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CSI: Vegas EP Anthony E. Zuiker and Guest Star Regina Taylor Preview the Series’ Most Emotional Episode Yet

CSI Vegas Regina Taylor Preview
“The Promise” – When the body of a young girl who was killed over 40 years ago is discovered at the bottom of Lake Mead, Max Roby promises her mother, Raquel Williams, that the CSI team will finally find justice for her daughter in a powerful episode co-written by “CSI” franchise creator Anthony E. Zuiker. Also, Greg Sanders brings his quirky humor as he returns to the crime lab, on the CBS Original series CSI: VEGAS, Thursday, March 30 (10:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network, and available to stream live and on demand on Paramount+*. Regina Taylor guest stars as Raquel Williams, the girl’s mother. Eric Szmanda reprises his original CSI role of Greg Sanders. Pictured: Regina Taylor as Raquel Williams and Paula Newsome as Maxine Roby. Photo: Michael Yarish/CBS ©2022 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Courtesy of CBS

“Did you cry?”

Arriving for an interview about this week’s CSI: Vegas, which he co-wrote (with Alex Berry), CSI creator Anthony E. Zuiker leads with that simple question, hoping that he and guest star Regina Taylor hit the deeply emotional mark for which they aimed. (Oh, and for this Journalist of a Certain Age, the answer was, “Well, yeah.”)

Airing Thursday at 10/9c on CBS, the episode “The Promise” is a real throat-clearer, coming as it does on the heels of this season’s Silver Ink Killer arc. The set-up: When the body of a young girl who was killed over 40 years ago is discovered in a barrel at the bottom of Lake Mead, Maxine Roby (played by Paula Newsome) promises the girl’s mother, Raquel Williams (Taylor), that the CSI team will find justice — by identifying her daughter’s killer.

Zuiker tells TVLine that while the episode was inspired by ongoing news reports about the remains of possible mob hits being found in barrels at the bottom of Lake Mead, “Rather than do a cliché mob story, I wanted to do something emotional for Paula Newsome, in terms of a big episode for her that was sort of racially charged.”

Following a four-day trip to Austin, where he got a crash course in the sort of facial reconstruction that sets the episode in motion, Zuiker brought the idea to showrunner Jason Tracey, and then to his guest star of choice.

“I read the script and I just started crying,” Regina Taylor shares with TVLine. “It just struck me, the love this mother has for her child, and the relationship that grows between these two women during this journey of reclaiming this child’s body.”

CSI VEgas Regina TaylorNot that Raquel and Maxine get on anything close to great when they first meet. Far from it.

“[Raquel] has been disappointed” in the police ever since her daughter’s long-ago vanishing, Taylor explains. “How many times did she call in and beg for help, and then she stopped? It is the feeling of a woman who is heartbroken, and who is enraged because of that heartbreak. From her perspective, Maxine is another policeman who is going to disappoint her.”

Yet Maxine is undeterred by Raquel’s refusal to cooperate. Rather, she is determined to connect whatever dots she and her team can and, hopefully, give this mother some closure.

“Raquel’s pain is one that has built up inside for so long, and it’s very primal,” Taylor notes. “She’s been grieving all these years, but can’t truly grieve because she doesn’t have her child’s body.”

Now 25 episodes into CSI: Vegas‘ run, Zuiker asserts that this week’s episode is the most “emotional” of any of ’em. What’s more, he ventures, it marks “probably the best work of my career, with the very best actress I’ve ever worked with, Regina Taylor.”

“I learned from [CSI franchise co-creators] Carol Mendelsohn and Ann Donahue, [CSI: NY showrunner] Pam Veasey, female showrunners that taught me television,” Zuiker shares. “And while what makes CSI successfully globally is great writing, fantastic mysteries and awesome actors, the glue that holds it together is the emotionality of episodes like this one. When you have an emotional undercurrent, CSI is the best show in the world.”

CSI VEgas Regina TaylorFor Taylor —  a Golden Globe winner and two-time Emmy nominee for her early-1990s run on NBC’s I’ll Fly Away — this CSI: Vegas guest spot afforded her the chance to dive into rich, complicated material with a respected peer.

“I have loved Paula for a long time, from all of her shows — Chicago Hope [in 1999] through now,” Taylor says. “So the opportunity to work together, to play and create with her, was very exciting.

“And then to read the script and see what we would be embarking on…. Anthony did such a beautiful job in creating this storyline with Maxine and Raquel,” Taylor raves. “I love taking journeys with great people, so this was like a dream.”

For Zuiker, meanwhile, the dream was to see that caliber of collaboration happen right in front of him, on-set.

“What’s funny about this is that what Regina never sees is me behind the monitors with other producers, grabbing and squeezing each other and making faces like we just scored a touchdown,” Zuiker shares. “Every time they say, ‘Action!,’ she’s so good.”

Want scoop on CSI: Vegas, or for any other show? Email and your question may be answered via Matt’s Inside Line.

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