Just like Law & Order before it, CSI is spawning spin-offs faster than we can set our TiVos to keep up with them. On the latest, CSI: NY (Wed., 10 p.m.; premieres Sept. 22 on CBS ), a new team of forensic specialists swabs crime scenes in the Big Apple. EW.com asked Hill Harper, who plays reclusive coroner Dr. Sheldon Hawkes on the series, to tell us why his show will stand out from the latex-gloved pack.
THIS IS THE ONE WITH THE MASTERMIND CSI: NY will be the first CSI series that Anthony Zuiker, the creator of the franchise, will directly supervise. ''He really wants to make a mark and say, 'Like it or not, this show isn't about the others,''' says Harper. (Don't worry, fans: Zuiker will be keeping an eye on CSI: Miami and CSI: Original Flavor.)
IT'S NEW YORK Besides tapping into all the gritty ambience and colorful characters of New York, CSI: NY will delve into the city's recent history: specifically the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. ''I went and toured with the medical examiner's office in New York,'' says Harper, ''and after 9/11, you're talking about some heroes. This guy told me they personally went through over 27,000 individual body parts, and had to do the DNA test on each, mark down what they were, and then, like a jigsaw puzzle, start to put bags together. They identified somewhere around 1,800 people that way and allowed the families to have a proper burial. This is the office we're going to be showing, and every character is affected by that.'' Most significantly, it's revealed that the wife of Detective Mac Taylor (played by Emmy winner and Oscar nominee Gary Sinise) died in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11.
IT LOOKS COOL Unlike the sun-kissed CSI: Miami and slick, Vegasy CSI, CSI: NY will have a darker, more somber visual style. ''It's a blue-gray look, very dark,'' says Harper. ''It's shot in almost a bluish sepia tone. It's gothic. You know the first Batman movie? This is [executive producer] Jerry Bruckheimer's version of Gotham. A big city with lots of cold, hard concrete, no ocean, no sunny beach or bikinis. It's just colder.''
THIS ACTORS HAVE EMMY POTENTIAL ''We probably have the best new cast on television,'' Harper brags. ''The CSIs have gotten technical Emmys, but not many acting Emmys. I think this will be the show where we start getting some Emmy recognition for the acting side.'' The actor (who has also appeared on The Sopranos) is likely a little biased, but that doesn't mean he's wrong. Kanakaredes starred in her own series, Providence, for five years, and Sinise is an Oscar nominee (for 1995's Forrest Gump) and Emmy winner (for 1997's George Wallace). Top that, William Petersen.
IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT THE SCIENCE We've only gotten brief glimpses into the personal lives of the characters on previous CSIs; that's changing this time around. ''New York simply lends itself to interesting characters,'' says Harper. Watch for Sinise to exercise his acting chops as Taylor continues to struggle with his wife's death. Meanwhile, Kanakaredes's character, Detective Stella Bonasera, will attempt to discover whether or not her late father was really a criminal.