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'C.S.I.' Breakthrough

C.S.I. is the highest rated series of the new fall season.

The team of high tech forensic specialists includes actor Gary Dourdan, who plays Warrick Brown.

The Early Show co-anchor Julie Chen recently caught up with Dourdan at a photo shoot where he talked about his newfound fame.

The actor says he'd never believed he would be a part of a No. 1 show.

"Certainly after shooting the pilot we had no idea," says Dourdan. "We knew it was good, we knew we were doing something else on TV, but No. 1 show in the world? It's bizarre."

Gary Dourdan's character, Warrick Brown, is the focus of this week's "C.S.I." In the episode, called "Invisible Evidence," a homicide investigation hinges on his testimony. But an illegal search threatens the case when the murder weapon is ruled inadmissible.

The story is based on real C.S.I. agents' stories of the delicate job they do.

"If something is not done right, then they can throw the whole case out," Dourdan says. "It doesn't matter if beyond a shadow of a doubt this guy's guilty. So that's what happens, and then they have 24 hours to bring them new evidence."

The actor often gets his inspiration from real crime scene investigators. But he says their gruesome stories stay with him long after filming has stopped.

"Some of them say they still can't deal with the smell of what it smells like to go into the death scene, it just stays on your clothes," he explains. "It's just the things that they deal with every day. So we try and personify more of that when we work."

Between takes, Dourdan turns to music to lighten his mood. He also mentors aspiring musicians in his home studio. And he supports the artistic talents of his neighbors in Venice Beach, Calif.

"I think that Venice is the only village in Southern California," Dourdan laughs … It's the Lower East Side with a beach."

Dourdan says he draws as a hobby, but he gives his time and money to others. It's important to Dourdan, who not so long ago was a struggling artist himself looking for his big break.

"Starting out, a lot of people gave me a chance, and I probably wouldn't be here in the business and have this longevity if it weren't for a lot of people, like Gregory Hines," he says.

View an all-new episode of "C.S.I." on Thursday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.