There's a whole new generation of "CSI" beginning on Wednesday, March 4 when the popular franchise goes "Cyber." Each episode will follow the FBI Cyber Crime team led by cyberpsychologist Avery Ryan (Patricia Arquette) and manned by FBI Agent Elijah Mundo (James Van Der Beek), a self-proclaimed action junkie who is an expert in battlefield forensics.
"I've actually had been prepping for this for quite a while," says the former "Dawson's Creek" star. "When I was doing comedy ['Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23'], I thought, 'What's the next step going to be?,' and I figured it would be action. I trained in Krav Maga, I trained in Jiu-Jitsu, and I hooked up with some stunt guys and was working at a stunt gym before I got this offer."
"CSI: Cyber" came at the perfect moment, with Van Der Beek in tip-top shape and raring to take on his first action role. But it means that during filming, his alarm goes off at 5:30 each morning in order for him to get to the gym before heading to the set.
He jokes, "It's getting my workouts in so my body doesn't fall apart when I'm doing all this stuff. But I'm enjoying it."
The subject matter of "CSI: Cyber" is scary stuff. There have been so many stories in the news about people and companies getting hacked, identity theft, and now the CBS procedural drama is going to take us onto the darknet, where, allegedly, master criminals are busy at work.
"This has put me over the top of paranoia to a whole other level," says Arquette, who earlier this month took home an Academy Award for her work in "Boyhood." "We don't know what the hell is going on with all our devices and all the capabilities of these things. ['CSI: Cyber'] is the very cutting edge of law enforcement, unlike the way forensics were with the first 'CSI.' The ability to use these new devices and ways of thinking, strategizing with these new technologies to solve crime is really interesting, but so is how criminals are twisting these new technologies for evil gains."
As a result of their exposure to the stories on "CSI: Cyber" and working with the behind-the-scenes experts, who advise the writers, both Arquette and Van Der Beek have upped their game when it comes to anything that goes online.
"Everything that connects is vulnerable," Van Der Beek says. "There are little things you can do. It's like, you can be terrified of getting cavities and brush your teeth at night, but you still might get a cavity. People are hackable. Corporations are hackable."
That said, Arquette has more practical advice: "You should try to have dual verification on your emails and cover the camera on your phone and on your laptop. Those are good places to start. Never go on public Wi-Fi. Believe me, we can just start a long list of things."
Regular "CSI" deals with dead bodies, pulling DNA and other substances that be analyzed in the lab, so it is a very visual show. It won't be that easy for "CSI: Cyber," which will have to keep computer gazing interesting enough to keep viewers tuning in. Real-life hacking isn't done in 42-minutes, so the show is taking liberties and kicking it up a notch when it comes to how the team works.
And, for Van Der Beek, working with Arquette is a big part of keeping them all on their A-game.
"To be led by Patricia Arquette certainly does not suck," he says. "She's been one of my favorite actresses for a long time. She's got such a high emotional IQ, and she really just brings something different to every scene, especially some of the more procedural scenes and the more technical scenes. The trick is to make it compelling… And that's where Patricia really raises the bar for everybody because there's always something going on."
"CSI: Cyber," also starring Peter MacNicol, Charley Koontz, Shad Moss, and Hayley Kiyoko, premieres Wednesday, March 4 at 10 p.m. on CBS.