NEW YORK — It's not easy to walk away from a secure gig in Hollywood, especially one that's popular, but Marg Helgenberger is doing just that.
After 12 seasons the actress will leave "CSI" in a two-part episode airing Wednesday, Jan. 18 and Jan. 25 at 10 p.m. EDT.
Helgenberger said in an interview she's looking forward to time off, hiking with her dog and even looking for work. She'd also love to do Broadway.
Despite her departure, 53-year-old Helgenberger said she would be willing to return for a special episode or two in the future.
"Oh, absolutely, in fact that was one of the reasons why it was a little easier for me to leave the show because the producers said to me practically every day the door is wide open. ...If I'm available and I'm up for it you betcha." She's proud the show has inspired some people to become criminalists and says to fans: "You haven't seen the last of me."
She called the role of Catherine Willows "one of the best roles" she's ever had and "quite a journey." Looking back at older episodes she likes to remember the crime that was solved, see who the guest stars are and marvel at some of her clothes and hairstyles. "Sometimes I go, 'What was I thinking?'" she laughed.
She's received both Emmy and Golden Globe Award nominations for her work on "CSI" and will get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Jan. 23. (A committee selects celebrities eligible for a star and those who accept pay $30,000 in costs and fees.)
She'll also remain in the loop with what's happening behind-the-scenes because her son Hugh is now a production assistant on the show.
"CSI" is known as the most watched show in the world and has received the International Television Audience Award at the Monte Carlo TV Festival. Helgenberger began to understand this firsthand when traveling abroad.
"In the Musee d'Orsay (in Paris)... I got kind of swarmed by people which was so strange to me because just in these galleries housed Van Gogh's and Monet's and Manet's and Toulouse-Lautrec and I just thought 'Wait a second this is so strange!' but anyway, nonetheless, it was flattering and I was just kind of taken aback by it."
Alicia Rancilio covers entertainment for The Associated Press. Follow her at http://www.twitter.com/aliciar.