Lynette Rice
September 01, 2010 AT 05:30 PM EDT

Image Credit: Cliff Lipson/CBSSela Ward is back! EW obtained this exclusive first look of Ward as Jo Danville, a former FBI agent from Washington, D.C. whose work is driven by her empathy for victims in the new season of CSI: NY. She’s pictured here with Gary Sinise as Det. Mac Taylor.

This summer, the CBS drama lured the former Sisters star to join the drama as a series regular — her first such role since starring on ABC’s Once and Again from 1999 to 2002. (She had a recurring part on House from 2005 to 2006.) ”It’s going to be a whole new world,” Ward, 54, told EW exclusively. ”On Sisters, I was always in the kitchen, saying things like ‘Could you pass the cookies, Georgie?’ Now I’m going to be doing this and…oh my. I’m just stepping into a room I’ve never been in.”

The producers reassured the veteran TV actress that she won’t be replacing Melina Kanakaredes, who opted to leave the show before it started production on its seventh season (her final episode as Det. Stella Bonasera aired in May). ”We wanted to make this a unique character for Sela,” explains exec producer Pam Veasey. ”It was all so unexpected but invigorating. She’ll help revitalize and jump-start our show. We get to reintroduce it and maybe attract new audiences, now that it’s on Friday.”

CSI: NY returns to CBS on Sept. 24.

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