Hall Balances ‘CSI’ With Disability Work

Robert David Hall (Dr Al Robbins) is glad to play the resident coroner on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation alongside new leading man Laurence Fishburne. (Embedded video included after the jump.)

Hall joined CSI in the fifth episode of the first season. “The first coroner they had couldn’t pronounce the ten-syllable medical words, and I took three years of Latin in high school,” the actor explained. “They hired me for one show, and William Petersen [Gil Grissom] goes, ‘He’d be a good coroner.’ And so after all these years of acting and knocking my head against the wall, I suddenly had a steady job.” Hall did 17 episodes during the first season and became a series regular at the start of season two. “I’ve been a regular on the show for nine years now,” he said.

The actor’s job on CSI gives him some free time to pursue other things that are important to him. “They’ll sometimes stack my scenes where sometimes it’s a nine [or] ten day shooting schedule, but I’ll get to do five or six scenes on one day at the beginning and three scenes on the last day of the shoot,” Hall explained. That leaves him plenty of time in the middle to do disability work. The actor recently visited Grand Rapids, Michigan for a fundraiser called “Invest in Ability”. Hall told some stories about people who invested in him. “In Hollywood, it’s pretty tough to get hired if you have a disability,” he explained.

Hall has two artificial legs, one that ends above the knee and one that ends below the knee. More than 30 years ago, he was involved in a car accident that left him burned over 60 percent of his body. He spent six months in intensive care. “I love nurses if you’re out there,” he said. “A lot of people took care of me, but I apparently did something good on my own.”

“The thing that changed my life, apart from the accident,” Hall said, was when “one of my well-meaning friends said to me, ‘Well, a guy with two artificial legs can’t be an actor.’ And I said, ‘Oh yeah?’ I don’t like being told that I can’t do something.”

He joined a classical theatre company and worked on his balance and walking. Then he studied acting for 10 years with Gordon Hunt (actress Helen Hunt‘s father). “Gordon didn’t care whether you were black, white, old, young, disabled—he only cared that you did the work each week in the class,” Hall explained. “I went from being an okay actor to being a competent actor thanks to Gordon.”

“I think I did every TV show in the 80s and 90s, always as the angry disabled guy,” Hall continued. “That’s what I love about CSI. As strange as Dr Robbins may be, they never talk about my disability. My job is to help them solve the crime each week.”

Leading man Petersen left the show last season and was replaced by Laurence Fishburne (Dr Ray Langston). “I worked with Laurence on a movie years ago,” Hall said. “He’s different than Billy, but he has his own thing, and I think people are starting to accept him as the star of the show.”

Petersen is happy to be back in his hometown of Chicago, Illinois. “He was ready to leave the show, and he’s doing a lot of theatre,” Hall explained. The rest of the cast is still glad to work on the series. “I want the show to go on as long as possible, and Laurence is a wonderful actor,” Hall said. “Every time I have a scene with him, I’m just happy.”

Hall is also happy that the original CSI does a bit better than its two spinoffs. He explained that both series have done well and that David Caruso (Horatio Caine, CSI: Miami) and Gary Sinise (Mac Taylor, CSI: New York) have their own fans. “We just kind of keep our nose into our own business,” Hall said. “We’re happy that we’re always rated a little bit higher than they are, and after ten years we’re still in the top five, so we’re very blessed, very fortunate.”

The original video interview can be viewed below:

Source: WZZM 13

Rachel Trongo

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Rachel Trongo

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