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Mandeep Dhillon And Matt Lauria On What Makes Stepping Onto The CSI: Vegas Set So Special - Exclusive Interview

On "CSI: Vegas," Mandeep Dhillon and Matt Lauria play investigators Allie Rajan and Josh Folsom, respectively, who have an ongoing "will they or won't they" storyline. Despite their attraction, the two dedicated team members always put the job first.

"CSI: Vegas," which airs Thursdays on CBS, follows a brilliant group of forensic investigators who use advanced technology to follow the evidence and capture the culprit. A sequel to the long-running series "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," which ended in 2015, "CSI: Vegas" premiered in 2021, bringing back original stars Jorja Fox and William Petersen alongside fresh faces like Dhillon and Lauria. By Season 2, Fox and Petersen had left the show, and fellow original Marg Helgenberger jumped aboard. Meanwhile, Dhillon and Lauria remain an integral part of the team.

During an exclusive interview with Looper, Dhillon and Lauria delved into what it was like to join such an iconic franchise and what it takes to bring their characters to life.

Lauria appeared as a guest star on the original CSI

You each have different perspectives when it comes to joining the "CSI" franchise. Mandeep, I read that, being from the U.K., you went in blindly, had never watched the show, and didn't realize its scope. At what point did it hit you that you were part of television history?

Mandeep Dhillon: When I went to Jamaica with my mom in March, a lot of the vacationing people were from America, especially Middle America. Everyone would walk up and down the beach and be like, "That's her, that's Allie." I was like, "Wow, okay, this is a big show." I was in the U.K. when [Season 1] aired [in the United States], and it didn't air in the U.K. Season 1 only recently aired in the U.K. I was like, "Am I on a show? What is going on here?" Then Jamaica ... amazing times. [That was] the first time I realized this is a really big show.

Matt, on the flip side, you were on the original "CSI" as a different character working with some of the original cast, like Marg Helgenberger, in a previous capacity. Did that first go-round have anything to do with you getting the second opportunity? What was it like seeing Marg and Jorja Fox again, when she was on the show?

Matt Lauria: They weren't related. They were isolated. The way things have worked with these two shows is they're completely different, for all intents and purposes, with different producers and different casting directors. It was an isolated and unique experience.

I had never seen the show either until I was a part of it. It was an interesting experience for me to come into something that all I knew was it was a big show and it had been on for 12 seasons or something like that. I had a certain level of expectations going into it, and all of them were either completely shattered or exceeded in the best possible way. The scripts were really tight and dynamic and interesting. The people were friendly and kind.

When I got to do the original "CSI," it was a pivotal moment for me because I had done a couple of shows where I was a main character, and then I came into this as a guest star. It gave me the freedom to work with confidence in a new way where the pressure was off. It was such a cool set to be on, and everyone was amazing, including Jorja and Marg. They couldn't have been more welcoming and inclusive. I couldn't believe that they were so kind to me as a guest there, but they were very inclusive. It gave me a chance to grow some confidence.

Dhillon: Matt saying that is amazing because any guest star or day player that comes onto [the "CSI: Las Vegas"] set will say Matt is the most amazing person. He is so welcoming and wonderful. He remembers everyone's name and personal things about them. He goes out of his way to make people feel welcome, so it's full circle.

Lauria: That's very sweet of you to say, buddy. Thank you.

Dhillon: It's facts. I'm just speaking facts.

Lauria: You're so sweet.

Dhillon needs a bucket beside her for certain scenes

Were you sad to see Jorja Fox and William Peterson go after the first season?

Lauria: Of course. They're an inextricable piece of the mesh of what the show is and what was the entire foundation of the show. Having them with us last season was such a blessing and such a gift to the show and such a beautiful connective thread to the legacy. Plus, they were dynamic, cool, interesting people. Their presence was definitely felt last season. Fortunately, now we have Marg [Helgenberger] this season, so that's another gigantic gift with a big old bright bow on it.

Your on-screen jobs are very complicated and technical — and a bit gruesome. How do you prepare for such a role? What helps you get into character?

Dhillon: I wish I had a thing that helped me because I'm really bad with it. The crew are aware. I have a bucket nearby if I'm in the morgue. If there's blood, I have to constantly tell myself it's raspberry sauce. It's interesting because when I'm standing there as Mandeep, I'm like, "Ew." Like, "I genuinely feel sick and it's actually disgusting." But as soon as they say "action" and Allie kicks in, I'm in there, taking out organs, and I'm fine. Then they say "cut" and I'm back to being like, "Ew, get it away from me." There have been times when I don't want to [do a scene] because it's disgusting.

Lauria: It's fun. I love hanging out in the morgue, giving the bodies a little poke.

Dhillon: That makes my stomach turn. I'm not even joking.

Lauria: Mandeep struggles with the goo and the gore. However, she is exemplary with the science and rattling off mouthfuls of biochemical whatever the hoo-ha. She's amazing at it. We all have our strengths. What was the question again?

What helps you get into character?

