Art imitates life for CSI: Crime Scene Investigation’s Jon Wellner, as his alter ego is soon to be sporting two hats in the Las Vegas Crime Lab. The actor and head-researcher makes his first appearance in season twelve during this week’s episode “Bittersweet” with quite a reveal: he’s been promoted! CSI Files’ Shane Saunders spoke with Wellner—now in his seventh year on the show—this past Friday to discuss what’s in store for his character. (Some spoilers after the jump!)
CSI Files: You’re back in action Wednesday for the first time in season twelve. What’s Henry Andrews up to this season?
Jon Wellner: Well, as you will find out on Wednesday, Henry has been promoted to DNA tech; so I’m not only doing toxicology but I’m also the DNA tech, which I love.
CSI Files: Does he adapt well to his new responsibilities?
Wellner: Yeah, you’ll find that Henry loves having more responsibilities in the lab and he loves trying to prove to his superiors that he’s capable of handling all this. As an actor, I’m just so pleased and blessed to be given this opportunity.
CSI Files: With Henry working in DNA does he feel a bit emotional working in there, since Wendy previously occupied it?
Wellner: Right. That stuff hasn’t come out onscreen but when I think about it from a character standpoint; he’s following in the footsteps of a person that he loved. So it’s kind of remarkable to him like, oh he gets to do what Wendy did and he doesn’t want to screw it up; it’s like a sacred position at CSI.
CSI Files: If there’s one storyline this season for Henry what would you like it to be?
Wellner: [Laughs.] Gosh, there’s so many because we have the new characters. I think Henry probably has a crush on Morgan [Brody, Elisabeth Harnois], but is afraid to say so. He still has some issues with Hodges [Wallace Langham] and he wants to impress Russell. So I think there’s a lot of stories there.
CSI Files: Elisabeth Harnois and Jorja Fox (Sara Sidle) talked to me a few weeks ago and they said there’s a little bit of a love triangle going on this season. I can probably see Greg (Eric Szmanda) involved somehow; is Henry the other person?
Wellner: No, I think in terms of attractiveness Henry is pretty low on the totem pole. [Laughs.] I think as you saw last week, you saw Sanders start to get a little interested in Morgan and then Nick said ‘you don’t want to go there.’ We’ll see as the season goes on who develops more crushes. I’m interested to see.
CSI Files: Henry’s a little quirky and neurotic and new guy DB Russell (Ted Danson) has showed off a bit of his quirkiness. Do the two get along well?
Wellner: I love Ted Danson; bold, underline, all caps. [Laughs.] He’s the greatest and I’ve just been so lucky to work with—to go from Billy [Petersen, Gil Grissom] to Fishburne [Ray Langston] to Ted Danson, like how lucky can we be. I think Henry really appreciates how professional DB is and wants to impress him and solve some crimes. It’s a good mix; the fact that Russell has a sense of humor helps because Henry has a sense of humor, too. Sometimes with Grissom he would say a joke and he would just look at him and go, ‘what are you talking about?’ Maybe now that there’s a little more comedy in the air Henry feels freer to throw out some jokes.
CSI Files: This season there will be a lot more lightness compared to the gloom of the past couple seasons?
Wellner: I agree with that. I think Fishburne having a character with all of his backstory and pain dealing with a serial killer, you can’t really have but a dark season. Now for the first time bringing in a family guy who’s kind of a hippie and who doesn’t take his work too seriously, it’s refreshing and a change of pace. I think you can really feel it just by the two episodes you’ve seen; it almost feels like a new show with all this energy behind it. I think that’s the reality of it; of a real crime lab, too.
CSI Files: CSI has always been great but I feel the past two seasons were less science, more serial killer tracking down. Watching the first two episodes I was like… whoa; this is amazing.
Wellner: Absolutely. Last week I watched it with my wife and we both looked at each other and went, ‘oh my God, it’s like a new show again.’ It’s back to what makes CSI great; great story telling, great direction, great writing. It’s just fresh. I think you’re going to find the whole season plays that way.
CSI Files: And it’s not just one specific thing that’s been changed. I’ve noticed there’s more of an ensemble feel this season, they’ve gone back to the CSI shots which haven’t been put in as much lately, Catherine’s feisty again; it’s classic CSI.
Wellner: It’s almost like when a car gets updated; you go it’s the classic look of the car, but with an updated style. That’s what I feel; we’re back to what makes CSI great, but what makes it new and hip for today. They’ve managed to keep a show that’s twelve years old fresh and energetic and just thrilling. It’s a testament to how amazing the writers and producers are.
CSI Files: Wendy Simms (Liz Vassey) was very close to both Henry and Hodges, and both of you formed some sort of romantic relationship with her. You teased that you kind of have a crush on Morgan, but do you think there will be a love interest for Henry coming down the road?
Wellner: I honestly don’t really see that because there’s so many other characters to develop that with before you get to Henry. I know my place in the lab and I wonder if Henry just felt so burned about everything that happened that he’s going to go, ‘I’ll find my girls outside of the lab.’
CSI Files: Henry’s lab is really his home away from home and with Wendy gone and Catherine on her way out, do you think Henry will have a hard time coping with these significant losses?
Wellner: I think so. I think it was really hard when Wendy first left, but so much time has passed now that he’s over that. He doesn’t know that Catherine is leaving yet; I know as Jon Wellner that she is but Henry doesn’t know. But that’s the nature of the business. We’ve had lots of new people come in and out, and I think it’s like anything in life; it’s a little sad and bittersweet but someone comes in and work goes on. That’s why Henry’s there, for the work. He loves the work and the chance to solve these crimes. It’ll be really hard when Catherine leaves, same as when Grissom left. It’s still hard; I still miss Billy and Henry still misses Grissom. But we have new people and we’re so happy to have them there.
