William Petersen

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).[1]

William Petersen
Petersen on the set of CSI in March 2004.
William Louis Petersen

(1953-02-21) February 21, 1953
NationalityDanish, German (origin)
Other namesWilliam L. Petersen
EducationBishop Kelly High School
Alma materIdaho State University
OccupationActor, producer
Years active1976–present
Known forCSI: Crime Scene Investigation
Joanne Brady
(m. 1974; div. 1981)

Gina Cirone (m. 2003)

Early life

Petersen was born in Evanston, Illinois, the youngest of six children of Helen June (née Hoene; 1909–2006) and Arthur Edward Petersen (1901–2004), who worked in the furniture business.[2][3]

He is of Danish and German descent.[4] He has two brothers, Arthur Jr. and Robert, and three sisters, Anne, Mary Kay, and Elizabeth.[5]

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[6] 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: He studied the Basque language and gave his daughter the Basque name Maite Nerea (meaning My Beloved); she was born in Arrasate/Mondragón in 1975.[7] 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,[8] and was a co-founder of the Remains Theater Ensemble,[6] 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.[9] In 1986, he played FBI agent Will Graham in the first Hannibal Lecter film, Manhunter.[10] 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.[11]

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.[12] 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.[13] 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.[14] 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.[15]

In 1993, Petersen appeared in a CBS TV miniseries, Return to Lonesome Dove, as former Ranger Gideon Walker.[16] He played Steven Walker in Fear (1996).[17] Petersen played Governor Jack Hathaway, an unscrupulous candidate for vice president following the death of the incumbent, in The Contender in 2000.[18]

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."[19][20] He appeared as part of an all-star cast in a remake of the 1997 film 12 Angry Men (as Juror #12, a.k.a. "the Snob").[21]

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.[22] Petersen renewed his contract with CBS to appear on CSI for the 2008–09 season, reportedly for $600,000 per episode.[23] 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.[24] He remained an executive producer of the show.[24] He reprised his role of Gil Grissom in the eleventh-season episode "The Two Mrs. Grissoms" (aired February 3, 2011). He came back in 2015 as a guest in the series finale, "Immortality."

Personal life

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 a near-death experience he had in the 1980s that gave him "assurance" that there is an afterlife.[25]

On July 5, 2011, Petersen and Cirone (via surrogate) welcomed twins, a son and daughter.[26]


On February 3, 2009, Petersen received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.[27]



Year Title Role Notes
1981 Thief Katz & Jammer Bartender
1985 To Live and Die in L.A Richard Chance
1986 Manhunter Will Graham
1987 Amazing Grace and Chuck Russell
1987 Steam Jack, the Hitman
1987 Long Gone Stud Cantrell
1989 Cousins Tom
1990 Young Guns II Pat Garrett
1992 Hard Promises Joey Also producer[28][29]
1992 Passed Away Frank Scanlan
1995 In the Kingdom of the Blind, the Man with One Eye Is King Tony C.
1996 Fear Steve Walker
1996 Mulholland Falls Jack Flynn, Mafia Mobster Uncredited
1998 Gunshy Jake Bridges[30]
1998 Kiss the Sky Jeff
2000 The Skulls Ames Levritt
2000 The Contender Jack Hathaway Critics Choice Movie Award for Alan J. Pakula Award
2011 Detachment Sarge[31]
2012 Seeking a Friend for the End of the World Glenn


Year Title Role Notes
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 Lead Role Seasons 1-9, Guest Season 13
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[32] 10 episodes

Production credits

Live theatre

Remains Theatre

Steppenwolf Theatre Company

Source: Steppenwolf[34]

Goodman Theatre

Victory Gardens Theater (Chicago, Illinois)

Wisdom Bridge Theatre (Chicago)

  • Canticle of the Sun (1981) as Unknown
  • In the Belly of the Beast (1985) as Jack Henry Abbott[41] (Prize Joseph Jefferson Awards Best Actor)
  • Speed the Plow (1989) as Bobby Gould[42]

