The three main spinoffs of CSI - Crime Scene Investigation, Miami, and New York - have all met their makers, but their legacy lives on (mainly thanks to the constant reruns).
The first to air, from 2000 - 2015, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (aka Las Vegas), became the most-watched show on US TV by its third season. It was later named the most-watched show in the world for the sixth time in 2016, making it the most watched show for more years than any other show.
Due to this series’ success, two spin-off series’ were created; CSI: Miami which ran 2002 - 2010, and CSI: NY running 2004 - 2013. A fourth spin-off, CSI: Cyber didn’t do as well and only ran 2015 - 2016 for two seasons.
Each of the original series’ in the franchise gained cult followings, despite being not very well regarded by real life law enforcement, as they supposedly "glamorize" the job. The franchise even spawned its own CSI Experience museum exhibits in Orlando (now closed) and Las Vegas, so fans could see what it was like to be a part of their favorite show.
All that aside, as if the amazingly intricate and interesting plots weren’t enough for fans, the episodes were laced with celebrity cameos and future stars making their small screen debuts. There’s always a rerun of one of the series’ airing, so here are 18 Huge Stars You Forgot Were On CSI.
18 Zachary Quinto
Long before he secured the role that made him a household name, as Spock in the 2009 Star Trek reboot movies, Zachary Quinto started out in small TV roles. His first two were supernatural dramas The Others and Touched By An Angel in 2000 and 2001, followed by CSI: Crime Scene Investigation in 2002.
He appeared in Season 2, Episode 21 of the show, "Anatomy Of A Lye", as Mitchell Sullivan, a greasy, mop-haired dude working in a car chop shop, and questioned by detectives over - you guessed it - a murder, after a body is found buried in a park, covered in lye, and it’s discovered the deceased was the victim of a hit and run.
He was the first of the Star Trek cast to appear on CSI, with another star (later on this list) appearing in CSI: Miami, a year later than Quinto.
17 Dakota Fanning
Starting her acting career at a very young age, Dakota Fanning was only five years old when she got her first role in a major series, as a car crash victim in ER. A year later she appeared in CSI: Crime Scene Investigation as Brenda Collins in Season 1, Episode 7: "Blood Drops".
Brenda is the youngest of two sisters who are the sole survivors of a family massacre, in a very dark and twisted episode with a child sexual abuse plot. It turns out Brenda is actually the daughter of the girl she calls her sister, and the girls’ father had been raping both of them. The older daughter murdered her father and got her boyfriend to murder her mother and siblings for not doing anything about the abuse.
Obviously none of that is real, but it does seem like a helluva lot for a six year old girl to comprehend.
16 Michael B Jordan
Even though he’s known predominantly for his role as the Human Torch in 2015’s doomed Fantastic Four remake, as well as the title character in Rocky spin-off movie Creed (also 2015), Michael B. Jordan has been acting since he was a teenager.
Michael’s one appearance in CSI: Crime Scene Investigation was in season 6, Episode 20: "Poppin’ Tags", which saw the CSI team led into the rap music world as they investigated the murders of three street team members. He played Morris Calvin, a member of a rapper's street crew, who took his fandom a little too far.
This cringeworthy titled episode also features special appearances by Hip-Hop stars Method Man, Obie Trice, and Akon; as well as blink-182 drummer Travis Barker (and his wife at the time, former Playboy Playmate Shanna Moakler).
15 Dita Von Teese
Dita Von Teese is better known as the queen of modern day burlesque and ex-wife of shock-rocker Marilyn Manson. Her appearance in CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Season 11, Episode 12: "A Kiss Before Frying" was her first television acting role, following appearances in adult movies, an indie fantasy film, and several documentaries on burlesque and fetish modeling.
She played Ellen Whitebridge (aka Rita Von Squeeze), a semi-fictitious version of herself who is hung up on getting revenge for a 70 year old miscarriage of justice that led to her grandfather’s incarceration, after he was framed for her grandmother’s murder.
She became a serial killer, electrocuting the descendants of her grandmother’s real killers, but Greg Sanders (played by her real life friend Eric Szmanda) very nearly became her next victim after she seduced him for information, and he figured out that she was the killer.
14 John Krasinski
Before he was making us laugh and giving us major relationship goals as Jim Halpert in The Office, John Krasinski appeared in three other television shows, one episode of each. His first was comedy-drama Ed, followed by Law and Order: Criminal Intent, and his third TV appearance, before his big break in The Office, was CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.
John appeared in Season 5, Episode 11: "Who Shot Sherlock?" and played Lyle Davis, a suspect questioned when a man, Cory deMayo, is found dead in his car which veered off the highway, but there’s no sign of cause of death.
As it turns out, John’s character, Lyle, wasn’t a killer per se, but did in fact rob Cory, who was unconscious in his car due to electrocution, and left him for dead. A long way off his sweet, sensitive Jim Halpert, even if it was in the same year that he portrayed both characters.