Lauria: I was going to be such a smart ass and say, "I put on some short shorts and a headband, and I do some aerobics and that gets me in the right zone." It does. But the best part about doing a show like this where we get to tell a long story arc is that ... every new episode is a surprise. [In] every new script that we read, we have very little information about what the long game for the character or the story is. When you're in it, it's a very busy, intense schedule, and you're going from script to script to script, and every new script that we read is a surprise as far as the mystery is concerned [and] as far as our characters and their relationships and their dynamics are concerned. We're constantly learning about who we are and who these people are and where they're coming from.

Also, the advantage of doing a long form of storytelling is that you're always in the zone. You're building upon all the stories that you've read and lived through as we've filmed them, and you're building a framework of who Josh is. It's behind you and beneath you every time you walk into a new scenario with the character. You get to know your character. The simpler way of saying this is you get to know your character very intimately, because you're telling it over such a long story arc and we're doing it all day, every day. It's not hard to click into. I don't know, [Mandeep], what do you think I do to get into character?

Dhillon: You wear your lovely Folsom perfume ... What was it, aftershave? That's it.

Lauria: Yes — aftershave, cologne.

Dhillon: It's so nice. He smells great.

Lauria: You don't know because you're only watching, but know as you're watching that I also smell great.

She would like to see Allie and Josh wind up together

Allie and Josh's relationship is complicated, and there is still a lot of "will they or won't they" speculation, even though Josh is dating Serena. Where do you guys hope their relationship goes? Are you in the corner of "just friends" or crossing your fingers for something more down the line?

Dhillon: As the audience wants, it would be lovely for them to eventually be together. The one thing that I'm concerned about is how are me and Matt going to do that whilst not getting the giggles? I don't know how we are going to be able to do those scenes because we are ... He's my best friend. We are very silly in general, and I don't know how we're going to be all sexy and serious and all.

Lauria: Buddy, I thought that I was sexy and serious all the time?

Dhillon: Yeah, buddy, you are.

Lauria: I'm doing my best. I'm trying.

Dhillon: Imagine us trying to be serious with it. We would get the giggles; I know it.

Lauria: Look longingly into one another's eyes ...

Dhillon: Yeah, all of that. The poor camera man.

Lauria: So awkward. Although ... don't ruin it for America. We'll definitely be sexy.

Dhillon: We're professional. We'll get it done.

Lauria: It'll be fine. Look, I don't want to weigh in on it, because who knows what the writers have planned as far as what's down the line? It's complicated because there could not be more that Josh admires and adores about Allie. She's so impressive to him and so dynamic and interesting and attractive. But that's risky because there's a friendship on the line, which would be a heartbreaking friendship to lose, and there's a very serious professional implication there. You don't want to ruin things at the workplace because the job that we do is sacred and demands so much and people are relying on us. It's risky. Also, apparently, Mandeep is very aggressive when it comes to on-screen romance.

Dhillon: I am.

Lauria: Extremely aggressive. Everyone's very concerned about her aggressive kissing.

Dhillon: It's all I know.

Lauria: It's a lot. It's like an alligator.

Dhillon: "Allie-gator."

She landed a Star Wars cameo after meeting J.J. Abrams

Mandeep, outside of "CSI," you had a small role in "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker." What was that experience like? What was it like walking onto that set?

Dhillon: It was amazing, but it was the most bizarre experience. I'll tell you how it happened. I was filming "After Life" Season 2 at Pinewood Studios [in England], and I get a message from my team saying, "This casting director wants to call you on your way home." I said, "Okay." They said, "You need to sign an NDA [non-disclosure agreement]." I was like, "Okay, fine" — no idea what's going on.

After lunchtime, ["After Life" co-star] Ricky [Gervais], who's friends with J.J. [Abrams] says, "Guys, we've got a set visitor." J.J. comes to set, and we're all talking to him like, "Hey, how are you? Blah, blah, blah. Oh, great. The 'Star Wars' set? Maybe we'll come over and have a look at it or whatever."

They're catching jokes. "Lovely to meet you." "Sure." Then I get in the car after filming and I'm driving home, and I call this casting director to see what's what. She says, "We're doing the last 'Star Wars' film, and J.J. loves your work. Would you like a cameo in the film?" I was like, "Sure." Then I said to her, "Are you aware that I've just met J.J. today for the first time?" She goes, "Oh, he could have told you this himself."

What a bizarre day. It was honestly so strange. What are the odds of that? Walking on set, I already felt like I knew J.J. I know John Boyega and Daisy Ridley as well, so that was nice. It was very exciting to work with Richard E. Grant, and the fact that he was in the Spice Girls movie was everything, which I told him. He was like, "Out of all of my films, you remember the Spice Girls movie?" I was like, "Yeah, duh."

Lauria: What if J.J. showed up to set because before he gave you the cameo, he wanted to make sure you weren't a crazy person?

Dhillon: He probably wanted to make sure, "Is she okay?" How funny. But that's sometimes where I'm like, "That's God at play."

"CSI: Las Vegas" airs Thursdays at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.

This interview was edited for clarity.