Other stage works

  • Darkness at Noon (1976), Chicago area production
  • A Streetcar Named Desire (1984) as Stanley Kowalski, Stratford Festival of Canada, Stratford, Ontario, Canada, 1984[43]
  • Days and Nights Within, by Ellen McLaughlin (1986) as Interrogator, Remains Theatre production at Organic Theatre, Chicago[44]
  • Puntila and His Hired Mano (1986) as Matti, Organic Theatre
  • Speed the Plow as Bobby Gould, Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
  • The Night of the Iguana (1996) as Reverend T. Lawrence Shannon, Roundabout Theatre Company, Criterion Center Stage Right Theatre, New York City[45]
  • Twelfth Night as Unknown, Illinois Shakespeare Festival
  • As You Like It as Unknown, Illinois Shakespeare Festival
  • In Belly of the Beast (1983) as Jack Henry Abbott (Ivanhoe Theatre, Chicago, IL, 1985 and John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, D.C., 1985)[41] (nominated for Helen Hayes Awards Non-Resident Acting, 1986)
  • A Class C Trial in Yokohama, Chicago Theatre Project
  • In The Belly of the Beast: Letters from Prison, Glasgow, Scotland and London, England, including the American Festival, London, 1985[41]
  • A Dublin Carol by Conor McPherson (2006) as John Plunkett, Trinity Reportory Company (Providence)[22]
  • Slowgirl by Greg Pierce (2014) (Los Angeles, California, Geffen Playhouse)[46]
  • Appeared in productions at Boise State University and Lewis and Clark College

Stage director

  • Farmyard, Remains Theatre, Chicago, c. 1980
  • Traps, Remains Theatre, 1983


Association Year Accolade Nominated Work Results Ref
Golden Globes 2004 Best Actor — Television Series, Drama CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Nominated [47]
Primetime Emmy Awards 2002 Outstanding Drama Series (Executive Producer) CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Nominated [48]
2003 Outstanding Drama Series (Executive Producer) CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Nominated [49]
2004 Outstanding Drama Series (Executive Producer) CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Nominated [50]
Producers Guild of America 2003 Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Drama CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Nominated [51]
2004 Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Drama CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Nominated
2005 Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Drama CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Awards 2002 Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Nominated [52]
2003 Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Nominated [53]
2004 Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Nominated [54]
2005 Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Won [55]

