William Petersen

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William Petersen
Petersen on the set of CSI in March 2004.
William Louis Petersen

(1953-02-21) February 21, 1953 (age 68)
Nationality American
Other namesWilliam L. Petersen
Education Bishop Kelly High School
Alma mater Idaho State University
OccupationActor, producer
Years active1976–present
Known for CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
Joanne Brady
(m. 1974;div. 1981)

Gina Cirone
(m. 2003)

William Louis Petersen (born February 21, 1953) is an American actor and producer. He is best known for his role as Gil Grissom in the CBS drama series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (2000–2015), for which he won a Screen Actors Guild Award and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award; he was further nominated for three Primetime Emmy Awards as a producer of the show. [1] He will reprise his role as Gil Grissom in the sequel CSI: Vegas .


He also starred in the films To Live and Die in L.A. (1985), Manhunter (1986), Young Guns II (1990), Fear (1996), The Contender (2000), Detachment (2011), and Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012). [2]

Early life

Petersen was born in Evanston, Illinois, the youngest of six children of June (née Hoene; 1909–2006) and Arthur Edward Petersen (1907 – 2004), who worked in the furniture business. [3] [4] Of Danish and German descent, he was raised in the Roman Catholic faith of his mother. [5] [6] He has two brothers, Arthur Jr. and Robert, and three sisters, Anne, Mary Kay, and Elizabeth. [7]

He graduated from Bishop Kelly High School in Boise, Idaho, in 1972. He was accepted to Idaho State University on a football scholarship. While at Idaho State, Petersen took an acting course, which changed the direction of his life. He left school [8] along with his wife, Joanne, in 1974, and followed a drama professor to the Basque country, where he studied as a Shakespearean actor. Petersen was interested in Basque culture: He studied the Basque language and gave his daughter the Basque name "Maite Nerea" ("My Beloved"); she was born in Arrasate/Mondragón in 1975. [9] Petersen returned to Idaho with the intention of being an actor. Not wanting to work a nonacting job in Idaho, he returned to the Chicago area, living with relatives. He became active in the theater and earned his Actors' Equity card. He performed with the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, of which he has been an ensemble member since 2008, [10] and was a co-founder of the Remains Theater Ensemble, [8] which also included other prominent Chicago actors Gary Cole and Ted Levine.[ citation needed ]


In 1985, Petersen received his first break when he played a Secret Service agent gone rogue to avenge his mentor in William Friedkin's 1985 action film To Live and Die in L.A. [11] In 1986, he played FBI agent Will Graham in the first Hannibal Lecter film, Manhunter . [12] Because his role was so emotionally exhausting, he did everything he could to rid himself of Graham after finishing principal photography. He shaved off his beard, cut his hair, and bleached it blond. He also claims to have done this because, while rehearsing for a play in Chicago, his dialogue was always coming out like Graham's; he dyed his hair so he could look in the mirror and see a different person. [13]

He declined a part in Oliver Stone's Platoon , as it would have kept him in the Philippines, away from his family. Instead, he worked on the 1987 HBO made-for-TV movie Long Gone as a minor league baseball player and manager named Cecil "Stud" Cantrell. [14] Petersen was offered the role of Henry Hill in the film Goodfellas , but turned it down. An exposé about the film in the May 2015 issue of Playboy claims that Petersen turned down the audition altogether. [15] In a 1990 ABC three-part miniseries, The Kennedys of Massachusetts , Petersen played U.S. President John F. Kennedy's father, Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy. [16] The film won an Emmy and a Golden Globe from eight and two nominations, respectively. Also in 1990, Petersen portrayed the infamous Patrick Floyd "Pat" Garrett in Young Guns II . [17]

In 1993, Petersen appeared in a CBS TV miniseries, Return to Lonesome Dove , as former Ranger Gideon Walker. [18] He played Steven Walker, a father who stops at nothing to break up the relationship between his daughter and her vicious boyfriend in Fear (1996). [19] Petersen played Governor Jack Hathaway, an unscrupulous candidate for vice president following the death of the incumbent, in The Contender in 2000. [20]

He appeared uncredited in the noir thriller Mulholland Falls as a character who finds himself on the violent receiving end of a Los Angeles police squad's tactics. In 1999, he starred in Kiss the Sky as "Jeff." [21] [22] He appeared as part of an all-star cast in a remake of the 1997 film 12 Angry Men (as Juror #12, a.k.a. "the Snob"). [23]

From 2000 to 2010, he played Dr. Gil Grissom in the CBS crime drama CSI: Crime Scene Investigation . Petersen took a break from CSI in 2006 to appear in a five-week run of the Trinity Repertory Company production of Dublin Carol by Conor McPherson, in Providence, Rhode Island. [24] Petersen renewed his contract with CBS to appear on CSI for the 2008–09 season, reportedly for $600,000 per episode. [25] On July 15, 2008, the Associated Press reported that Petersen was leaving the show as a regular following Season 9's tenth episode in order to pursue more stage-acting opportunities, but that he might return for guest spots. [26] He remained an executive producer of the show. [26] He reprised his role of Gil Grissom in the eleventh-season episode "The Two Mrs. Grissoms" (aired February 3, 2011). He came back in 2015 as a guest in the series finale, "Immortality."