13 Amanda Seyfried
Starting her career in modeling at aged 11, and then pursuing acting as well as singing/songwriting, Amanda Seyfried has had a busy 20 years in the entertainment industry, between making her movie debut in Mean Girls (2004) and this year’s role in Twin Peaks.
Her appearance in CSI: Crime Scene Investigation came in 2006’s Season 6, Episode 21: "Rashomama", as Lacey Finn, a young woman who speaks to the CSI team in relation to the murder of a criminal defense lawyer at her son’s wedding.
This episode also sees Nerdist creator, comedian, and TV host Chris Hardwick appear as Mikey Shoemaker - the brother of the bride, and a major suspect in the murder case. The episode was seen by fans as a welcome break from the dark episodes before it, as it was filled with the dry humor fans of the show know and love.
12 Chris Pine
The second Star Trek reboot actor to appear in an episode of the crime solving franchise, Chris Pine appeared in CSI: Miami’s 2003 season 2, episode 10: "Extreme".
Only one year before his first major movie role in The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, Chris appeared in a few TV dramas - firstly ER, followed by The Guardian, and then CSI. He played Tommy Chandler, the poor boyfriend of a rich heiress who turns up dead. It turns out their sexual fetish went wrong, and erotic asphyxiation as part of a kinky kidnapping turned into accidental murder.
Chris’ Star Trek co-star Zachary Quinto also appeared in just the one episode of CSI, a year earlier, and he too had long, emo, mop hair. Must’ve been a popular style at the time.
11 Jeremy Renner
Even though you probably know him as the no-nonsense master marksman Hawkeye in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Avengers, Jeremy Renner is a renowned actor with starring roles in independent movies (he played the lead in Dahmer) and supporting roles in bigger movies.
With his self-proclaimed "resting murder face", it seems fitting that for his solo appearance in CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, he played Roger Jennings, a recently paroled criminal who murders two people and frames his own poor, innocent brother, Ben.
The 2001 episode (season 2, episode 6) "Alter Boys" shows a shaggy haired Renner in one of his earlier acting roles. Renner's other TV roles led to his lead roles in indie movies and later his stand-out roles in major blockbusters.
10 Channing Tatum
He’s starred in comedies, action movies, and critically acclaimed dramas but long before his big break into movies, Step Up, Channing Tatum wasn’t an actor at all. He was a model and a stripper, before being cast in his first onscreen role as a dancer in a Ricky Martin video in 2000.
Four years later he made his first appearance on television, as Bob Davenport in CSI: Miami. In season 3, episode 2: "Pro Per", Bob Davenport is a wannabe white rapper who claims that he found the boat, which was the scene of a murder, abandoned. He becomes a suspect in the murder, but it turns out he isn’t the killer.
His appearance in CSI came a year before his first movie role, in the biographical sports drama, Coach Carter.
9 Liev Schreiber
Liev Schreiber is another actor that has demonstrated his talents throughout many genres, from horror (Scream, The Omen) to superhero movies (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) and comedy (Goon). He’s also made his mark on TV, played the lead in Ray Donovan. With all that to his name, it’s no it’s no surprise that he’s also got CSI: Crime Scene Investigation on his resume.
Liev appeared in 4 consecutive episodes of the show, during season 12 (episodes 12-15, "Sweet Jane", "Redrum", "Meet Market", and "Law of Gravity"), as Michael Keppler, a Crime Scene Investigator who moved to Las Vegas to escape his troubled past. He temporarily took Gil Grissom's place as he was on sabbatical.
Despite only being in four episodes, a lot is revealed about Michael. It’s established that his young true love took her own life, he killed the man who supposedly drove her to it under her father’s manipulation. It’s also indicated that he was eventually married, but that relationship ended in disaster too.
8 Jason Segel
Jason Segel is better known for playing the sensitive, gentle giant in rom-com movies and TV shows, working with Judd Apatow in many of his films, and starring as Marshall Eriksen on rom-sitcom How I Met Your Mother. He’s done his fair share of dramas too, earning a starring role in The End of the Tour, the 2015 American drama film about writer David Foster Wallace.
It’s still pretty bizarre, though, that he also had a small recurring role on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation in 2004-2005. He appeared in three episodes (2004’s season 5, episode 9: "Mea Culpa", 2005’s season 5, episode 17: "Compulsion" and season 5, episode 23: "Iced") as Neil Jansen, a lab technician who assisted Coroner "Doc" Robbins in analyzing evidence found on dead bodies.
7 Josh Groban
Josh Groban is a certified multi-platinum singer-songwriter, charting in 2007 as the number-one best selling artist in the United States, but music wasn’t his first love. He started out as an actor, studying acting before his voice developed, and he’s put his acting skills so good use over the years.
He appeared in "Blood, Actually", Season 9’s Valentine’s Day episode. Groban played himself, and performed a new song, "Happy In My Heartache". It’s not all romance, though, as the CSI team attempt to solve three separate murders that occurred on Valentine's Day.
