Born: February 21, 1953
Birthplace: Evanston, Illinois, U.S.
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. 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).
Petersen was born in Evanston, Illinois, the youngest of six children of Helen June (née Hoene; 1909-2006) and Arthur Edward Petersen, Sr. (1901-2004), who worked in the furniture business. He is of Danish and German descent. He has two brothers, Arthur, Jr. and Robert, and three sisters, Anne, Mary Kay and Elizabeth.
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 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 and he studied the Basque language, Euskera, and gave his daughter the Basque name Maite Nerea (meaning My Beloved); she was born in Arrasate/Mondragón 1975. 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, and was a co-founder of the Remains Theater Ensemble, which also included other prominent Chicago actors Gary Cole and Ted Levine.
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.. In 1986, he played FBI agent Will Graham in the first Hannibal Lecter film, Manhunter. 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.
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. 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. 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. 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.
In 1993, Petersen appeared in a CBS TV miniseries, Return to Lonesome Dove as former Ranger Gideon Walker. He played Steven Walker in Fear (1996). Petersen played Governor Jack Hathaway, an unscrupulous candidate for vice president following the death of the incumbent, in The Contender in 2000.
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". He appeared as part of an all-star cast in a remake of the 1997 film 12 Angry Men (as Juror #12, aka "the Snob").
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.
On May 30, 2007, he was at Wrigley Field to join WGN radio sportscasters covering a Chicago Cubs-Florida Marlins game, and he mentioned he had seen CSI: The Experience at the Museum of Science and Industry (Chicago) on the South Side of Chicago. He expressed how he and his castmates were "blessed" to have such a successful series when he had seen shows starring friends cancelled after only a few episodes.
Petersen renewed his contract with CBS to appear on CSI for the 2008-09 season, reportedly for $600,000 per episode. 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. He remained an executive producer of the show. He reprised his role of Gil Grissom in the eleventh-season episode "The Two Mrs. Grissoms" (aired February 3, 2011).
On February 3, 2009, Petersen was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Most of the cast and crew of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation attended the ceremony. His star is located at 6667 Hollywood Blvd., directly in front of the legendary Musso & Frank Grill.
Petersen married longtime girlfriend Gina Cirone in June 2003. He has a daughter, Maite (born c. 1975), from his previous marriage to Joanne Brady. 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 Magazine a near-death experience he had in the 1980s that gave him "assurance" that there is an afterlife.
On July 5, 2011, Petersen and Cirone (via surrogate) welcomed twins, a son and daughter.
|1981||Thief||Katz & Jammer Bartender|
|1985||To Live and Die in L.A||Richard Chance|
|1987||Amazing Grace and Chuck||Russell|
|1987||Steam||Jack, the Hitman|
|1990||Young Guns II||Pat Garrett|
|1992||Hard Promises||Joey||Also producer|
|1992||Passed Away||Frank Scanlan|
|1995||In the Kingdom of the Blind, the Man with One Eye Is King||Tony C.|
|1996||Mulholland Falls||Jack Flynn, Mafia Mobster||Uncredited|
|1998||Kiss the Sky||Jeff|
|2000||The Skulls||Ames Levritt|
|2000||The Contender||Jack Hathaway|
|2012||Seeking a Friend for the End of the World||Glenn|
|1986||The Twilight Zone||Edward Sayers||Episode: "Need to Know"|
|1987||Long Gone||Cecil Cantrell||Television film|
|1990||The Kennedys of Massachusetts||Joseph P. Kennedy||Miniseries|
|1992||Keep the Change||Joe Starling||Television film|
|1993||Curacao||Stephen Guerin||Television film|
|1993||Return to Lonesome Dove||Gideon Walker||3 episodes|
|1995||Fallen Angels||George||Episode: "Good Housekeeping"|
|1996||The Beast||Whip Dalton||Television film|
|1997||12 Angry Men||Juror #12||Television film|
|1998||The Staircase||Joad||Television film|
|1998||The Rat Pack||John F. Kennedy||Television film|
|CSI: Crime Scene Investigation||Gil Grissom||196 episodes
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series
Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Television Series Drama
Nominated - Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series
Nominated - Satellite Award for Best Actor - Television Series Drama
Nominated - Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series
|2001||Haven||Jackson Connolly||Television film|
|2007||Without a Trace||Gil Grissom||Episode: "Where and Why?"|
|2013||Blue||Mitch||Episode: "Hard Time"|
|2015||Manhattan||Col. Emmett Darrow||10 episodes|