See also


  1. "William Petersen Filmography" tcm.com, accessed April 10, 2016
  2. "William Petersen Biography, filmreference.com; accessed July 9, 2018.
  3. "Marriage Announcement 3 - No Title". Pqasb.pqarchiver.com. 1931-08-02. Retrieved 2013-01-20.
  4. "Star didn't have a clue 'CSI' would be a huge hit". Articles.philly.com. 2007-08-04. Retrieved 2013-01-20.
  5. Hiltbrand, David (2004-02-06). "William Petersen didn't have a clue `CSI' would be a huge hit". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Archived from the original on 2012-10-26. Retrieved 2007-12-10.
  6. Gabettas, Chris. "William Petersen: From ISU to CSI" isu.edu, Spring 2010 Issue, accessed April 10, 2016
  7. "El Imparcial: Noticias: William Petersen (Grissom, de CSI) habla y canta en vasco". Elimparcial.es. 2008-12-20. Retrieved 2012-04-04.
  8. Jones, Kenneth. "William Petersen Is Now a Steppenwolf Ensemble Member" playbill.com, December 2, 2008
  9. "'To Live and Die in L.A.' Listing" tcm.com, accessed April 10, 2016
  10. "'Manhunter' Listing" tcm.com, accessed April 10, 2016
  11. Inside Manhunter: Interviews with stars William Petersen, Joan Allen, Brian Cox and Tom Noonan
  12. Richmond, Ray. "William Petersen: Leaving Las Vegas" The Hollywood Reporter, February 2, 2009
  13. Playboy Magazine, May 2015
  14. "The Kennedys of Massachusetts Review". Entertainment Weekly. 1990-02-16. Retrieved 2011-11-14.
  15. Young Guns II at AllMovie
  16. Kogan, Rick. "'Return To Lonesome Dove' Trails Far Behind The Original" Chicago Tribune, November 12, 1993
  17. "'Fear' Listing" tcm.com, accessed April 10, 2016
  18. "'The Contender' Listing" tcm.com, accessed April 10, 2016
  19. "'Kiss the Sky' Listing" tcm.com, accessed April 10, 2016
  20. Kiss the Sky rottentomatoes.com, accessed April 10, 2016
  21. "'12 Angry Men' Listing" tcm.com, accessed April 10, 2016
  22. Hernandez, Ernio. "CSI" Star Petersen Opens McPherson's 'A Dublin Carol' at Trinity Rep" playbill.com, December 6, 2006
  23. William Petersen Renews CSI Contract" TV Guide. March 31, 2008. Retrieved on April 1, 2008.
  24. "CSI series star William Petersen leaving in 9th season". www.gmanews.tv. Associated Press. 2008-07-16. Retrieved 2009-07-20.
  25. Playboy magazine, March 2004, page 139
  26. "William Petersen Welcomes Twins – Moms & Babies – Moms & Babies - People.com". Celebritybabies.people.com. Retrieved 2012-04-04.
  27. "William Petersen Gets Star No. 2,379" nbclosangeles.com, accessed April 11, 2016
  28. "William Petersen Is As Close To Stardom As He Plans To Get" Orlando Sentinel, June 9, 1992
  29. Turan, Kenneth. "Movie Review. Hard Choices to Be Made in 'Hard Promises'" Los Angeles Times, January 31, 1992
  30. McCarthy, Todd. Review: 'Gunshy'" Variety, May 11, 1998
  31. Cox, Gordon. "'Detachment', Rocker Doc Join Tribeca" Variety, April 4, 2011
  32. "William Petersen Returns to Television in WGN America's Manhattan". Comingsoon.net. March 26, 2015. Retrieved March 26, 2015.
  33. "'Keep the Change' Listing" allmovie.com, accessed April 11, 2016
  34. "Member Profiles. William Petersen" steppenwolf.org, accessed April 10, 2016
  35. "Goodman Theatre Archive, Production History Files, Part 1, 1982-83 Season and 1983-1984 Season" chipublib.org, accessed April 10, 2016
  36. Glengarry Glen Ross Theatredatabase.com, accessed April 10, 2016
  37. Bommer, Lawrence. "Much-awaited `Night Of The Iguana' Ready At Goodman" Chicago Tribune, March 11, 1994
  38. Jones, Kenneth. "'Blackbird', with Hawkinson and "CSI" Star Petersen, Makes Chicago Premiere July 3" playbill.com, July 3, 2009
  39. "Production History" victorygardens.org, accessed April 10, 2016
  40. Dretzka, Gary. "Hospital Dramas" Chicago Tribune, April 12, 1998
  41. Webb, Andrew. "'In The Belly Of The Beast' Searing Tale Of Prison Survival" Sun-Sentinel, June 7, 1985
  42. Christiansen, Richard. Speed the Plow Chicago Tribune (archives), March 2, 1989
  43. "Method Acting" Chicago Tribune (archives), August 13, 1984
  44. Smith, Sid. "Remains Offers An Eerie--if Pointless--love Tale" Chicago Tribune, January 31, 1986
  45. "'The Night of the Iguana' Listing" ibdb.com, accessed April 11, 2016
  46. Boehm, Mike. "William Petersen among friends at Geffen Playhouse's 'Slowgirl'" Los Angeles Times, March 11, 2014
  47. "Winners & Nominees 2004". www.goldenglobes.com. Retrieved 2019-08-08.
  48. "Nominees/Winners". Television Academy. Retrieved 2019-08-08.
  49. "Nominees/Winners". Television Academy. Retrieved 2019-08-08.
  50. "Nominees/Winners". Television Academy. Retrieved 2019-08-08.
  51. "PGA Award Winners 1990-2010 - Producers Guild of America". www.producersguild.org. Retrieved 2019-08-08.
  52. "The 8th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards | Screen Actors Guild Awards". www.sagawards.org. Retrieved 2019-08-08.
  53. "The 9th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards | Screen Actors Guild Awards". www.sagawards.org. Retrieved 2019-08-08.
  54. "The 10th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards | Screen Actors Guild Awards". www.sagawards.org. Retrieved 2019-08-08.
  55. "The 11th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards | Screen Actors Guild Awards". www.sagawards.org. Retrieved 2019-08-08.
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