10 Major Celebrities That Guest-Starred On CSI
CSI ran from 2000 to 2015, and during that time, it featured some major stars in the lead role (via IMDb), such as Ted Danson and Laurence Fishbourne, but more impressive are some of the future big-name celebrities that guest-starred. Some of these had recurring roles, and some were just in one episode, either as part of the team or murder suspects and, in one case, both.
10. Aisha Tyler – Mia Dickerson, Season 5
Aisha Tyler is now known as the host of Who’s Line Is It Anyways?, the voice of Lana on Archer, and part of another CBS procedural, Criminal Minds, but back in CSI Season 5, she played lab tech Mia Dickerson for 13 episodes, replacing Greg (Eric Szmada) when he was promoted to the field. During her time on the show, she became known for firing off lines undercutting Greg, who had asked her out, and being incredibly organized, to the point that she refused to eat out due to the cook’s getting DNA on the food.
Aisha Tyler’s stint on CSI didn’t have the same impact as her later Criminal Minds role, in which she took over when her Ghost Whisperer co-star Jennifer Love Hewitt left after giving birth, but it’s a small, successful step in a long career for the comedian.
9. Liev Schrieber – Michael Keppler, Season 7
Long before Liev Schrieber played Hollywood fixer Ray Donovan, he was Michael Keppler for four episodes in the middle of CSI Season 7. When Gil Grissom (William Peterson) left town, Keppler was his controversial replacement, notable for a twisted episode about “reverse forensics” and the dark past he tried to leave behind in New Jersey.
Though his guest arc was short, Schrieber showed what CSI might have been with characters that weren’t as focused on doing what was right, no matter the consequences.
8. Jeremy Renner – Roger Jennings, Season 2
A decade before he was Hawkeye, Jeremy Renner played Roger Jennings, a murder suspect in CSI Season 2, Episode 6, “Alter Boys.” The troubled Jennings is a very different role from the type fans are used to seeing Renner in now, with the manipulative killer one of the few that got away with murder. Siblings being played against one another became common during the show’s run, but “Alter Boys” set a high standard for future mysteries.
Prior to CSI, Jeremy Renner had only a few guest roles to his name, notably in Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, with his breakout role in The Hurt Locker coming seven years later.
7. Dakota Fanning – Brenda Collins, Season 1
Child star Dakota Fanning has transitioned to a Hollywood star, but a year before her breakthrough in I Am Sam, she played Brenda Collins in CSI Season 1, Episode 7, “Blood Drops,” an early episode that helped set the tone for the series. The youngest daughter of a family killed one night, Brenda is looked after by Sarah (Jorja Fox) for the episode, aiding the development of one of the show’s longest-running characters.
“Blood Drops” isn’t the first episode to feature a final act twist; that would be the pilot episode, but even after CSI’s 15 seasons wrapped up, it remains one of the most emotionally devastating revelations.
6. Amanda Seyfried – Lacey Finn, Season 6
Amanda Seyfried, star of Mama Mia and Dropout, made an appearance in one of CSI’s most experimental episodes, “Rashomama,” inspired by the Akira Kurosawa film, Rashoman. Exploring the mystery of a murdered woman at a wedding, the episode jumps back and forth to show different perspectives from each CSI investigator. Seyfried’s Lacey, one of the bridesmaids, is a pivotal part of the initial investigation, even if it’s debatable that she and Valerie really took each other’s DNA samples as Greg tried to explain.
Other episodes would also play with the concept of time, most notably one that will appear later in this list from Season 9.
5. Jason Segel – Neil Jansen, Season 5
Appearing three times in CSI Season 5 as fingerprint tech Neil Jansen, Jason Segel was making a quick stopover in between Freaks and Geeks and How I Met Your Mother. Though he wasn’t given much to do as Jansen in his all-too-brief lab scenes, seeing Segal’s familiar face during a rewatch marathon surprises many viewers.
Jason Segel’s lab tech is pivotal in each of the cases, partially due to his character’s specialty, and also to act as an audience proxy while another CSI explains a forensic concept. Later seasons settled down the lab techs, eventually giving them their own episode, but for the first five seasons, it was a revolving door of guest appearances.
4. Sharon Osbourne – Elise Massey, Season 15
Sharon Osbourne, the famous wife of Ozzy Osbourne and former host of The Talk, makes an appearance in the Season 15 episode, “Dead Rails,” towards the end of the original run for CSI. Her character, Elise Massey, is one of many involved in illegal activities but relies on powerful friends to keep it covered up, even while insisting that she didn’t murder the victim of the week.
Playing a powerful, intelligent Queen Bee might not be much of a stretch for Sharon Osbourne, and it’s in a fairly forgettable episode of CSI, but even the ancillary characters and weakest episodes of the show are still some of the best of any procedural.
3. Michael B. Jordan – Morris Calvin, Season 6
Michael B. Jordan was far from being a household name when he played Morris Calvin, a teen caught up in a feud between rap stars. CSI frequently dipped into subcultures, and “Poppin Tags,” the Season 6 episode with Jordan, focuses on street teams, the young volunteers that put up fliers to promote concerts. Jordan is now the biggest of the episodes’ multiple guest stars, which includes Akon, Method Man, and Travis Barker, but at the time, he was just a struggling young actor.
Today, he has multiple franchises under his belt, with Creed, Black Panther, and his own half of Amazon’s Tom Clancy universe thanks to Without Remorse.
2. Taylor Swift – Haley Jones, Season 9
The biggest pop star on the planet was once featured in a CSI episode, “Turn, Turn, Turn,” which featured frequent flashbacks from Nick Stokes (George Eads) to all the times he had to re-visit the same motel. Taylor Swift played Haley Jones, a teenage girl that is eventually, in the present, murdered, which prompts a series of flashbacks to figure out who did it. Arguably one of the best episodes in the show’s original run, “Turn, Turn, Turn,” succeeds by spotlighting one location, family, and CSI.
As for Taylor Swift’s skill acting like a teenage girl dealing with economic and family issues, well, she’s the most successful touring act of 2023, and in the years since her episode aired, she’s become an accomplished director.
1. Justin Bieber – Jason McCann, Seaosn 11
The greatest stunt-casting in CSI history was when someone decided to bring in Justin Bieber, one of the biggest pop stars at the time, as a serial killer. Using bombs as his weapon, it’s bizarre watching Bieber terrorize the CSI team soon after “Baby” hit the Billboard charts. His character, Jason, remains one of the most dangerous in the show’s run, nearly killing Nick (twice) and Greg.
The best part of his appearances came at the end of his second, in Episode 11, “Targets of Obession,” which ends in a slow-motion hail of bullets. To say that the moment was incredibly popular for years as a meme template would be an understatement and even today, it still pops up on TikTok.