CSI Files: And how is Jon Wellner dealing with Marg Helgenberger leaving the show?
Wellner: I’m so sad. The first day I saw her I gave her a big hug and said, ‘please don’t go!’ And then I felt bad saying that. [Laughs.] I was like, ‘actually it’s okay, I’m sorry.’ Look, she worked her ass off for twelve years, so she deserves to do what she wants and we’ll definitely miss her. I love everybody in this cast and it’s hard to say goodbye to any of them. But the show must go on, right? I can understand it as an actor and I can understand it as her character; it’s just time to go. I mean, how many actors have done twelve years of series television?
CSI Files: Some shows don’t even make it twelve years.
Wellner: Most shows hardly make it six years. The amount of time and energy that she’s put in, she deserves to go out on her own terms and I think it’s going to make for some very compelling shows, too. I’m interested to see how they work that in.
CSI Files: During the summer you went with Elisabeth to Las Vegas and met with coroner Dr T to acquaint her with some of the material the show deals with. Which one of you had the weaker stomach during the visit?
Wellner: [Laughs.] I’d love to say it was me, but I don’t know. She was unbelievable. That was my second time going there so I think the shock of seeing a dead body… that’s something she had to deal with. She jumped right into there, man. Holding a brain and asking questions; she did an amazing job. After a while I was like, ‘eh, I think I’m going to go now and step out.’ There’s a big difference between the set where Dr Robbins [Robert David Hall] works and real life where Dr T works. It’s almost so real that it seems fake, if that makes sense to you. Elisabeth did an amazing job, as did Ted. He went the week after with David Berman [David Phillips]. Both of them, for people who have never seen an autopsy before, jumping in there and holding skullcaps, did pretty amazing.
CSI Files: You’re good friends with David Berman. You’re both researchers on CSI, acting on the show, doing guest appearances on other shows; the list just goes on and on. How do the two of you have time to do anything else?
Wellner: [Laughs.] Well we support each other. Both David and Josh [Berman] changed my life dramatically. I met David in an acting class and he was working on CSI and his brother also was. When I got the research job it was to help David because he was shooting so much he didn’t have as much time. So basically it’s worked out to this great system where if David’s shooting, I’m handling the research and vice versa. If David has to go shoot Drop Dead Diva then I handle the research; if I have to go out and shoot Bones or any other shows then he handles it. When we do our speaking engagements that’s usually on the weekend when there’s no work, or if it is during the week we’re so wireless these days you can bring your laptop or your iPhone. It’s a busy, busy schedule but we love it. I love the opportunities that CSI has afforded me.
CSI Files: You’ve teamed with VisionWalk, which is a really great cause with a goal to fight blindness. How are you doing in regards to your fundraising efforts?
Wellner: Pretty good. I’m really happy to be working with such a great charity. It’s tough obviously the way with the way the economy’s going for people to be charitable, but people have been so great in terms of my fundraising. I hate asking people for help, I really do. But when I do people just come out and support me and that’s been wonderful.
CSI Files: Has there been discussion about possibly reviving the lab rat episodes this season?
Wellner: I haven’t heard anything. I kind of feel like we had our run and without Wendy there’s no lab rats, you know? I would love it, obviously. They’re always fun, but I haven’t heard anything. Hopefully there will still be some great stuff between Hodges and I. You never know what’s going to happen. They’re writing episode eleven now and we’re doing twenty-two I think. Who knows.
I didn’t know before my big episode “Appendicitement” that is was my episode essentially. I didn’t know it was happening until a week before.
CSI Files: That was a fun episode.
Wellner: That was the most fun I have ever had! And I knew it while I was shooting it.
CSI Files: You just finished filming episode six, do you know what other episodes you have coming up?
Wellner: No because they just wrapped six, I’m not in seven, and it looks like I’m in eight. So as of today I’m in episode three, five, and six.
CSI Files: What can you tease about episode eight?
Wellner: I actually can’t because it’s just in outline form now. I was all over episode seven and then it completely changed, so I’d hate to tease anything when it’s in such an early stage. I think in episode six is the most we can talk about because that’s actually been shot. That’s the “Freaks and Geeks” shoot, have you heard anything about that stuff?
CSI Files: I don’t know what Henry’s doing in it!
Wellner: Oh, I just have a quick scene. In episode five there’s this whole adventure and helicopter thing that’s kind of amazing. Six is like our Halloween episode, I guess you could say. It’s with these amazing circus freaks that should be pretty brilliant.
CSI Files: I hear that’s a big DB and Catherine episode, too.
Wellner: Yes. The scene that I have I come in at the end of the two of them sitting in the break room and just talking. DB is kind of talking about when he was a kid and God the whole set was just so quiet. We don’t know anything about his backstory and it’s just so interesting to slowly get to learn a little bit about him. Everybody is just so interested in it I think and it’s not like Langston where it was just so dark. It’s interesting; he kind of had a happy childhood where his parents were together and performers and he traveled around. He’s kind of like a hippie. I think the more we learn about him the more interesting it is.
Follow Jon Wellner on Twitter: @jonwellner
Shane Saunders is a freelance writer and reviewer. His work can be seen on EDGE Network and ShaneSSaunders.com. Twitter: @ShaneSSaunders.