At ‘CSI,’ the handoff from Petersen to Fishburne begins

LOS ANGELES — There’s a reason there are no maggots — actual ones, not the criminal variety — on the CSI set.

“We had them in a scene one night. We went away, and when we came back the next day, they had stunk the whole place up,” William Petersen explains to Laurence Fishburne, who will join the cast as Petersen exits later in the hit drama’s ninth season, which starts tonight (CBS, 9 ET/PT).

Petersen, who plays supervisor Gil Grissom, is giving Fishburne a short tour of his character’s office, a mini-museum of animals and insects preserved in jars and tanks. The collection includes a tarantula, a lantern fly, a fetal pig and two bovine eyes. A rat hovers in a murky liquid, its bottle given an ominous glow by recessed lighting on the characteristically darkened CSI set.

The two actors have just finished a scene that illustrates the passing of the baton between their characters. Grissom is showing how to map a serial killer’s pattern to Fishburne’s character, Dr. Raymond Langston, a former pathologist who is now a consultant to the Las Vegas crime scene investigators.

The scene, which also features series regular Wallace Langham, is from Petersen’s final episode and the season’s 10th, set for January. Fishburne’s first episode, the ninth, comes in December.

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