In February 2020, Petersen announced to return for a CSI sequel series along with Jorja Fox, before the series was picked up as CSI: Vegas .

Personal life

In 1975, Petersen and his wife Joanne Brady welcomed a daughter, Maite. In June 2003, Petersen married longtime girlfriend Gina Cirone. He has two grandsons, Mazrik William (born October 2003) and Indigo August (born August 2009). He is an avid Chicago Cubs fan. In 2004, he described to Playboy a near-death experience he had in the 1980s which gave him "assurance" that there is an afterlife. [27]

On July 5, 2011, Petersen and Cirone (via surrogate) welcomed opposite-sex twins (a son and a daughter). [28]

Petersen was rushed to the hospital by ambulance after falling mysteriously ill on the set of CSI: Vegas . The cause of his mysterious illness was due to exhaustion. He is now out of the hospital and his condition is improving and is recovering from the illness. [29]


On February 3, 2009, Petersen received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. [30]



1981 Thief Katz & Jammer Bartender
1985 To Live and Die in L.A Secret Service Agent Richard Chance
1986 Manhunter FBI Agent Will Graham
1987 Amazing Grace and Chuck Russell
1987 Long Gone Stud Cantrell
1989 Cousins Tom
1990 Young Guns II Pat Garrett
1992 Hard Promises JoeyAlso producer [31] [32]
1992 Passed Away Frank Scanlan
1995In the Kingdom of the Blind, the Man with One Eye Is KingTony 'Tony C'
1996 Fear Steve Walker
1996 Mulholland Falls Jack Flynn, MobsterUncredited
1998 Gunshy Jake Bridges [33]
1998 Kiss the Sky Jeff
2000 The Skulls Senator Ames Levritt
2000 The Contender Jack Hathaway
2011 Detachment Sarge [34]
2012 Seeking a Friend for the End of the World Glenn


1986 The Twilight Zone Edward SayersEpisode: "Need to Know"
1987 Long Gone Cecil Cantrell Television film
1990 The Kennedys of Massachusetts Joseph P. Kennedy Miniseries
1992 Keep the Change Joe StarlingTelevision film
1993CuracaoStephen GuerinTelevision film
1993 Return to Lonesome Dove Gideon Walker3 episodes
1995 Fallen Angels GeorgeEpisode: "Good Housekeeping"
1996 The Beast Whip DaltonTelevision film
1997 12 Angry Men Juror #12Television film
1998 The Staircase JoadTelevision film
1998 The Rat Pack President John F. Kennedy Television film
2000–2015 CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Gil Grissom Main Role (Seasons 1–9)
Guest role (Seasons 11, 13, 15)
2001HavenJackson ConnollyTelevision film
2007 Without a Trace Gil GrissomEpisode: "Where and Why?"
2013 Blue MitchEpisode: "Hard Time"
2015 Manhattan Colonel Emmett Darrow [35] 10 episodes
2021 CSI: Vegas Gil GrissomLimited series

Production credits

Live theatre

Remains Theatre

Steppenwolf Theatre Company

Source: Steppenwolf [37]

Goodman Theatre

Victory Gardens Theater (Chicago, Illinois)

Wisdom Bridge Theatre (Chicago)

Other stage works

Stage director


AssociationYearAccoladeNominated WorkResultsRef
Golden Globes 2004 Best Actor — Television Series, Drama CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Nominated [50]
Primetime Emmy Awards 2002 Outstanding Drama Series (Executive Producer)CSI: Crime Scene InvestigationNominated [51]
2003 Outstanding Drama Series (Executive Producer)CSI: Crime Scene InvestigationNominated [52]
2004 Outstanding Drama Series (Executive Producer)CSI: Crime Scene InvestigationNominated [53]
Producers Guild of America 2003 Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Drama CSI: Crime Scene InvestigationNominated [54]
2004 Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Drama CSI: Crime Scene InvestigationNominated
2005 Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Drama CSI: Crime Scene InvestigationNominated
Screen Actors Guild Awards 2002 Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series CSI: Crime Scene InvestigationNominated [55]
2003 Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series CSI: Crime Scene InvestigationNominated [56]
2004 Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series CSI: Crime Scene InvestigationNominated [57]
2005 Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series CSI: Crime Scene InvestigationWon [58]

See also

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