.

“Dr. Robbins acts very quickly, to deliver the baby right there…It’s based on something that really happened with Daniel Holstein, a pathologist who is an advisor and sometimes writer on the show.  There was a situation just like this in Los Angeles,” says Hall, who shares the segment with George Eads.  “At the end of the scene I’m actually holding a live baby.  Acting is one thing, but holding an infant in a scene is a great responsibility,” says Hall, whose own son is grown.

MEANWHILE:  Next up for Hall is a return to focusing on his infectious, Americana-style music.  He has two local gigs this weekend, and musician pals, including his “Things They Don’t Teach You in School” album producer, Chris Wall, in from Austin, Texas.  Hall, who lost his brother Steven to liver cancer just over a week ago, is especially valuing having good work and good friends right now.  The actor told us last year that it was Steven’s encouragement, and his corageous battle against the disease, that motivated him to finally get out and pursue his life-long dreams of music-making.  As he notes, “It’s so important to honor your dreams.”

Robert David Hall’s Summer of Song, McCartney Encounter

Robert David Hall CBS photo

“CSI” coroner Robert David Hall is having a high-flying time of it this summer — in his other career, as a music man.   His “Things They Don’t Teach You in School” album, a folksy, rootsy, Americana-style collection of songs he wrote himself and recorded in Austin, TX, is getting a reception Hall admits exceeds his hopes.  He slipped Craig Ferguson a copy, then Ferguson invited Hall to perform on his “Late Late Show.”  Come June 19, he’ll be at Nasvhille’s legendary Ryman Auditiorium as part of the lineup for the Grand Ole Opry 85th Anniversary celebration’s “I’m With the Band” series.

“This is sort of a Warp 10 for me.  I’m not scared.  I am thrilled.  I know it’s going to go well, but I don’t want to think about it too much because it’s almost overwhelming.  I lived in Virginia for awhile, growing up, and I listened to the Opry.  So many wonderful musicians have played there you can’t name them all.  Anyone who is anyone in country music.  It’s the highest honor,” he gushes.

Hall got to see some of his favorites, like Emmylou Harris, at the recent Gershwin Awards presentation to Paul McCartney at the White House (airing on PBS July 28).  “Being in the room with the President was amazing enough, but there were also Stevie Wonder, Elvis Costello, the Jonas Bros. – they’re not my cup of tea, but I know the first daughters like them – Jerry Seinfeld, who was hilarious…and Dave Grohl from Foo Fighters.  He was the surprise, playing ‘Band on the Run’ and adding a lot of energy.  It was such a spectacular thing.”  Hall, a double amputee whose work on behalf of the disability community has taken him to the White House before, says he and his wife Judy just happened to have McCartney to themselves for a minute as they rode a White House elevator together.

“I introduced my wife, and he sang to her — ‘Hey, Judy’” Hall imitates.  “She was doing cartwheels.”

Hey, Judy?

THE SPICE OF LIFE:  Paul Dano, the “There Will Be Blood” and “Little Miss Sunshine” actor who continually turns out performances in unusual indie fare between major feature roles, has the Tom Cruise-Cameron Diaz “Knight and Day” actioner, plus “The Extra Man” comedy – with Kevin Kline, John C. Reilly and Mrs. Cruise, Katie Holmes — coming out this summer.  And he says he also has high hopes for “For Ellen,” in which “I get to play a hard rock ‘n’ roller who is a little bit at the edge.”  The latter drama, completed this spring, is from filmmaker So Yong Kim, who did “Treeless Mountain” a couple years back.

As for what’s next, how about Paul uniting with girlfriend Zoe Kazan?  They’ve worked together before, after all.  “Sure,” he says.  “I don’t see a lot of reasons not to.  We both tend to like the same things, so you never know.”