William Petersen, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation

Come Jan. 15, television's most popular show, CSI, will lose its beloved character Gil Grissom. But why would William Petersen leave his starring role on a hit show that averages 21.3 million viewers a week? A character that made him one of the highest paid actors on television?

"The reason I'm leaving is because I'm afraid I'm becoming too comfortable,'' Petersen told Entertainment Weekly. ''It's CSI — they pay me a lot of money, and I don't have to work very hard anymore. I've got it all figured out. And I just realized, God, as an artist, I'm going to atrophy. You do anything for nine years, it becomes somewhat rote. I didn't want to be on the show because they were paying me money and I liked the money. I didn't want to be on the show because it saved me from having to go look for other jobs. Just didn't want it. It was too safe for me at this point. So I needed to try and break that, and the way to do that, for me, is the theater.''

But after nine seasons, saying goodbye to Grissom must take its toll on the emotions, right? Not quite. ''I won't miss Grissom,'' Petersen told the magazine. ''It was a complete life for me that's reached its end, and it's reached it in the right way, I think. So I won't miss Grissom. And I hope that the audience won't miss him either.''

Petersen did admit there is one thing he'll miss about playing Grissom — hair fibers. Well, maybe not so much the fibers as those sans-dialogue moments. ''I used to bitch about it a lot the first few years, but I became very adept at having the camera see the fiber, and using the tweezers to pick the fiber up, and then having the camera follow the tweezers to my face so the audience can say, 'Oh, Grissom sees it. He knows what it is.' I'll miss that.''

Now living in Chicago and performing at the Steppenwolf Theater, the 55-year-old actor officially began his goodbye back in November 2007, when Grissom's fiancée hit the road, and continued through the following year with the murder of Warrick (Gary Dourdan) in October 2008. Petersen's exit was ultimately postponed due to the writers' strike, leaving the creative team ample time to fill the void left by Grissom's departure by casting Laurence Fishburne as Raymond Langston.

What do you think of Petersen's choice to leave fame and fortune for creative growth?