Gary Sinise: CSI: NY's Uncertain Fate Led to 'A Lot of Emotion' In 'Very Reflective' Finale

Tonight at 9/8c, CBS’ CSI: NY presents its season finale, in which a shooting leaves Mac hovering between life and death, precipitating a visit from his late wife, Claire. Meanwhile, the crime drama itself finds itself hoping to cheat death by earning the Season 9 renewal that thus far has eluded it. TVLine spoke with series lead Gary Sinise about the “very reflective” hour, why the show’s uncertain fate made it extra-emotional, and his latest turn as cohost of PBS’ Memorial Day weekend concert special.

TVLINE | Obviously, putting a lead character at death’s doorstep is a familiar TV trope. What sort of story will CSI: NY be telling tonight with Mac?
This is a very reflective episode. When somebody is near death and fighting for his life, that makes a lot of people who are close to that person think a lot and think hard, and wish they had said or done certain things before it was too late. That’s a lot of what this episode is about.

TVLINE | I saw a clip with you and Jaime Ray Newman, and it’s just so powerful. It says a lot that the two of you were able to click and make your scenes resonate so strongly despite having shared little on-camera history.
Jaime Ray is just terrific — so easy to work with, and a wonderful gal. We only worked together on the season premiere and the season finale, and we just fell into it. I was surprised when I read that her character was coming back, but excited. We have two very good scenes in the finale, and it comes as easy as anything.

TVLINE | Would you go so far as to say this is the most powerful finale CSI: NY has ever done?
I would say it’s certainly one of our best season finales, because it had to occupy two spaces — a season finale and a series finale, because we don’t know if we’re coming back. There was a lot of emotion in this one because we’re just not sure if our goodbyes in the episode are real or not.

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TVLINE | Turning to The National Memorial Day Concert special (airing Sunday, May 27, on PBS): You first co-hosted this event in 2005. What is the feeling you get by being there, in person at the nation’s capital, for this emotion-laden occasion?
It is fantastic. Every year, [cohost] Joe Mantegna (Criminal Minds) and I kind of pinch each other, standing there on the stage and looking out at 250,000 people spread out across the lawn, with the sun going down on the Capitol. And the music being played…. It’s a fantastic way to celebrate our great military members who have fallen in combat as sacrifice for us. It’s a privilege to have been a part of it.

TVLINE | What would you say is easiest way for the average American to take a time out from their holiday BBQ or beach getaway and properly mark the day?
By attending any number of Memorial Day events that go on in the communities all across this country, on that Monday. But the Sunday night before is when we have this wonderful concert on PBS. Every year the word spreads and even more tune in, because it’s a great way to not only pay tribute to those who have fallen, but also to learn things. We always have segments that highlight different things — Vietnam veterans, or returning Iraq veterans, various causes that are going on.

TVLINE | What guests are you particularly excited to have on hand this year?
[Country music star] Trace Adkins is back, we’ve got Ellen Burstyn this year, Dennis Franz…. [The band] Daughtry is there this year…. Colin Powell will be back, Jessica Sanchez, who’s one of the finalists on American Idol…. It’s a big concert, 90 minutes of very patriotic and moving segments. This is how I celebrate Memorial weekend, with this concert and then riding in the parade in Washington, D.C. the next day.