On most occasions, Dr Al Robbins is seen in the morgue performing autopsies with scalpel in hand, but in Season Twelve of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Robert David Hall‘s onscreen alter ego has stepped outside of the dimly lit lab more frequently to visit more crime scenes–including some close to home. With less than two months remaining in the show’s twelfth season, Hall chats with Shane Saunders to discuss character development, working with new cast members, and his upcoming hiatus plans.
CSI Files: Twelve seasons and viewers finally know what Doc Robbins’ wife and neice look like. What are your thoughts on the personal developments this season?
Robert David Hall: It was great to finally have an episode that featured my character, Doc Robbins!
I can’t tell how exhilerating it was on every level. Liz Devine wrote a tremendous script, Frank Waldeck went above and beyond the call of duty in directing, and Crescenzo Notarile, our Director of Photography, was his usual brilliant self and tremendously supportive. The entire cast, crew, and staff went out of their way to help make it a really successful episode.
CSI Files: CSI tends to insert personal nuggets into its storylines sparingly, having the science of the show remain the main focus. Now that we know there is an actual Mrs Robbins (Wendy Crewson)–a very beautiful woman I might add–do you think she’ll appear on the show more often?
Hall: It would be amazing to have Wendy Crewson on the show again; what a woman! However, as you observed, we tend to use personal relationship stories sparingly–like a good chef uses spices in his meals. I’m open to whatever direction we need to go to keep our viewers returning.
CSI Files: In “Stealing Home,” Nick (George Eads) mentioned Doc Robbins’ niece Callie as more of a friend than someone he’d romantically pursue. If sparks did ignite, do you think Robbins would be in favor of the two dating?
Hall: Speaking as a character, Doc Robbins has seen Nick Stokes grow a lot in twelve seasons. He’s gone from a raw CSI to a real leader and genuinely brilliant criminalist. Who wouldn’t want their niece involved with a good man?
CSI Files: Season Twelve has also been a bit of a transitional season for Robbins with the loss of his good friend Ray Langston (Laurence Fishburne). Have you kept in touch with Laurence?
Hall: Change is part of the reality of life and television. I think we’ve been so fortunate on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation to have the cast we have and the actors who’ve come before. Billy Petersen‘s Grissom was an amazing character as Billy created him. Laurence is one of our greatest actors, and I think Dr Ray Langston brought a very different take on the lead role. Laurence and I worked on Class Action with Gene Hackman back in 1989, and I hope we work together again. He’s a generous man and a wonderous talent.
CSI Files: We’ve often talked about how close you are with Marg Helgenberger (Catherine Willows) and how the two of you have a brother/sister type of relationship. Now that a bit of time has passed, what are your thoughts on her departure?
Hall: Well, speaking of talent, Marg is no slouch. I already miss her like crazy, but I know she’s taking a little R&R before she tackles new projects. She’ll succeed in those just as she did on CSI.
Also, there’s a misconception that Elisabeth Shue “replaced” Marg. That’s not the way it works. Elisabeth’s character, Julie Finn, is a whole new deal and Lisa–what she likes to be called–is busy creating a whole new and intriguing member of our cast. It’s great to have this woman on our team.
CSI Files: Brass (Paul Guilfoyle) was quick to judge the situation in “Genetic Disorder,” and you were determined to prove your wife’s innocence. It’s rare that the two of you share an extended amount of time in a single episode, but the installment gave you great material to play off of each other. Is there another member of the cast that you’d like to with more and share poignant and significant scenes with?
Hall: Not much to say about Paul, other than he’s an actor’s actor; a master of his craft. I loved the tension and the improv that was involved in our scenes and I count myself lucky to be working with him.
I welcome any other pairings the writers come up with, whether with the regular cast or guest stars. It’s challenging and fun to do different things.
CSI Files: Morgan Brody (Elisabeth Harnois) seems fascinated with the events that take place in autopsy. What do you think Doc Robbins makes of Ecklie’s daughter?
Hall: Elisabeth is a doll. She’s been an actor since she was a little kid and she fit right in with us… no nerves, just curiosity and great energy. Her character, Morgan Brody, is fascinated with the morgue and forensic activities and Elisabeth was just like the character she’s playing… she dove right in and started playing with all the props and asking all the right questions.
CSI Files: Robbins has seen his fair share of bodies over the years. In your eyes, do you think there’s a certain point where he’ll go, “Okay, I’ve had enough. It’s time to work at a Hawaiian resort!”?
Hall: The character Doc Robbins likes his job and wants to keep doing it. That depends on what the producers and writers and execs at CBS have in mind. The actor, RDH, loves going to work and enjoys the cast, crew, and staff so much, he hopes we go twenty seasons.
CSI Files: CSI: Miami and CSI: NY have gone through several coroners throughout their years on the air, whereas you’ve been employed since the show’s first season. What’s your secret?
Hall: It’s like I mentioned earlier. I enjoy my job and the people I work with. Sounds corny, but in my case it’s true. There have been, and still are some great actors playing ME’s on the other series. Khandi Alexander was brilliant on Miami and I think my friend Robert Joy is still doing CSI: NY.
CSI Files: It’s a foregone conclusion that you’ll be back next season, correct?
Hall: It’s never a foregone conclusion. I’m afraid there are no guarantees in this business. I serve at the pleasure of Carol Mendelsohn and Don McGill, our Executive Producers, and Les Moonves and Jerry Bruckheimer, the big bosses. I’m fairly optimistic I’ll be back though.
CSI Files: In addition to working on CSI, you also devote time to making music! Any upcoming albums you can talk about?
Hall: Thanks for mentioning the music! It means a lot to me. My last CD “Things They Don’t Teach You in School” got some good reviews and I had the thrill of doing three songs at the Grand Old Opry last year. I’ve been writing some new material this Spring and I hope to get back to Austin and record another CD. You can check out the first one at robertdavidhallmusic.com.
CSI Files: Any fun hiatus plans?
Hall: My wife Judy and I love to travel so we may visit friends in Austin, NYC, and Maine. I do a charity event every May called “Art Has Heart” in Albuquerque with the great artist Amado Pena. It benefits art studies in the schools and I’ve been invited to join Joe Nameth and golf legend Jack Nicklaus at an event May 17th near NYC to benefit the great ABILITIES! school run by my friend John Kemp.
I wouldn’t mind performing music and possibly doing a few days on a film, but that’s up in the air.
CSI Files: What’s coming up for Robbins in these final episodes of Season Twelve? It’s hard to believe that you guys are almost finished with production!
Hall: I really don’t know where the final two episodes will go! I imagine there’ll be a cliffhanger and one of the main stars will be in some kind of peril. I trust our writers will create their usual magic and it’ll be a potboiler. We just got picked up for a thirteenth season, so I’m pretty excited myself to find out where the next story arc will lead us.