September 21st, 2011
07:00 PM ET
Robert David Hall is not a doctor, but he plays one on TV.
In fact, Hall plays the longest running pathologist on primetime television as Dr. Al Robbins, the medical examiner on “CSI,” which enters its 12th season tonight. (Yes, that’s five years longer and more than 100 episodes past Jack Klugman’s “Quincy M.E.”)
Despite his success - actually, because of his success - there’s one real-life role that seems to escape Hall despite numerous callbacks: the part of a trial juror.
“I have been asked to do jury service a number of times,” Hall says. “Every time I show up at a courtroom and they recognize me, they toss me off the jury.”
Is it a bias against actors? Is it because he’s pored over anatomy books and witnessed autopsies to prepare for his role? Or is it because he’s played judges on “L.A. Law” and “The Practice”?
Odds are that he’s merely a victim of what attorneys have dubbed the “CSI effect,” where jurors are described as having unrealistic expectations about forensic work thus putting more pressure on prosecutors to provide more scientific, less circumstantial evidence at trial. So who’d want an M.E. from TV potentially leading jurors during deliberations?
“I understand the problems that prosecutors have, perhaps, with juries expecting 'CSI'-the-show type evidence,” Halls says, adding that he has an appreciation for the legal field because there are a number of attorneys in his family. In fact, the actor says he could have followed in his father’s footsteps after getting admitted to law school, but he opted for show business instead.
The “CSI effect” is said to have popped up within a few years of the crime drama hitting the airwaves in 2000. Hall, one of the show’s originals, remembers people on set appreciating the cultural recognition beyond the successful Nielsen numbers.
“We hoped it was because the writing, production and acting were so good that it seemed real,” Hall recalls.
But over the years, Hall says he believes the “CSI effect” has been overblown. He credits people with being able to discern between a fictional depiction of forensic work and the real world of catching criminals, which he says is obviously not “as smooth and slick” as “CSI.”
“They don’t have special lighting and eerie music playing,” Hall says of those who work in the nation’s crime labs.
“My greatest hope is that I don’t embarrass a pathologist or a medical examiner,” he explains, adding that his four years of high school Latin help him with his medical dialogue. "I thank God I’m an actor and not a real pathologist."
As for that other role, he’ll be waiting for another summons—another callback—and likely another rejection from gaining a seat in a jury box.
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