On April 30, the Emmy-winning actress guest stars on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation as FBI special agent Avery Ryan, a cyberpsychologist who shows up in Las Vegas to investigate a case involving Internet sex and the death of a casino owner's wife. The episode, called "Kitty," is a pilot for a CSI spinoff tentatively titled CSI: Cyber. If it goes to series, it'll send the behemoth franchise hurtling toward a very scary future.
"You can't pick up The New York Times right now without seeing an article on cybercrime," says CSI creator Anthony Zuiker. "It's pretty frightening and hard to believe what people can pull off nowadays, but it's nothing compared to what our world will be dealing with in five years. What will extortion and bank heists be like in the future? What will hit men be like? Crime will be amplified in ways we can't imagine."
But Agent Ryan is here to save us. "She's so much more than a tech expert," notes Zuiker. "She's a criminal behaviorist who understands the art of manipulation. She reads facial tics and body language and is not above using lies and tricks to get things out of you."
At first, D.B. Russell (Ted Danson) and his team of investigators are wary of Avery's motivations. "She keeps things very close to the vest and has an interesting sense of entitlement," says Arquette, who sparked to the pilot's feminist POV — if all goes well, she'll be the first woman to headline a CSI series — and its ability to inform as well as entertain.
"The producers have a clear intention of helping people — in fact, they led our first conversation with that — and it got me very excited," says Arquette. "As a mom, I'm constantly worried about how to protect our kids in these crazy times, especially when it comes to the Internet. And we're all so innocent about cybersecurity. As we learned from Edward Snowden, we have no idea what the hell is really going on. I love the idea of a show that addresses that. We need it!"
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on CBS.