From killer to lab rat, Jon Wellner has come a long way during his guest-starring tenure on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. A one-time guest appearance during Season Five was a dream come true for the Chicago native, but when he was approached about playing an entirely new character just nine episodes later as toxicologist Henry Andrews, Wellner’s dreams had reached new levels. After seven years of appearing on a recurring basis, the actor/researcher recently signed a new deal promoting him to series regular for the show’s thirteenth season. Shane Saunders caught up with Wellner to discuss how the opportunity came up and how it feels to be an official member of the ensemble.
CSI Files: Congrats again on the big news! How did you find out about the promotion?
Jon Wellner: First, thank you; I’m so thrilled about it. I talked to [executive producers] Don [McGill], Louis [Milito], and Carol [Mendelsohn] just about the idea of it and they were so generous and kind. They said, “We’d love to offer you that,” so it was straight from Carol.
CSI Files: What does it mean for your character this season? Is Henry going to have any new responsibilities?
Wellner: I think my role in the lab is expanded. Henry started with tox, then DNA, and of course he can still cover A/V needs if necessary–I do have that computer nerd streak in me. [Laughs.]
CSI Files: I believe you’re the first person throughout the entire CSI franchise promoted to series regular after previously portraying a killer.
Wellner: My first episode! I really can’t tell you how lucky it makes me feel. When I shot that first episode [“Unbearable”] back in Season Five, I was like, “Great! I did a CSI!” Then when they called and said we’re going to move you into the lab, I just couldn’t believe it. Once you shoot a guest-star role and your character goes off to prison, you’re like that’s it. So just to think what an amazing run I’ve had… I’m so blessed.
CSI Files: In years past you’ve worked one episode, had a few off, then would return again. Is the plan for you to be in every episode this season?
Wellner: No, I don’t think I’ll be in every episode. Hopefully I’ll be in a whole bunch of them. This is, I think, the first season where there hasn’t been any cast changes. We’re just all this super amazing family and work so well together.
CSI Files: When you talked to the producers did they hint at what direction they’re taking the show this season?
Wellner: We really didn’t get into that and I understand that; it’s not really my concern as much. I don’t have any good info for all the fans about any storylines this year, sadly.
CSI Files: In terms of your research capacities on the show will you and David Berman (David Phillips) still be alternating episodes? You’re both series regulars now.
Wellner: Right, this is the first time that we’re both series regulars and doing the research, but the beauty is I work in the lab and he works in the morgue, so we rarely shoot the same day.
CSI Files: The lab rats are an essential part to the series, and there’s been some rumors about a new lab rat episode. Have you heard anything on that?
Wellner: Really?! That’s news to me! I turn to Shane for my information on CSI news.
CSI Files: Have you stayed in contact with any of your co-stars over the hiatus?
Wellner: Yeah! I talk to Wally [Langham, David Hodges] a lot, Marc Vann [Conrad Ecklie] spent the summer in Bali, I saw Elisabeth Harnois [Morgan Brody] one time, and I keep in touch with most of the cast.
CSI Files: Speaking of Marc, do you have any idea on which way his character is going to go in the premiere?
Wellner: I don’t; I’m as concerned as everybody else. I love Ecklie even though he’s so easy to dislike. He’s so loved on the show it would be just crazy to kill him, but you never know. That’s the sad part about a show, people come and go.
CSI Files: Anything else you feel I didn’t cover?
Wellner: Just I hope the fans know how much we appreciate them after all these years. I just appreciate everyone’s support. I feel grateful to be an official series regular on the best show in the world.
CSI Files: With your face in the opening credits now, too.
Wellner: I know! I hope I get a good shot. I don’t even know how that works or what shots they use.
CSI Files: There’s some pretty cool scenes from “Unbearable” that they could use.
Wellner: [Laughs.] And people will say I look seven years younger.