6 Adam Scott
Adam Scott is another actor better known for his comedic roles - most prominently the adorably geeky Ben Wyatt in Parks And Recreation - but he’s dabbled in other genres too. He played a major role in Christmas comedy-horror, Krampus; but before that he also dipped his toe into the crime-drama genre, appearing in 2004’s season 2, episode 15 of CSI: Miami: "Stalkerazzi".
His character, Danny Cato, was involved in the murder of a paparazzo photographer who captured some incriminating evidence on film before their demise.
Perhaps even more interesting, though, was Adam’s appearance on action-packed, CSI spoof show, NTSF:SD:SUV::. He appeared as wheelchair bound Agent Van Damm, in season 1, episode 4: "The Risky Business of Being Alone in Your Home". He became instant golden boy at the NTSF, but it turned out his character had a dark motive.
5 Jennifer Tilly
Jennifer Tilly might be known for her trademark squeaky voice - as Tiffany, the Bride of Chucky; Celia, Mike Wazowski’s girlfriend in Monsters Inc; and Bonnie, wife of Joe Swanson on Family Guy. But she’s shown her face plenty of times on the big and small screen, even if her role in season 10, episode 20 of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: "Take My Life, Please"; was one of the actress' more forgettable roles.
Tilly played Terpsie, the much younger wife of Knuckles Pratt - one half of a comedy duo that was meant to reunite for a one-off special in Las Vegas, but never got their chance after the other half of the duo wound up dead.
As it turns out, Terpsie and Knuckles killed Nash because he wasn’t funny anymore. It’s not a major role for Tilly, but at least she got to tick "CSI perp" off her bucket list before she turned to professional Poker playing.
4 P. Diddy
Sean Combs - aka Diddy, P. Diddy, Puff Daddy, Puffy, Puff depending on what year it an what mood Diddy is in - appeared in season 7, episodes 15: "Presumed Guilty" and 16: "Sink or Swim" of CSI: Miami, not as a victim or perpetrator, but as defense attorney, Derek Powell.
Mr. Combs' first episode sees him defending a man accused for murder, but it turns out he might actually be covering up for the real murderer. His next, and final, episode sees Powell's private yacht attacked during a party, and his partner being killed as a result.
Even though P. Diddy has done his fair share of acting, fans of CSI: Miami were not happy with the casting.
3 Taylor Swift
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation’s season 9, episode 16: "Turn, Turn, Turn" saw pop superstar Taylor Swift appear as teen murder victim, Haley Jones. She starts the episode as a corpse, but is seen alive and well in several Nick Stokes flashbacks throughout the episode.
The appearance was a dream come true for Taylor, she told MTV after filming the episode: "I've always joked around with my record label and my mom and everybody — all my friends know that my dream is to die on CSI. I've always wanted to be one of the characters on there that they're trying to figure out what happened to."
As far as celebrity appearances on the show go, considering this was her first ever acting role, Swift's acting skills were praised on the whole, even if that was mainly down to the shock of seeing her with dyed brown hair.
2 Justin Bieber
Back in 2009, when he was still fairly sweet and innocent, Bieber appeared in CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. More than just a cameo, he acted in two episodes of season 11.
His character, Jason McCann, was a teenage serial-killer with a penchant for blowing stuff (and people) up. His first appearance, in the opening episode of season 11: "Shock Waves", saw McCann detonate a bomb at the funeral of officer Franklin Clark. He later killed and blew up a hobo, in another attempt to kill some cops.
In his second and last appearance in the show, episode 15: "Targets Of Obsession", Bieber's character Jason returned to avenge his brother’s death, only to wind up dead himself, going out in a hail of bullets.
Even if Justin Bieber’s appearance didn’t appeal to fans of CSI, the reactions on social media were pure gold. Beliebers crying their hero had been killed, and haters saying “Lol, He can’t even die right” made it all worth it, as did the multitude of parody videos.
1 Kim Kardashian
Starring in season 6, episode 11 of CSI: NY: "Second Chances", reality TV turned unavoidable A-Lister Kim Kardashian was joined by fellow TV personality, Vanessa Lachey, who made a pair of femme fatales raking in the cash by rescuing homeless drug addicts, take out large life insurance policies on them, and killing them a few years later when the policies ended.
Kim seemed to really enjoy her time on the show, even if the filming location confused her: “Everyone here is so genuinely nice. But I was really surprised that CSI: NY films in L.A. I was so excited to go to New York for a little vacay.”
Unfortunately, Kim K’s acting skills didn’t go down well with fans of the show, with the common consensus being that the character she played was a dark and complex one, with some interesting moments - ones that would’ve been way more impactful had they been portrayed by a proper actress.
Who's your favorite celebrity cameo in CSI? Should non-actors appear in shows like this? Let us know in the comments.