“CSI: Vegas” star Paula Newsome (Max) went home every night exhausted while shooting the latest episode of the CBS drama in which the remains are found of a young girl who had been missing for 40 years. Even though the child and the story itself were creations of the CBS show’s writers, the emotional toll was so palpable that Newsome came to understand why most homicide detectives call it quits after serving 10 years.
The heartbreaking story of “The Promise” began when remains of a child were found in a garbage drum on the floor of Lake Mead. The CSI team learned that the Jane Doe went missing four decades earlier – and the circumstances that led up to her disappearance as well as the lingering pain of the child’s mother were equally as tragic.
After the still-grieving mother surfaced, she and Max formed a bond, with Max promising to promise to find the culprit and give the girl a proper burial. Those scenes with Newsome and the mother (Regina Taylor) were especially powerful for the “CSI” star – and also very rewarding as an actor.
“Doing emotional work is very easy for me,” Newsome said, then stopping to rethink her comment. “I don’t want to say easy, in that it’s not hard. It’s, it’s very, um, honest. Being honest. Emotional work though…deeply felt is easier than mental work. Did I go home at the end of day? Did I go home at the end of the day exhausted? Yes. Did I go home at the end of the day feeling proud and, like, ‘woo hoo’ you know? Yeah. It’s easier because all it is is you take a deep breath and you respond. That’s when it’s the best.”
And considering the story itself, it wasn’t the slightest bit difficult to tap into what the mother must have been feeling not only all those years her daughter was missing, but also the discovery of her remains. The connection was almost instant.
“A mom and a vulnerable brown child. Now Max didn’t know it was a brown child, but she knew it was a child. It was a child. A child stuffed in a garbage can! You know?” Newsome said almost in disbelief that such atrocities do happen in real life. Max having to then ask the mother to prove her story, that the dead girl was really her daughter, made it even harder.
“This woman, she’s dealt with it, it’s atrophied over 40 years! And then she comes back and now I’m like, ‘All right. Now prove it.’ How I even let that come out in my mouth? That was hard,” Newsome said. “You know what I chose to do instead of detaching? I chose to dive right in. Because you know what? You just tell the truth. Yeah. You tell the truth.”
The show has broadened interest in careers as real homicide detectives and crime scene investigators. But, Newsome said, those real-life professions emotionally wear people down.
“I have a dear friend who is a robbery homicide detective, and when she works a lot, she shakes,” Newsome said. “I hold her. She doesn’t even know she shook. I’d hold her, and she was like ,’Did I shake?’ and I was like, ‘Yeah.’ And when she’s away from work, the shaking goes away. They shake, because they see a lot of overwhelming stuff. They shake, and that’s the body’s way of discharging overwhelming stuff. So, of course they have 10 years. Yeah. 10 years. That’s enough.”
Newsome is abundantly grateful to do a show like “CSI: Vegas,” which was, in the beginning, “more about the science,” but has evolved and matured into a show that touches the heart as deeply as it works the brain.
“It was really more about the science and it was groundbreaking and became a worldwide phenomenon because of that,” she said. “Now this iteration, they’re choosing to bring in more both sides of the brain. It’s the more feeling side as well. And they have actors and people where that’s their strengths, who can do both sides and humor as well. And I’m excited for that.”
“CSI: Vegas” airs Thursdays 10 p.m. ET/PT on the CBS Television Network and is available to stream live and on demand on Paramount+.