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Liev Schreiber Joins "CSI"

Tony Award-winner Liev Schreiber is a familiar face on screen and on stage, but tonight will make his debut on a television series in a recurring role in "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation."

Schreiber plays Michael Keppler, an East Coast crime scene investigator who spent much of his career in Baltimore, Md. He was assigned to replace Grissom, played by William Petersen, during Grissom's teaching sabbatical. Keppler is a seasoned investigator who has established a strong reputation, but some mystery surrounds the "new guy."

"I like him a lot; I love him," Schreiber told The Early Show co-anchor Julie Chen. "He's an East Coast cop — East Coast CSI who comes to Las Vegas with a considerable amount of baggage looking to make a new start and the question is, over this period of time with the Las Vegas lab, is he going to be able to get out (from) underneath all that baggage? And that's what we work out in the show."

Petersen took a break from "CSI" in November and December while he starred in a play called "Dublin Carol," a twist on Dickens' "Christmas Carol" in Providence, R.I. The producers of "CSI" had their eye on Schreiber, but considered him a long shot. Only when they promised to create a good role for him did he agree to join the show.

"At first I was terrified. I hadn't done any television, not because I was against television, but mostly I was afraid of the contracts," Schreiber said. "I have kind of a two-month attention span and I figured if I get locked into one of those, I would be dead. But it's been one of the best shows on television for about five years now. And I figure when those people at that level are asking you to do something, you to have (to) take it seriously."

Along with his recurring role on "CSI," Schreiber is starring opposite Ed Norton and girlfriend Naomi Watts in "The Painted Veil." He just finished production on Mike Newell's "Love in the Time of Cholera," in which he plays the role of Lotario Thurgot, alongside Benjamin Bratt and Javier Bardem, and he's currently rehearsing in preparation for his return to Broadway to star in "Talk Radio," scheduled to open in February.

With all his experience, Schreiber said he was blown away by the pace at which the "CSI" crew worked. Schreiber said it is as if they make half a feature film in a week when it takes movie production crews three months to make a film.

"It's incredibly intimidating but what's amazing (is) the speed with which they work," he said. "The production quality is incredible … The big element is speed, which turns out is something I enjoy. With most films, you know as an actor, you spend a lot of time sitting on your butt, but not here."

The new technical language Schreiber had to adopt also posed a new challenge for him. Accuracy is one of the cornerstones of the show and Schreiber said he quickly realized that the most important thing was the information.

"What's cool about the show and what the audience likes is they are solving the crimes along with you," he said. "For me as a fan, one of the things I love is all the forensic science so the props and all of these machines and all of this stuff you have to learn to use while doing the show is essential."